January 17, 2009

Despite record, beating Wildcats no easy task

With a cast of former Nebraska greats looking on, the Huskers must find a way to rebound from a disappointing conference loss on the road and get their season back on track.


On paper, they appear to be getting the perfect opportunity to do just that when Kansas State rolls in town tonight at 5 p.m. at the Devaney Center. At 11-5 on the season and 0-2 in the Big 12 Conference, the Wildcats have had just as many struggles as NU, if not more.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 5:06 p.m. CST

Where: Devaney Sports Center 13,595

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (48-31 overall)

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


TV: Big 12 Network (Play-by-play: Steve Physioc. Color: Bryndon Manzer.)

Series: Kansas State leads 122-92






Aside from an early-season win at Cleveland State, Kansas State hasn't won on the road in three tries this season, including their first Big 12 road trip against Kansas on Tuesday. The Huskers, on the other hand, are an impressive 11-1 at home this year, with the lone blemish a fluke loss to Maryland-Baltimore County.


However, NU head coach Doc Sadler isn't viewing tonight's showdown with the Wildcats as a free pass by any means. In his opinion, KSU head coach Frank Martin's squad that wins a lot like his own does - by scrapping until the final second.


"They've played some awfully good teams," Sadler said. "When you watch their tape, probably more than anything it's a reflection of their aggressiveness. That's just the way Frank coaches, and that's just the way they are."


Sadler said what worries him most about the Wildcats is their ability to cause problems with the full-court press defense. Kansas State ranks among the Big 12's best with a +4.8 turnover margin.







Kansas State (11-5, 0-2 Big 12)

5:05 p.m.


Nebraska (11-4, 1-1 Big 12)

Big 12 Network






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 11-4




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

12.5/3.7

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

11.0/3.8

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

6.0/2.2

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.5/2.3





Kansas State 11-5




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

0

Jacob Pullen (6-0, 200)

So

14.2/3.7

G

21

Denis Clemente (6-1, 175)

Jr

12.3/3.1

F

23

Dominique Sutton (6-5, 210)

So

8.3/4.9

F

42

Darren Kent (6-11, 230)

Sr

8.5/6.0

C

15

Luis Colon (6-10, 265)

Jr

5.5/4.9






He also said that despite losing to players to the NBA Draft this offseason in Michael Beasely and Bill Walker, KSU might actually be a bit more difficult to defend in the sense that the Wildcats now feature a deep cast of potential scoring threats as opposed to only two.


With six players averaging at least 8 points per game this season, including three averaging at least 10, the Wildcats feature a well-balanced offense that can strike from a variety of different angles. Sadler pointed to forward Darren Kent (6-foot-11) and center Luis Colon (6-10) for helping KSU develop a solid presence in the post despite last season's departures.


"(Martin) just tries to really get after you, and that's going to be a concern, is how aggressive defensively they are," Sadler said. "And their inside game - obviously they lost two great players - I think Colon and Kent have really done a nice job this year. I think they're a much more balanced team than last year.


"Last year, we were only concerned about one or two guys. But this year, they've had a number of guys, maybe as many as six guys, that's had over 20 points. That tells you that you better be concerned about a lot of people."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Nebraska came out flatter than it had all season in Wednesday night's loss to Iowa State, and there's was no clearer sign of that point than its team shooting. The Huskers' were dismal offensively, as they managed a grand total of 20 points in the first half and just 35.4 percent from the field overall.


The only time they showed any life offensively was when they're press defense heated up and starting forcing turnovers. Look to see how often Sadler opts to clamp down on the Wildcat ball handlers to try and get a spark from his defense.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


Really one of the only bright spots in the Iowa State loss was the play of sophomore guard Cookie Miller. Along with 11 points, Miller finished with a team-high four assists and a game-high three steals.


He was also one of the spark plugs for Nebraska's second-half rally, as he was able to pester the Cyclones' guards in the press and create some big plays off of turnovers.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE WILDCATS


After the Wildcats' lost two stars in Beasely and Walker, they appear to have the next one in line in sophomore point guard Jacob Pullen.


Pullen currently stands as Kansas State's top scoring threat, as he's averaging 14.2 points per game this season. He also leads the team with 36 3-pointers, 59 assists and 28 steals.





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