January 22, 2009

Thursday notebook: NU gets away from game plan

NORMAN, Okla. -- From the outside, Nebraska's 38-32 lead over No. 5 Oklahoma at halftime looked like the perfect start to the Huskers' bid for an upset victory Wednesday night.

For NU head coach Doc Sadler, though, it was pretty much one of the few situations he did not want his team to get into with the dangerous Sooners. In his opinion, the Huskers were shooting far too quickly than he would've liked and getting away from their original game plan.

Coming in, Sadler said he wanted to hold the ball offensively and shorten the game by running down the shot clock to right around 10 seconds on every possession. By doing that, he hoped it would limit OU's possessions and opportunities to get the ball to star forward Blake Griffin.

Instead, Nebraska hit some 3-pointers early on that gave them the confidence to fire away from the perimeter rather than wait for plays to develop. Though that worked in the first half, the Huskers eventually cooled off after halftime, and the Sooners were able to pound the ball into Griffin and regain control of the game.

In the first half, the Husker shot 50 percent from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. In the second half, though, they shot 31 percent from the field and hit just 2-of-12 from 3-point range.

As a result, they scored just 23 points in the second half, while Griffin and Sooners finally found their rhythm offensively and broke the game open.

"The first half, we made some shots," Sadler said. "I thought the score was too high at halftime… We just hit some shots. We haven't done anything different, but we got some open looks. What we were trying to do was get the two Griffin guys (Blake and Taylor Griffin) in ball screens and things out there on the floor, and when we did those things and we didn't get impatient and try to drive it, I thought we got some good looks."

Harley's scoring drought becoming a concern

Senior guard Steve Harley ended Wednesday's loss with 11 points, the second most on the team. That might seem like a good night for some, but for Sadler, it was merely the continuation of a concerning trend.

After emerging as one of the Huskers' top scoring threats early in the season, Harley's production has dropped off significantly. Though he still leads the team overall on the season averaging a little more than 12 points per game, he's gone relatively cold in recent weeks, especially since the start of Big 12 Conference play.

Going back to Nebraska's conference opener against Missouri, Harley has shot just 27.3 percent (9-of-33) from the field and is averaging 7 points per game. In the Huskers' non-conference schedule, he scored in double figures in 11 straight games.

Following Wednesday night's loss, Sadler was asked if he was starting to get worried about Harley's mediocre performances, and it took all of about 2 seconds for him to respond with an emphatic yes.

"He's got to score," Sadler said. "This is the fourth game now that he hasn't scored, and we've got to have him getting 12-15 points per game."

Diaz, Niemann still helping out

Though neither Brian Diaz nor Christopher Niemann have contributed a single second of playing time this season, both have benefited the Huskers if nothing else by providing actual size in the post during practice.

At 6-foot-11 and 6-10, respectively, Diaz and Niemann give Nebraska a taste of what to expect when they face bigger teams in games and get them used to the challenges taller players present on both ends of the floor.

Diaz has only been with the Huskers for a total of two practices after finally getting admitted to the university on Saturday after months of paperwork complications. Still, Sadler said having both him and Niemann - who is redshirting this season - would give the Huskers a better feel for both driving in the lane offensively and getting position for rebounds.

"I think there's a lot of positives," Sadler said. "If nothing else, mentally for me, looking out there and it looks like a college basketball team. But no, seriously, I think you can get a false sense of security as an offensive player driving the basketball and not having contested shots in the lane. That's not going to happen in a game.

"So it gives you a chance to maybe offensive rebound in practice and have to try and finish against bigger guys. Probably, offensively it helps you more than defensively."

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