The box score for Nebraska's 74-62 loss to No. 3 Kansas would indicate that senior guard Sek Henry was essentially a minor factor for the Huskers as they dropped their second straight Big 12 Conference game.
Though his nine points and four rebounds weren't terrible by any means, for a senior on a team with most its players competing in just their second conference game ever, the numbers would seem to be a bit lacking.
Ask NU head coach Doc Sadler, however, and he'll tell you a completely different story.
In Sadler's opinion, Henry not only had one of the best individual performances of any Husker, he also put up one of his best games of the season. Henry was apparently assigned to try and lock down Kansas's All-American guard Sherron Collins defensively and not worry as much about producing on the offensive end.
Collins ended with a game-high 22 points, though he shot just 6-of-11 from the field and 12 of his points came off of 3-pointers. As the Huskers look to rebound tonight at home against Iowa State, Sadler said he wasn't worried one bit about getting more offense out of Henry.
"I thought he had his best game last night," Sadler said. "Defensively, I thought he was really good. Everybody looks at scoring, and that's' because I guess it's concrete. But as I told the team, I thought if Sek would have played Saturday (against Texas A&M) like he did (Wednesday night), we would have probably won the ball game, because he was given the toughest assignment on the other team.
"You can't be given the toughest assignment defensively and be worried about offense, and I thought Sek was very mature and understood that, and that was his concentration last night. He was willing to do whatever it took to help this basketball team win. When the shots were there, he ended up taking them, but coming into the ball game, his concentration needed to be on defending Sherron Collins, and I thought he did a great job."
Henry said he has no problem sacrificing his points and focusing his attention on trying to shut down the opponent's best offensive player each and every game. In a way, the Los Angeles native takes pride in the role, especially because he knows how important it is to his team's success.
"I knew that's what I needed to do," Henry said. "We needed to stop Sherron to win the game, and I tried my best. I think most of the time that I was guarding him, he had a lot of trouble scoring. He still ended up with 20 points, and hope next time we play them in KU I can do whole lot better than this last time we played."
After Wednesday night's loss, Sadler called his team out for not having enough mental toughness to hang with teams of the Jayhawks' caliber. When Henry first heard about the remarks, he took it as somewhat of an insult because of how hard he knew he had been playing all season.
After a while, though, he realized Sadler's statements were meant more to fire his team up than bring them down.
Henry said he's since taken it upon himself, fellow senior Ryan Anderson and sophomore guard Brandon Richardson - the only other Huskers with real Big 12 experience - to truly help teach the rest of their teammates what it takes to win in what is widely regarded as the best conference in college basketball.
"I was kind of hurt about that, but at the same time, it's true," Henry said. "The team is not mentally strong. If only one or two people are mentally strong, that's not going to win the game. You've got to have the whole team that way. We've got to get everybody that way. Me and Ryan and Brandon, we've been around already and we've got to get the rest of the players to do the same thing and be ready to play and be able to finish down the stretch."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
While Henry's job was to lock down Collins on Wednesday, Iowa State presents a unique challenge in that teams have to worry about defending basically the entire court. Led by all-conference forward Craig Brackins, the Cyclones possess one of the better front courts in the conference. At the same time, they also boast one of the most dangerous perimeter threats in guard Lucca Staiger, who comes into the game ranked third in the league with 2.88 3-pointers made per game. Keep an eye on how the Huskers try to control both inside and out on defense, and if they try and put Henry on Staiger similar to how they used him on Collins.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Junior point guard Lance Jeter has quietly put up an impressively efficient season with 75 assists to just 31 turnovers on the year. In the past eight games, he has 44 assists against just 12 turnovers. Jeter leads the Huskers and ranks sixth in the Big 12 with 4.4 assists per game, and he's on pace to be just the third Husker to average more than 4.0 assists per game fpr a whole season in the past decade (Charles Richardson Jr., 5.8 apg, 2008; Cookie Belcher, 4.4 apg, 2001).
WHO'S HOT FOR THE CYCLONES:
Senior forward Marquis Gilstrap earned the title of Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year for a reason, and he's definitely living up to that billing so far. Averaging 14.7 points per game, Gilstrap has been the third weapon the Cyclones have been missing, especially with his ability to get to the free-throw line a team-high 84 times this season. He's also leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game.