There's been a common theme that has followed almost each of Nebraska's 11 wins this season. While the Huskers are always happy to walk away victorious, there has seemed to be something lacking after each game.
After defeating Maryland Eastern Shore 74-60 on Saturday, head coach Doc Sadler expressed his frustration in his team's inability to put it all together on game days. As he's said all season, the Huskers could be in a heap of trouble if they don't step up their intensity and execution when Big 12 Conference play kicks off Saturday at Texas A&M.
With just one more non-conference game tonight at home against Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m., the warm-up for the Big 12 has all but officially ended.
"We've got to find the secret to coming out and playing as hard as we're practicing," Sadler said. "I'd rather practice bad and play better, but again, the intensity is what's gotten me concerned because our practices have been really good and they've been playing hard. Then the first half of the last two or three ball games, we haven't had the same intensity to start the game as we have in practice.
"I don't know if it's just getting in front of a crowd and you don't play hard, you play cool, I don't know what it is, but it's got to get corrected."
While they haven't been able to show it consistently in games this year, Sadler's teams have always held notoriously up-tempo practices to prepare both mentally and physically for game situations.
As Sadler said, this team has been no different, as the Huskers have kept the intensity as high as ever on the practice floor. However, not being able to translate that when it counts could spell disaster when they reach the Big 12 schedule, as the conference is as good as it's ever been this season.
"Coach has been talking to the guys about how fast the game goes," senior guard Ryan Anderson said. "I think that's the thing that's really going to trip them up. When you get into league play, everybody is bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic than the guys that we're playing right now and the speed of the game is a little different.
"When you're getting into league play, you're playing point guards that are 6-5, quick, strong, all of it, (and guys who are) 7 feet, 350, 250 (pounds), strong, physical. Everything changes. Hopefully we'll be able to adjust. I don't want to get too far ahead. We need to take care of business this next game coming up."
One player who has been as consistent in games as he has been in practice is Anderson, who leads the Huskers in scoring with 11.3 points per gam) and rebounds with 4.9 per contest. With a roster full of players about to experience the rigors of the Big 12 for the very first time, players like Anderson will be crucial to lead the way and try and keep the Huskers above water.
"Ryan's the same as he's been in every game he's played, the same thing you get in practice," Sadler said. "I think if anything that our guys must understand is that if you prepare to play as hard as you can play in practice every day, you're not going to make all your shots, but you're going to be in position to make plays and get rebounds and get loose balls. You're going to be in position to make double teams and do those things, but you've got to do it every day.
"I don't think Ryan played any better (Saturday) than he has in the other 13 games he's played in. He plays the same. He plays as hard as he can each and every possession."
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
As Sadler pointed out, Nebraska has struggled early numerous times this season before eventually breaking away in the second half. With so much emphasis going towards the importance of getting ready for the start of Big 12 play, look for the Huskers to come out firing early on tonight to try and get off to a good start and put the game away early.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Sophomore guard Brandon Richardson been as hot offensively as any Husker in recent weeks, as he's shot 61.1 percent form the field and averaged 10.5 points per game in Nebraska's past five contests. He also has eight assists to just two turnovers during that span.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE LIONS:
Center Patrick Sullivan has led the way for SELU this season, averaging 15.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He's also 34 blocked shots and ranks second on the team with 16 steals and third with 23 assists.