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November 29, 2008You can call Nebraska versus Creighton a rivalry all you want, but for the Husker coaches and players, it's only another game on their preseason schedule.
Despite all the buzz among media and fans about the annual intrastate showdown, which is set to tip off at 7:07 p.m. tonight at Devaney Sports Center, the Huskers have taken a firm approach that the game is no bigger than any other. In fact, many said their Big 12 Conference match-ups are far more important than the Creighton game ever would be.
The closest anyone came to trash talk heading in to tonight's game was junior NU forward Ryan Anderson, who used the analogy of a big brother versus little brother to describe the Huskers' outlook on the so-called rivalry.
"I'm not trying to be rude or anything, but we're in the Big 12," Anderson said. "You know what I mean? We're in the Big 12. How much more can we prove? What more do we need to prove to people? They're Creighton. They're like the little brother to Nebraska. You know what I mean? They're in Omaha, we're in Lincoln, and we're in the Big 12. You get what I'm saying? You guys have big brothers? So you know what it's like to have a little brother. He wants to out-do you in everything.
"It's not like I'm trying to make it seem like they're down to us or anything. You know, a basketball team's a basketball team. But like I said, we're in the Big 12. What more can I say?"
If that's the way the Huskers want to look at the series with the Bluejays, than the little brother has definitely had the upper hand for quite a while now. Going into tonight's game, Creighton has won eight of the past 10 showdowns, including three of the past four meetings.
Since 1999, Nebraska has won just one of the past three games in Lincoln, though that one win came the lat time the Bluejays came to town in one-sided 73-61 victory.
Despite Creighton's recent success, Nebraska insists that tonight's game is no more important than any other on its non-conference slate.
"It's no bigger," head coach Doc Sadler said. "I've said that from Day 1. I think all our preseason games are to get us ready for conference. We've got 16 very, very tough games once we get into league play. Every game that we've played so far has given us something new to help us prepare for that time, so that's why Saturday's game just like the other ones."
"I don't, and our team doesn't," he said. "Now our fans may, or Creighton may. I don't know what they do or our fans, but as far as our team's concerned, we haven't done anything different than if we were playing Saint Louis or San Jose or anyone else. I think that's probably not what people want to hear, but that's the way it is."
Sadler said he's helped his players not get caught up in any outside hype this week simply by not making it an issue in practice or in meetings. As he said, he's preparing his team no differently for the Bluejays than he did before the Saint Louis game or how will for NU's following game against Alabama State.
The Husker players said they've also made it a point to stay clear of any talk of how tonight's game might carry more importance because of the presumed rivalry.
"You just don't look at the newspapers, don't read all the articles," sophomore Cookie Miller said. "Just try to stay away from it. Coach has really been having us mellowed down from everything. It's a big game, but it's probably not going to be our biggest game. We've just got to take this game as the next game and move on."
Miller said Sadler hasn't changed his demeanor at all in practice while the Huskers prepare for Creighton. Basically, it's not like Sadler is yelling any louder than he normally does.
"It's just Doc being Doc," Miller said. "I don't think he can change. He's always going to be Doc. I don't care who we're playing, if it was an elementary team, Doc will always be very loud and just be Doc."
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
There are plenty of rumors floating around about the status of sophomore guard P'Allen Stinnett, the Bluejays' third-leading scorer and former starter, who was regulated to coming off the bench in the Bluejays' loss to Arkansas-Little Rock.
Stinnett is came into the season widely regarded as Creighton's top scorer, and the Bluejays have already shown their scoring drop off when his roll is limited. How much he plays tonight could have a huge impact on the final outcome for both teams.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS
Junior guard Sek Henry is steadily emerging as one of the Huskers' best scorers off the dribble, as he is coming off his best performance of the season in Tuesday's win over Saint Louis. Henry ended with a game-high 19 points while adding four assists.
What was most impressive about his play on Tuesday was his ability to beat defenders off the dribble and drive to the basket. The Huskers have had issues with settling for perimeter shots instead of getting the ball to the basket, so Henry's willingness to take the ball to the floor and drive was a good sight to see for the Huskers.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE BLUEJAYS
With Stinnett's status unclear, senior guard Booker Woodfox could be Creighton's go-to guy in tonight's game. The senior guard is averaging 15 points and nearly four rebounds per game this season, and has been the Bluejays' hottest player early on.
In Creighton's season-opener against New Mexico, Woodfox dropped a season-high 26 points and hit four 3-pointers in 30 minutes of playing time. Overall, he's scored in double figures in three of the Bluejays' four games this season. The one game he didn't he only ended up with 9 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.