The Nebraska basketball team took care of business as expected Tuesday night against Missouri-Kansas City, as it cruised to a 70-48 win over the Kangaroos at the Devaney Center.
Senior guard Sek Henry led the way with a game-high 14 points five rebounds and four assists, while junior guard Lance Jeter on 5-of-6 shooting from the field to go along with four assists.
Though the relatively easy victory improved Nebraska to 3-1 on the season, head coach Doc Sadler was anything but completely pleased with the effort.
"Well, it's always good to get a win," Sadler said. "I thought for the most part our team played very, very hard. I thought the breakdowns in the first half - the wide-open 3s - you know, good teams will beat you (with those). Not that (UMKC is) not a good team, it's just the caliber that we're fixin' to play will make you pay even more so. We've got to get that shored up.
"We're a little bit too careless right now. But right now we're trying to search with a bunch of guys that are all new every day.
It was a slow start on both ends of the floor for Nebraska to open the game, as the Huskers actually found themselves trailing 13-12 with 9:26 left to play in the first half.
With the offense needing a spark, Nebraska used a combination of its inside game and perimeter shooting to a 26-19 lead. Diaz and freshman forward Brandon Ubel combined for six straight points during the run, and Henry capped it off with back-to-back 3-pointers.
The Huskers steadily added to the lead in the half's final minutes, and eventually went into halftime with their biggest lead to that point, 41-24, after junior guard Lance Jeter drained a 3 at the top of the key as time expired.
Diaz and Henry both had 10 points in the first half, while UMKC was able to keep the game relatively close by hitting 6-of-15 3-pointers in the half.
The Huskers continued to gradually add to their lead throughout the second half, and led by as much as 28 points when freshman Ray Gallegos hit a jumper with a little more than 5 minutes to play.
Redshirt freshman Brian Jorge Diaz came off the bench to score 10 points along with three blocks, but the 6-foot-11 center managed just three rebounds despite UMKC having just one player taller than 6-9. As a team, Nebraska only out-rebounded the Kangaroos 33-30, including five offensive boards to UMKC's nine.
The Huskers will try to clean up their all-around game over the next four days, as the road gets a whole lot stiffer for the Huskers from here. On Sunday, they will travel to Los Angeles on Sunday to take on Southern Cal at 3 p.m.
"It's going to get harder and harder," Henry said. "When we start playing Big 12 play and playing more away games and the crowd and all that - it's serious. We have an advantage right now because we've played a couple of home games, but our first test was Saint Louis and we didn't do so good. Our next test now is USC, and we've got to see if we really learned from last time."
For Sadler, his young team is going to have to learn how to play together in a hurry, as the schedule only gets more difficult before the start of the rigorous Big 12 schedule. Until then, he said his senior players Henry and Anderson would have to continue to carry the load just to keep the Huskers above water.
"We've got to make sure our seniors, Ryan and Sek, understand that they're going to have to play their best basketball for us to even have a chance," Sadler said. "I mean, we're playing guys that have no business playing. They have no idea how to play college basketball, and their getting double-digit minutes. That's going to catch up to us real quick if we're not careful.
McCray lost for season
Sophomore guard Toney McCray will miss the remainder of the 2009-10 season because he's elected to undergo surgery on a torn ligament in his elbow, Sadler announced.
Sadler said McCray talked it over with the coaches and his family late last night before eventually electing to have surgery.
McCray played in the Huskers' first three games of the season, but Sadler said the Houston, Texas, native felt he wasn't playing to his full potential because he was nervous about further injuring his elbow.
"His confidence was something that he didn't feel that he was helping, which I told him I disagreed, but I would support any decision that he made because he was one of four guys with a little bit of experience," Sadler said. "The last thing you want to do is for a player to get out there who's not confident. If he didn't have the confidence to get out there, then he made the right decision."
Because he redshirted his first season on campus in 2007-08, McCray is ineligible to receive a medical hardship because of the injury. Had he suffered the injury his freshman season before redshirting, Salder said McCray would have been eligible for a medical hardship.
Should he lose another season due to injury, however, Nebraska could submit an appeal to get a waiver for an extra year of eligibility. As far as this season, though, it will be a season lost for one of the Huskers' most promising young players.