Nebraska basketball's new look for 2009-10 got off on the right foot with a 86-46 victory over Arkansas-Fort Smith on Friday night, but it is still far from a finished product.
With a roster featuring eight new faces from last season, the Huskers showed plenty of rust on both sides of the floor in what arguably should have been an exhibition game blowout.
Altogether, the two teams combined to shoot 62 free throws (41 by Nebraska) and committed 32 total turnovers. The Huskers shot just 47 percent from the field and 73 percent from the charity stripe.
Senior Ryan Anderson scored a game-high 18 points and freshman Christian Standhardinger added 17 points and seven rebounds in his Husker debut. Redshirt freshman Brian Jorge Diaz finished with a double-double, scoring 11 and hauling in 10 boards.
"It's about what I would've expected," head coach Doc Sadler said. "When you've got as many new guys as we've got for the first time, the mistakes that you've been making practice, you expect to see those same things in the game, and that's what you saw."
Nebraska definitely showed some early season rust in their first live action of the season, as the Huskers were unable to pull away from the Lions by any more than eight points and actually trailed for a good portion of the first half.
With 8:42 left in the first half, the Lions took their biggest lead of the game at 29-25 on a jumper by Cedric Henderson. Nebraska was eventually able to reclaim the lead, but held just a 43-39 advantage going into halftime.
It was a sluggish start for NU offensively, as 20 of its 43 first-half points came from the free throw line. Arkansas-Fort Smith hit 7-of-15 3-pointers in the opening half, while the Huskers shot just 1-of-10.
The Lions did do Nebraska a favor right before halftime when Grant Clark fouled out with 1:25 left in the first half. Before fouling out, Clark had scored a game-high 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting, including hitting all four of his 3-point attempts.
The Huskers got into a little better rhythm in the second half, especially down the stretch. As would be expected, Nebraska's size and strength in the post eventually wore down the smaller Lions, and players like Diaz, Standhardinger and Quincy Hankins-Cole were able take advantage.
After struggling to break away all game, the Huskers steadily built up a 20-point lead with 4:04 left to play to mark their largest advantage of the night.
The Huskers will host another exhibition game on Tuesday against Hastings (Neb.) College at 7 p.m. before kicking off their regular-season schedule on Saturday, Nov. 14, at home against South Carolina Upstate.
"I think everybody knows - and this is what I was talking with the team about - everything with this basketball team is new, and it's going to be a lot of teaching from this point on," Sadler said. "There's going to be some great competition, and a lot of things are going to be frustrating. But I really believe that in time this team's going to be a good basketball team."
***Sadler said he was most disappointed with the 30 points Nebraska allowed in transition, saying to be successful in Big 12 Conference play the Huskers could only give up around six transition points.
***While he may not have put up the most points or grabbed the most rebounds, Sadler said junior point guard Lance Jeter had the best game of the night for NU. Jeter finished with eight points, five rebounds two assists, a steal and two turnovers.
"Lance is a winner," Sadler said. "I thought his game was without doubt the best of anybody on our team. But that doesn't surprise me, because he's consistent every day in what he does."
***Despite NU's dismal 2-of-13 shooting from 3-point range, Sadler said he wasn't concerned about the Huskers' perimeter shooting.
***Sadler was pleased with his team's rebounding, especially on the defensive end. The Huskers out-rebounded the Lions 48-26 overall, and had 32 defensive rebounds compared to just seven offensive boards by Arkansas-Fort Smith.