December 7, 2008

A starter or not, Miller always gives 100 percent

There are very few sure things in the game of basketball, but you always know what you're going to get from Nebraska sophomore guard Cookie Miller when he steps out onto the court.


At 5 feet, 7 inches and 165 pounds, Miller is easily the smallest player on the Huskers' roster this season. At the same time, no player gives more effort come game day.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 1:02 p.m. CST

Where: Wells Fargo Arena 14,141

Head Coache: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (42-27 overall)

Radio: Husker Sports Radio Network stations (Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka. Color: Matt Davison.)


TV: FSN (national) (Play-by-play: Paul Sunderland. Color: Sean Farnham.)


Satellite Radio: None

Series: Tied 3-3






After coming off the bench for the first five games of the season, Miller earned his first start of the year Wednesday night in NU's win over Alabama State. In a season-high 25 minutes of playing time, Miller finished the night with nine points, six assists and four rebounds.


While whether he starts or comes off the bench is the least of his concerns, Miller's tenacity on defense and ability to penetrate defenses and find open teammates off the dribble has made him a valuable asset during the Huskers' undefeated start.


"I think I bring a lot of energy to the team," Miller said. "If I can bring energy and my teammates can feed off that, then we're going to be very successful… I'm going to give 100 percent regardless, whether I'm starting or I play just 2 minutes. Regardless of the situation, when Coach asks me to perform, I'm going to give my 100 percent and give my all."






Arizona State (6-1, 0-0 Pac-10)

1:02 p.m.


Nebraska (6-0, 0-0 Big 12)

FSN (national)






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 6-0




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

9.5/3.5

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

12.8/3.8

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

7.5/3.0

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

5.5/3.0

G

44

Ryan Anderson (6-4, 205)

Jr

6.0/4.8





Arizona State 6-1




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

13

James Harden (6-5, 218)

So

26.3/7.0

G

12

Derek Glasser (6-1, 190)

Jr

4.6/2.7

G

3

Ty Abbott (6-3, 215)

So

10.4/5.6

F

30

Rihards Kuksiks (6-6, 205)

So

8.9/2.4

F

4

Jeff Pendergraph (6-9, 240)

Sr

13.1/6.1






Until Wednesday, junior Sek Henry had assumed the starting point guard duties for Nebraska this season. But after working with the first-team unit the majority of practice leading up to the Alabama State game, Miller pretty much knew his first start of the year wasn't far away.


It was a nice change for Miller, but not one that's going to define is season by any means. Before the season even started, Miller insisted that with the amount the Huskers substitute and rely on their bench, being a starter was merely a title on this team.


Though he'd obviously enjoy becoming a fixture in NU's starting lineup, he said he's perfectly content returning to his previous role as the Huskers' sparkplug off the bench.


"I just think you need to take the opportunity when you're called on," Miller said. "I didn't start all my life, so coming off the bench, that wasn't anything new for me. When I got out there, I thought I gave a good performance, and Sek didn't do a bad job. He's a great starter."


Head coach Doc Sadler said he hasn't seen much of a change at all in Miller from last season to now, saying he's still the player who will give his all every time he's on the court. Sadler said Miller got the start Wednesday because he felt Miller helped the Huskers match-up better with the Hornets offensively.


Heading into Sunday's showdown with No. 19 Arizona State, Sadler said he plans on leaving Miller in the starting lineup, this time pairing him along with Henry in the backcourt, with seniors Ade Dagunduro and Steve Harley and junior Ryan Anderson rounding out the starting five.


Though Miller has said all along that he doesn't care whether he starts or not, he was asked Friday his feelings had changed at all now that he got a taste of being a starter again this season.


Like always, Miller acted like the whole discussion was about as important as whether he would play with his braided or in an afro.


"I mean, if I hold onto (the starting job), I hold onto it," he said. "I'm going to keep giving my 100 percent regardless, even if I'm coming off the bench. That's Coach's call, so I really can't have no control over that. Just when I get an opportunity to get on the floor, I'm going to give it my all."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Nebraska has two major goals on both ends of the court in today's game: On offense, the Huskers will have to find a way to get through ASU's stingy zone defense and get the ball to the basket. On defense, they'll have to find a way to keep James Harden relatively in check.


Nebraska has had issues offensively with its half-court offense, and the Sun Devils present just the type of defense that can exploit those struggles to the fullest and keep NU from getting into any type of rhythm with the ball. On the other end, Hardy can single-handedly win games with his scoring ability, as he's already done a couple times this season.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


Miller had a nice showing in his first start of the season on Wednesday, so much so that Sadler will likely reward him with another start today. With junior center Chris Balham missing extensive practice time with a sore knee, the Huskers will likely debut their first all-guard starting lineup against the Sun Devils.


Miller becomes especially important today because of his ability to drive to the lane and kick the ball out to open teammates on the perimeter, which he did to the tune of six assists against Alabama State.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE ARIZONA STATE


There's really no doubt that Harden is the man for Arizona State. Averaging more than 27 points per game, the sophomore guard having the type of season that could end him up as a top-five pick in next summer's NBA Draft.


However, senior forward Jeff Pendergraph could be the biggest threat for the Huskers today. A proven force in the post, Pendergraph is averaging 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds this season. Combine that with the fact that Nebraska should start the game with a five-guard lineup, and Pendergraph's ability underneath becomes even more of a concern for NU.



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