January 3, 2009

Huskers shoot their way to 88-56 win over UMES

Sure, it was only an 88-56 win over lowly Maryland Eastern Shore, but it was just what Nebraska needed with the start of the Big 12 Conference season a week away.

The Huskers shot a season-high 61.1 percent from the field and committed a school-record single-game low three turnovers in one of their most fundamentally sound performances of the season Saturday at the Devaney Center.

Senior guard Ade Daguduro led the way with a game-high 18 points, as he shot a near perfect 8-of-9 from the floor. Senior guard Steve Harley followed up with 12 points, as 12 different Huskers scored in the victory.

"Overall I guess you've got to be happy," NU head coach Doc Sadler said. "The shooting percentage, the team shot the ball a little bit better. Again, we got some easy baskets, and that drives up the shooting percentage. Defensively, it was just OK. We can play much better defense than what we played."

The game was relatively close for the majority of the first half, as Nebraska (9-3) found itself up just six with a little less than 4 minutes to go before halftime, 29-23. A 3-pointer by junior guard Ryan Anderson and another 3 the old fashioned way by Dagunduro helped put the Huskers up 13 with 2 minutes remaining.

The Hawks were able to cut the lead to six with 1:25 to go, but baskets by junior forward Chris Balham and Harley in the final minute sent the Huskers into halftime with a 40-28 advantage.

It was more of the same in the second half, as Nebraska jumped out with a 9-0 run to take a 53-32 lead six minutes in. The Huskers bumped their lead up to 32 on a 3-pointer by Dagunduro, who connected on his first eight shots of the game.

In fact, Dagunduro didn't finally miss until he came up short on a contested lay-up with just 4:55 left to go in the game.

"I think Ade can shoot the basketball, and he's shooting good shots," Sadler said. "He looks to be getting more aggressive like he was midway through the league last year. It looks like he's getting that aggressiveness back."

Though Dagunduro gave the credit for his performance to the play of point guards Cookie Miller and Sek Henry, he acknowledged that he has tried to step up his aggressiveness with the ball and become more of a scoring threat for the Huskers.

With his 18 points, he has now scored in double figures in five consecutive games. He's also made a combined 26-of-32 shots (81.3 percent) in his past four games. Against Maryland-Baltimore County, Dagunduro tied the school record by hitting all nine of his field goals in the loss, and he set the school record last by making 15 consecutive shots over the course of NU's previous three games.

"Me being a senior, I've got to pick it up, whether it be on offense or defense," Dagunduro said. "My offensive game wasn't where it needs to be as a senior leader, so I've definitely put it in my mind to be more aggressive."

The Huskers won't waste any time in taking on their next opponent, as they return to action on Monday when they play host to Florida A&M at 7 p.m. at the Devaney Center. The Rattlers come into the game reeling after starting the season 2-9, losing five of their past six games.

The game will be Nebraska's final non-conference showdown before the start of the Big 12 schedule. The Huskers open their Big 12 slate on Saturday at home against Missouri, and the tip off has been moved up from 2 p.m. to 1 p.m.

While it may not be the most impressive victory the Huskers have ever had, Saturday's win was an important one simply in the terms of regaining some momentum heading into conference play.

"It's important not to let these games slip," Dagunduro said. "We took care of business today, and we've got to take care of business against FAMU. We've got to approach that game like it's the Big 12 Championship."

Huskers have record-setting ball security

One of the biggest reasons Nebraska was able to score a season-high 88 points, the highest regulation total in its three previous years under Sadler, was its ability to limit turnovers as well as any team in school history.

With just three turnovers committed in the game, the Huskers tied their all-time low, marking the fewest since 2002 against Iowa State.

"I don't care who you're playing against, you turn the basketball over three times you're going to be pleased," Sadler said. "I hope that gives you a chance to continue to be successful when you get into the league. That's going to get our turnovers down to about 10 or 11 a game, and you can be competitive with that."

The Huskers finished the game with 18 assists on 33 baskets, and only had one turnover in the first half and two in the second.

While Sadler was obviously pleased with his team's ball security in the game, he wasn't about to go and congratulate his team on a "perfect" performance.

"He tried to, but then he said that (three turnovers) was too much," Dagunduro said. "I know he wants us to have a perfect game, but that's probably not going to ever happen. But we're doing a good job of keeping our turnovers to a minimum, and that's been huge for us this whole season."

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