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March 2, 2010Sek Henry and Ryan Anderson tried their best to act like Monday was just another practice, and that tonight's game against Colorado was just the next game on the schedule.
They couldn't keep their true emotions from showing very long, though.
When the Huskers take on Colorado at 7 p.m. for their final home game of the season, it will mark the last time Henry, Anderson, fellow senior Ben Nelson and former player and now student assistant coach Chris Balham will ever take the Devaney Center court.
While both Henry and Anderson tried not to get caught up in the emotions of the coming Senior Night, it was pretty obvious that doing so has been getting increasingly more difficult as the night draws closer.
"The previous years I've been here, I know it's been very emotional," Henry said. "I don't really want to get emotional for Senior Night. I just want to be focused and get ready for this game, because it's big for us. I'm going to try and not get emotional, but I know it's always an emotional experience."
Considering everything the two seniors have gone through over the course of the past four years, it's easy to understand why Senior Night might carry a little more emotion than usual.
For Anderson, his time as a Husker saw him commit to former head coach Barry Collier only to see him resign and replaced by Doc Sadler and a coaching staff he had hardly spoken a word to until they arrived on campus.
From there, Anderson played about every role imaginable on the court, as he went from 3-point specialist to post player to a do-it-all senior leader in the past three seasons.
Earlier this season, the Seattle native joined Erick Strickland as only the second player in Nebraska history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 150 3-pointers, 150 assists and 150 steals in a career.
With his parents and his wife, Danielle - a member of NU's track and field team who he just married this past summer - and her parents in attendance tonight, Anderson said getting a win in his final home game would mean as much as any game he's ever played.
"This whole ride has been crazy," Anderson said. "It's been a tough four years - a different four years. I signed with a different coach, he got fired, got a different coach and a whole new coaching staff than Collier and how he was. Some players left. A lot of players left. Then I'm playing a different position than what I thought I was going to be playing. A lot of stuff happened. It was up and down.
"But all along it was a great opportunity. I'm not one who's really going to run from something. I'm going to man up and give it everything I've got. If that's not good enough, I'm going to keep trying and maybe it will be. It's been a wonderful four years here."
Unlike Anderson, Henry came to Nebraska as one of Sadler's first recruits. Since then, he stands as the only Husker to play in every game since the 2006-07 season and has played 125 straight contests during that stretch.
Though his senior season hasn't been nearly what he had hoped for on a team or individual basis, the Los Angeles native said he's not focused on what tonight's Senior Night means as far as the end of his career, because he still believes the Huskers have a few more games left to play in the post-season.
"It's not over yet. I'm going to stick with that," Henry said. "I still believe we have a chance to win everything and win the rest of our games and finish out strong, be happy and go dancing (in the NCAA Tournament)."
On Monday, Sadler was asked to share what he would remember the most about Henry and Anderson when their time at Nebraska finally comes to an end. Here were his answers?
"He's probably the guy who I knew probably better than anybody when I came here because I was involved in recruiting him. For him to have the confidence in me and come to Nebraska, you're always going to be appreciative of that."
"I remember him being the guy in the meeting when I was introduced as coach as the guy who was asking all the questions. I thought, 'Who's this guy?' Then I found out he was an incoming freshman, so I thought that was unique. But being around him for four years, that's the kind of person he is."
Sadler said both players, as well as Nelson and Balham, have helped establish what he wants his program to be built around as far as endless hard work, effort and determination every time the team steps onto the court.
While the results may not show as much in the victory column the past four seasons, Sadler said the impact his seniors have had on their younger teammates will have a lasting impression on the program for years to come.
"They've all got an extremely high work ethic," Sadler said. "They've definitely been put through some good times, but they've also withstood some bad times, and they've continued to be the same person. That's a sign of a person who has character, and they've all shown that they have that."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
There will be a new addition to Nebraska's starting lineup tonight, as Sadler said he would continue his tradition of starting all of his seniors on Senior Night. That means Nelson will make his first career start against the Buffaloes along with Henry and Anderson. Sadler said he would likely replace freshman forward Christian Standhardinger. "It's something I like to do, even though it's a big game," Sadler said. "I know that whether he plays a minute or 10 minutes, there's not going to be anybody who's going to play any harder than Ben Nelson."
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
It was a welcomed sight for all Husker fans on Saturday when Henry finally broke out offensively in NU's double-overtime win over Texas Tech. Behind his career-high 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, Nebraska was able to hold on and pick up a desperately needed victory. Not only that, he also added six assists, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE BUFFALOES:
Junior guard Cory Higgins has paced Colorado's offense all season, especially since the start of Big 12 Conference play. Coming off a 33-point performance in Saturday's win over Iowa State, Higgins is averaging 18.6 points per game and leads the team with 30 3-pointers and 51 steals and also ranks second with 51 steals.