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March 6, 2010For essentially the last half of the Big 12 Conference season, Nebraska had been playing primarily with the hopes of accomplishing one goal.
Though there wasn't much to achieve left within reach for the Huskers as far as post-season aspirations were concerned, they still were intent on ending the year on a high note and carrying some momentum into the conference tournament and possibly making a surprise run.
After picking up just its second Big 12 win of the year over Texas Tech a week ago, it looked as if NU might be picking up some steam just in time for next week's tournament in Kansas City.
Then Colorado came to town.
For as much momentum as the Huskers gained after their win over Texas Tech, they arguably lost an equal amount if not more with their dismal performance on Tuesday in an 81-68 loss to the Buffaloes on Senior Night.
Following the loss, head coach Doc Sadler promised that his team was going to work harder than ever in the final week of the regular season to correct whatever went wrong on Tuesday night. That effort began with a 5 a.m. practice the following day on Wednesday, and another on Friday.
How much Nebraska was able regain in its two early-morning sessions will be determined with their performance in today's regular-season finale on the road against Oklahoma State at 12:47 p.m.
"As I told the guys, these last two days - the only thing I can judge anything on is practice, and it hasn't been easy," Sadler said. "They've done everything that you've asked them to do, and exuded all the energy that you'd expect by this time of year. Obviously I don't think that we have as much confidence and momentum as we would've had (by beating Colorado), but one game can turn a lot of things around.
While the players have had to set their alarm clocks a bit earlier than usual the past few days, they all seem to agree that their performance against the Buffaloes was worthy of such an inconvenient punishment.
"The sad part about it was we let Ryan (Anderson), Sek (Henry) and Ben (Nelson), even Chris Balham, go out in a way that they shouldn't have went out," sophomore guard Brandon Richardson. "Those guys worked tremendously hard throughout their years here, and for them to go out and lose the way we did was unacceptable. We've been looking at Wednesday's practice and today's practice as a way to get back some of that momentum. Not only just for the Oklahoma State game, but for the Big 12 Tournament as well. We can just keep taking it one game at a time and just leave it all on the floor."
If nothing else, Nebraska can still take solace in that it has at least two more games to try and give some sort of happy ending to an otherwise forgettable season. However, their chances of doing so will only continue to get more and more difficult with each game.
"We've got to just continue doing what we've done and hopefully it's good enough to have a chance to win on the road in the last four minutes," Sadler said. "That's what you ask for when you go on the road."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Two of the best perimeter shooters in the conference will go head to head today in Nebraska's Ryan Anderson and Oklahoma State's Obi Muonelo. Anderson comes into the game ranked first in the Big 12 with a 48.6 shooting percentage from 3-point range since the start of league play. Right behind him is Mounelo, who ranks fourth in Big 12 action while shooting 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Statistically speaking, as long as redshirt freshman center Jorge Brian Diaz continues his current pace, he will go down as one of the top-10 freshmen post players to ever play at Nebraska. He currently ranks in the school's single-season freshmen top 10 in scoring average (8.8 points per game) and rebounding (122) and is one blocked shot away from tying the NU freshman season record.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE COWBOYS:
There might not be a better overall player in the Big 12 than Oklahoma state junior forward James Anderson. With 22.8 points per game on the year, Anderson comes into today's contest as the conference's leading scorer. He's also hit 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers and his shooting 81.3 percent from the free throw line.