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February 9, 2012

Huskers focusing on themselves, not Penn State

Considering where Nebraska is as a team coming off Wednesday night's embarrassing home loss to No. 22 Michigan, it's fairly easy to see why one of the last things on head Doc Sadler is Penn State.

Even though the Huskers are set to travel to take on the Nittany Lions in just two days, the No. 1 priority for Sadler right now is working out the problems with his team and not so much preparing for an opponent.

"I don't even know if we're going to do anything to prepare for Penn State, to be honest with you," Sadler said prior to Thursday's practice. "At this point, we need to just try to get a couple of things fixed for our team… When I say not do anything to prepare, I mean we'll do minimal stuff… We've just got to get a few things squared up offensively and even defensively."

While injuries have been the biggest thorn in Nebraska's side all season long, Sadler said he was more concerned with getting his players settled down mentally. With everyone doing all they can to break the Huskers out of their current slump, he said his team has at times been its own worst enemy by trying to do too much.

"We're getting too anxious on both ends of the court," Sadler said. "As I've told some of the guys, they're trying so hard that it's compounding mistakes."

Sadler pointed to senior guard Toney McCray as one player who fell victim to trying to do too much on his own against the Wolverines. McCray scored just four points on 2-of-9 shooting in the loss, and was benched for the majority of the second half after several defensive mistakes.

"He wanted it so bad, and he was anxious," Sadler said. "When Toney gets frustrated by not making a shot, bottom line that's why I sat him out for most of the first half. Not necessarily on the offensive end, but the defensive end he was really, really confused. So we've got to get some things straightened out."

Asked if he felt he and his teammates were making life harder on themselves by trying too hard on the court, senior point guard Bo Spencer had no answer as to the root of Nebraska's struggles.

"I can't say if they're trying to do too much or the guys are just trying to help put points on the board or what's going on," Spencer said. "I'm baffled. I don't know what's going on. I don't know. I can't really put a point on anything. I just know it's tough. We just keep on losing games. It's tough."

One thing Spencer did know was that he had never experienced a more difficult season in his career than what he and the Huskers have gone through this year.

"We had a bad season at LSU, but it just seems like we're trying to get over the hump, and we can't get over the hump right now," he said.

So for the next two days of practice, Nebraska will be almost completely focused on improving itself as a team, and that starts with getting markedly better on the offensive end.

After learning junior center Jorge Brian Diaz would be out for the season just two days before taking on Michigan, the Huskers were forced to try and adjust their offensive scheme in an unrealistically small window.

Asked if he had any sense of how long it would take his team to learn the new scheme with just six regular season games remaining, Sadler said that while the adjustments were relatively small, there was no way of knowing when or even if things would click.

"I don't know," Sadler said. "We started in September with the old style, and you know at times it wasn't bad. That's the problem that we have. Obviously the injuries and things are stuff that come with sports, and you can't dwell on those things. But four games in 10 days was difficult to make many adjustments, so the adjustments that we're having to make are very, very small, I guess."

Rivers, Hilliard questionable

Just when it seemed like things couldn't get much worse for Nebraska, freshmen David Rivers and Corey Hilliard are now listed as questionable for Saturday's game at Penn State after both went to the hospital last night with an illness.

Sadler said the freshmen were taken to the hospital late Wedensday night and didn't come back home until Thursday morning. They obviously did not practice with the team on Thursday, and Sadler said he was unsure when they would return to the court.

"We were going to expand on the adjustments that we're going to make offensively (on Thursday), and they're not going to be here today," Sadler said. "That's what it is, what it is, you know? I think they ended up leaving early this morning from the doctor, so I don't know if they'll be able to play on Saturday or not, to be honest with you. I would've liked them to."



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