January 28, 2009

Huskers not intimidated by defending champ Kansas

It was a loss that officially ended any hopes Nebraska had at making the NCAA Tournament last season, but head coach Doc Sadler still views is a step in the right direction in retrospect.


After leading the eventual national champion Kansas Jayhawks by five points at halftime in the second round of last year's Big 12 Conference Tournament, Nebraska let a potential upset victory slip through its fingers in the final minutes in a 64-54 loss.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 6:32 p.m. CST

Where: Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (49-33 overall)

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


TV: ESPN2 (Play-by-play: Bob Wischusen. Color: Doug Gottlieb.)

Series: Kansas leads 164-71






Sadler said Nebraska's confidence started finally started to bloom during a three-game win streak over Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Though the loss to Kansas sent the Huskers packing for a trip to the National Invitation Tournament, Sadler looks back on the game as one that proved to his team that it could play with anyone - even the best team in college basketball.


"The three games against Oklahoma, A&M and Kansas State probably game us the confidence - whether it was fake confidence, dumb confidence or real confidence, I don't know - but it gave you some confidence going into that game that I thought for the first time we weren't waiting until the game's over to ask them for autographs," Sadler said.


"They went in there with the idea that were going to try to beat them. I think they did do that, and I think they played for 40 minutes like they thought they could beat them. So that's definitely going to carry over. Now, I don't know there's a team in this league that they feel they can at least compete with."


Talking with the players, that confident attitude is apparent as the Huskers prepare to take on Kansas tonight at 6:30 at the Bob Devaney Center.






Kansas (15-4, 4-0 Big 12)

6:32 p.m.


Nebraska (12-6, 2-3 Big 12)

ESPN2






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 12-4




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

9.1/3.3

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

12.1/3.6

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

10.7/3.7

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.2/2.4

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.1/2.2





Kansas 15-4




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

4

Sherron Collins (5-11, 200)

Jr

18.7/5.3

G

15

Tyshawn Taylor (6-3, 180)

Fr

10.2/2.4

G

12

B. Morningstar (6-3, 187)

So

7.0/3.1

F

22

Marcus Morris (6-8, 225)

Fr

7.5/5.2

C

45

Cole Aldrich (6-11, 245)

So

15.4/9.8






Senior guard Ade Dagunduro said he remembered a couple years ago when just seeing the Jayhawks on the schedule made the team doubt themselves before even stepping onto the court.


"Just that name 'Kansas' alone, you think about all the Kansas greats, and that can kind of put fear into somebody who's inexperienced," Dagunduro said. "But we've got a good nucleus, and we're going to be ready for them."


"We no longer look at them as our big brother, but as a same-aged cousin, if you will. We definitely won't be scared of them."


Coming off a heart-breaking overtime loss to Oklahoma State, the Huskers haven't had much time to dwell on their misfortunes this week, as they've wasted no time in preparing for defending national champion Jayhawks.


Adding even more hype to the sold-out game is the fact that it's going to be broadcast on national television on ESPN2. Still, Sadler has made it a point that the Huskers don't look at tonight's game any differently than they have any of their previous 18 contests.


Still, there's no denying that the pre-game hype gets a little bigger when a conference rival comes to town as the defending national champions.


"I'm sure that why (this game) is sold out," Sadler said. "There's not too many times you get a chance to play a defending national champion. We just happen to be in a league where we get at least two times to play them. As I've said from Day 1, I think that's why kids come to the leagues that they go to. If a kid' got an opportunity to play in the ACC or the Big 12 or a mid-major or a low-major, they always choose the bigger school's most of the time because they get a chance to play against great players."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


The past two practices, Sadler has stressed no point more than the importance of keeping Kansas center Cole Aldrich out of the post. One of the best big men in the Big 12 Conference and maybe even the nation, Sadler knows full well the Jayhawks are going to do everything they can to get the ball to Aldrich down low.


By using a double-team trap whenever he got the ball by the basket, the Huskers were able to keep Oklahoma's Blake Griffin relatively in-check in the first half last week. Look for Nebraska to do the exact same thing to Aldrich.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:


Sophomore point guard Cookie Miller has taken his game offensively to the next level the past two games, as he's coming off a career-high 19 points in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State.


Miller played 42 minutes in the overtime contest, and proved that despite his small stature he's one of the most talented and durable players on Nebraska's roster.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE JAYHAWKS:


There are a few players you could choose here, but the name that has come up the most the past few days has been point guard Sherron Collins.


One of the few returning contributors from last season's championship team, Collins has made the most of his decision to stay so far, averaging 18.7 points and 5.3 assists per game.

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