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February 20, 2012With a flurry of fast-break lay-ups and highlight reel alley-oops, Nebraska's offense looked like a completely different animal in Saturday's 80-57 win over Illinois.
In posting their second-highest point total of the season, the Huskers were no longer the slow-paced offensive team that has lacked confidence seemingly since the start of Big Ten Conference play.
Instead, NU was as electric and exciting with the basketball as it's been in arguably any game during head coach Doc Sadler's six seasons in Lincoln.
During his interview on the weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference on Monday, Sadler said his team's offensive explosion had little to do with any changes to the game plan and almost entirely to do simply with finally gaining some confidence.
"More than anything, we made some shots and things started going our way," Sadler said. "With a few shots that go in here and there, it can make a lot of things look a lot better... When guys do the things that they're taught to do, they get a little confidence going where they just start playing instead of maybe thinking a little bit, and you see good results."
Senior point guard Bo Spencer was one of the driving forces behind Nebraska's impressive showing on Saturday. By shooting 9-of-11 from the field, 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free throw line, Spencer seemingly couldn't miss against the Fighting Illini, as he came just one basket shy of tying his career high with 27 points.
Sadler said Spencer and senior guard Brandon Richardson, who finished with 12 points and six assists of his own, were perfect examples of players who benefited from playing with full confidence on the offensive end.
"Bo and Brandon Richardson are guys that can play on the ball and off the ball, and that always helps," Sadler said. "Again, when you're hitting your perimeter shots, it gives you the opportunity to also drive on people. Bo's whole success on Saturday was that he made shots. When he makes shots, he is a very, very good offensive player."
It goes without saying that Sadler is hopeful the Huskers can continue to play with that kind of offensive energy the rest of the season, but he said Saturday was more a result of what Illinois was doing than any sort of tweak in strategy.
With two road games this week against Purdue and then Michigan State, those transition baskets and monster dunks may be a little more difficult to come by. That doesn't mean Nebraska won't come out looking for some repeat performances, however.
"I think more than anything it was probably because of the shots that maybe Illinois didn't make," Sadler said. "They shot, I don't know, 20 3s or whatever, and therefore there were a lot of long rebounds, and we were able to catch them on the run. That always adds a little bit to your success. Maybe the other thing is when they got down, they started pressing, and we were able to get some easy baskets against their press.
"I don't think it's anything particular that we changed. There's not anything different that we did Saturday that we haven't been trying to do."