December 3, 2008

Hot shooting guides NU to 80-51 win over Hornets

Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler came into Wednesday night's game against Alabama State looking for a good overall shooting performance from his team.

Boy, did he get that and then some.

Behind 14 3-pointers and four players scoring in double figures, the Huskers had arguably their best offensive performance of the season in an 80-51 win over the Hornets at Devaney Sports Center.

Senior guard Steve Harley led the way with a game-high 16 points, while redshirt freshman Toney McCray finished with 12 points and juniors Sek Henry and Ryan Anderson both added 11.

As a team, Nebraska shot 51.7 percent from the field and 56 percent from beyond the arc. The Huskers' 14 treys were the second-most under Sadler, coming just two short of the 16 they hit against Miami in 2006.

"I think probably our biggest thing is we made shots," Sadler said. "You make shots like we made them tonight and you've got a chance to maybe make a team not look as good as they really are. We didn't turn the basketball over, we didn't give up offensive rebounds and we made 3-point shots in the first half. I don't know that we can play much better than that."

All together, four different players hit three 3-pointers in the victory. Despite shooting just six free throws the entire game, the Huskers were able to create countless open looks from the perimeter off dribble penetration and kick-out passes.

The Huskers also ended with a season-high 23 assists, led by seven from Anderson and six by sophomore Cookie Miller.

"Anytime you have a basketball team that has 20-something assists, you've got to be happy that they continued to share the basketball and got other guys involved instead of just trying to look for their own shots, which I think they could've done," Sadler said. "We spent some extra time shooting the ball. I've said all along, I don't know if we shoot it this well, but I do think we shoot the basketball pretty good. A key is I think the guys are starting to feel more comfortable where shots are coming from."

It didn't take long for Nebraska to jump all over the Hornets. Trailing 6-5 roughly 2 minutes into the game, the Huskers broke out with a 17-2 run behind three 3-pointers and one 3-point play the old fashioned way with a layup and a free throw by Harley.

From there, the Huskers were able to steadily add to their lead throughout the first half, as they went on to hit six more 3-pointers and eventually take a 50-25 lead into halftime. Nebraska never looked back in the second half, and at one point led by as many as 40 when Miller scored with 7:41 remaining to put NU up 76-36.

Miller finished the game with nine points, while senior Paul Velander also added nine points on three 3-pointers.

"It always feels good when you score, but I thought we played great as a team tonight," said Anderson, who had zero turnovers along with his seven assists. "Everybody shot the ball well. I wasn't the only one. You've got Paul, Cookie, Ade, Sek, everybody. I think collectively we shot it pretty well."

While the Huskers' shooting was obviously impressive, Sadler said he was almost equally as pleased with his team's refusal to let up after jumping out to a big lead. Nebraska, which improved to a perfect 6-0 with the win, now turns its attention to Sunday's trip to Arizona State, with tip-off set for 1 p.m.

"Overall I'm very pleased," Sadler said. "I think the guys competed, we got on the floor for loose balls. It's easy to get on the floor for a loose ball when it's a two- or three-point ball game, but we were up 25 or 30 and we had two or three guys on the floor every time we had a loose ball. That's a coach's dream, and that's the way these guys have been all year."

Edwards makes most of first start

He didn't actually know he was starting until about 45 seconds before tip-off, but Alonzo Edwards made sure he was ready to go regardless.

With junior center Chris Balham unable to play because of soreness in his knee, Edwards was thrown into the starting lineup at the last second, and the redshirt freshman responded with five points, two rebounds and a block in 14 minutes of playing time.

"It was good, but I'll tell y'all, I was nervous," Edwards said after the game. "But I knew I had to come in and step up and just play as hard as I could. I know my defense wasn't the best it could be, but it ain't nothing a little time can improve. I know Doc is going to chew me out pretty good, but that's only for the good though."

The highlight of Edwards' night came less than three minutes into the game, when Cookie Miller - who also made his first start of the season - found him wide open at the top of the key. Though there was still 31 seconds on the shot clock and the Huskers were trailing by a point, Edwards opted to fire up a 3-pointer that hit nothing but net.

So what was Edwards thinking as he released his somewhat questionable 3-pointer?

"Oh, I'm thinking, 'All net. It's going in,'" Edwards said. "It felt good. The pass, the energy just went from Cookie, to the pass, to me, and I was like, 'Aw yeah, let me hit this.' I was kind of nervous though, 'cause I looked at the shot clock, and it was like 31 seconds. I was second-thinking the shot. I was like, 'Ahh, I wish I could take it back.'"

Sadler said overall he was happy with Edwards' performance in the most extensive playing time of his career. Still, as has been the case since he first stepped on campus, Sadler said Edwards needs to improve his play defensively before he can fully live up to his potential.

"Alonzo, I saw him make a 3, and I'm happy for that, but defensively, it's just got to become important to him every possession," Sadler said. "As I've said all along, he's got the body we need, the athleticism, and for the most part I thought he did a nice job."

Edwards was asked if thought his starting debut might have been cut short if he wouldn't have made that early 3-pointer.

"It's a good chance I wouldn't have (played much more)," Edwards said. "But that's how it is taking chances with Coach Doc Sadler. You never know what'll happen."

Though he still has a long way to go before his game becomes fully polished, Edwards said playing for Sadler doesn't allow him to take any days off in getting there.

"Doc, he never lets me have a bad practice," he said. "He'll point me out right in practice and tell me what I'm doing wrong and give me constructive criticism."

Jones done for season

Nebraska put it off as long as it could, but freshman Eshaunte Jones simply couldn't take the pain in his foot any longer.

After getting an MRI on his injured foot on Tuesday, Jones, Sadler and NU's training staff decided that it was time Jones officially sat out the rest of the season, as he's scheduled to undergo surgery in the next few days.

"He is actually going to be finished," Sadler said. "He had an MRI, and I don't know exactly what day he's going to have surgery now, but it's going to be, he's finished as far as playing for this year. We wanted to try and get through the year because he's such a good offensive player, and he has some size, but he's not going to be able to play anymore (this season)."

Jones appeared in four games this season, though he missed the past two while nursing his foot. He averaged 11.5 minutes per game during that stretch, scoring just seven points. His biggest game actually came in the Huskers' exhibition win over Chadron State, where he scored a team-high 16 points in 16 minutes of playing time off the bench.

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