STILLWATER, Okla. - Saturday's 74-55 loss to Oklahoma State couldn't have been a much more fitting ending to Nebraska's regular season.
Just as their overall record plummeted after a decent start in non-conference play, the Huskers watched an early lead turn into an embarrassing blowout loss to the Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
With the defeat, Nebraska set a school record for the most conference losses in a season with 14.
After hitting its first three 3-pointers of the game to take a 9-8 lead a little less than four minutes into the game, the wheels completely came off for Nebraska (14-17 overall, 2-14 Big 12 Conference) the rest of the first half.
Sparked by three straight 3's by Nick Sidorakis, the Cowboys (21-9, 9-7) broke the game wide open with a 21-2 run gave them a 30-11 lead until a lay-up by sophomore guard Brandon Richardson with 5:08 left in the half.
Prior to Richardson's basket, the Huskers had gone 7 minutes, 20 seconds without scoring a single point and more than 11 minutes having scored just two points.
"Offensively, we're just not a very disciplined, tough basketball team, especially when a team jumps on you like they did," head coach Doc Sadler said. "I don't know how long we were on 11 points, but it was for a while. I think the game was summed up by the first play of the game and the last play of the game for us offensively. We missed a lay-up on the first play of the game and then we missed a lay-up on the last play of the game. That's pretty much it."
Things didn't get any better the rest of the half, as Oklahoma State went on to bulk its lead up to as much as 19, going into halftime with a 38-19 advantage. All together, NU shot just 7-of-20 (35 percent) from the field and committed 14 turnovers in the first half. On the other side, the Cowboys' shot 14-of-24 (58 percent) of their shots, including 9-of-15 from 3-point range.
As has been the case for the Huskers throughout the season, it was an unlikely player who made one of the biggest impacts, as Sidorakis hit all four of his 3-pointers to finish with 12 points in the opening half. Coming into the game, he was only averaging 1.9 points per game.
"You've just got to defend better than we're defending," Sadler said. "I thought at times we were a lot better, but at the same time, it's not a secret why guys have good games against us. We're not a very good basketball team defensively. That's disappointing to sit here and say that as a coach, but it's a fact. When each and every game there's a player that does things that haven't been done, then it comes back to the person sitting in my seat. You've got to do a better job."
The first 45 seconds of the second half were all you needed to see to get a gauge of how the rest of the game was going to go, as Nebraska missed a lay-up, committed its 15th turnover, allowed an OSU offensive rebound and then allowed junior All-American guard James Anderson to convert an old-school 3-pointer to go up 41-19.
After a 15-4 run by the Cowboys to start the second half, Nebraska never came within 19 points the rest of the day. The only real good news for the NU was that Oklahoma State hit just one of its 14 3-pointers in the second half, helping make an already lopsided game look a little bit closer at the final buzzer.
Sadler said he was disappointed that his team couldn't find a way to claw its way back after falling behind early on, but considering the circumstances, it wasn't as if he was totally surprised, either.
"We're 2-14, and they've been in this situation a lot," Sadler said. "They're human. If you think it's been hard on me or the fans, I mean, guys, can you imagine what's like to be a player? It's been difficult for them, but they continue to practice extremely hard. They've got to be disappointed, but I thought they competed until the last two or three minutes of the game. It's just that we're not good enough right now to win games."
Richardson led the Huskers with a team-high 16 points, while freshman forward Christian Standhardinger followed up with 14 points and six rebounds. Anderson, likely playing in his final collegiate game before becoming an NBA lottery pick in a few months, finished with a game-high 25 points.
Nebraska senior Ryan Anderson, who was the team's leading scorer this season with 11 point per game, was forced to watch the game from the bench with an ankle injury he suffered in Tuesday's loss to Colorado.
While the Huskers has been locked into the No. 12 seed for the Big 12 Tournament for a few days now, the picture is still as blurry as ever regarding who will be its first-round opponent as the No. 5 seed.
Assuming Kansas State beats Iowa State at home tonight and Baylor holds off Texas at home, Nebraska would face Missouri in Wednesday's first round match-up. However, assuming K-State wins and Texas beats Baylor, the Longhorns would get the fifth seed and play NU.
If the Wildcats somehow lose to the Cyclones, though, there's a chance for a four-way tie for fifth place in the Big 12 standings, meaning the seeding would come down to tiebreakers between all teams involved.
Whoever ends up earning the No. 5 seed, Sadler isn't hiding the fact that Nebraska would have to improve drastically to even have a chance at moving on and playing another game at this point.
Still, neither Sadler nor his players have given up on the season just yet, no matter how low things have gotten.
"We're going to keep fighting until the end," Richardson said. "Now that the regular season is over with, we're looking forward to the post-season tournament. The group of guys that we have, we're not going to quit. We're trying to go all the way and get into the (NCAA) tournament. The season's not over, and I believe that the group of guys that we have, our coaching staff and everybody who's behind us, they're going to push for us and we're going to root for each other. We're going to make run. It's time to move on and strap up."