February 7, 2009

Huskers face biggest challenge yet versus Texas

To refer to tonight's game against No. 16 Texas as Nebraska's biggest challenge of the season would not be an exaggeration by any means.


Standing at an average team height of 6 feet, 5 inches, the Longhorns literally are the biggest team the Huskers will face in the regular season. Highlighted by 6-10, 298-pound center Dexter Pittman, Texas boasts four players 6-10 or taller on its roster.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (51-34 overall)

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


TV: ESPN (Play-by-play: Ron Franklin. Color: Fran Fraschilla.)

Series: Texas leads 15-4






As has been mentioned a few times already this season, the tallest player on Nebraska's active roster is 6-8 junior forward Chris Balham.


While the Huskers have seen their share of tall opponents in Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Kansas' Cole Aldrich, they haven't faced a team as all-around big and talented as the Longhorns all year, and likely won't the rest of the way.


"It's going to be the biggest challenge we've had all year as far as defending size," NU head coach Doc Sadler said. "They're basically bigger at every position, plus the guys coming off the bench are bigger at every position. It's going to be a challenge for us. Obviously we all know, not that they wouldn't have already, but they're going to come in here ready to play. So we've got our work cut out for us."


While it will obviously be difficult for Nebraska to match-up physically with the bigger Longhorns, it's not as if it's intimidated by any means. Aside from a big second half by Griffin, the Huskers haven't been overwhelmed by any taller players they've faced.


By using crisp defensive rotation and aggressive double teams, Nebraska has been able to pester opposing post players and keep them from establishing good position down low. As could be expected, that will again be the game plan tonight.






Texas (15-6, 4-3 Big 12)

1:05 p.m.


Nebraska (14-7, 4-4 Big 12)

ESPN






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 14-7




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

9.0/3.2

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

12.0/3.5

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

11.6/3.8

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.7/2.4

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.0/2.3





Texas 15-6




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

3

A.J. Abrams (5-11, 181)

Sr

16.6/2.3

G

24

Justin Mason (6-2, 194)

Jr

7.1/4.9

G

5

Damion James (6-7, 222)

Jr

8.1/2.8

F

1

Gary Johnson (6-6, 233)

So

11.2/6.4

C

32

Connor Atchley (6-10, 228)

Sr

5.4/3.7






"We're going to do just the same thing that we've been doing," senior guard Ade Dagunduro said. "It's just countering it with our toughness. Our double-teams have got to be sharp, and our rotations have got to be sharp as well."


Another intriguing aspect of tonight's match-up is the fact that both teams are coming into the game from both ends of the momentum spectrum. While Nebraska is riding a two-game road winning streak, the Longhorns have dropped their past two home games to Kansas State and Missouri.


Though Nebraska confidence is as high as ever, it's well aware that Texas is coming to Lincoln with hefty chip on its shoulder, and it will be looking to right the ship and get back on the winning track.


"I do think it's a little different than it's been the last two years," Sadler said. "I think the last two years they went into our games probably understanding - especially last year because it was so late in the year - they were just waiting to get to postseason play. This year, they know they're in postseason play, but you're probably going to get their best shot.


"I think we understand the challenge that's in front of us, but at the same time, this has always been a team that's taken the challenge head on. I expect them to do the same thing tomorrow."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


While the Huskers will be putting their full attention towards stopping Texas' post game, they'll also have to be aware of the Longhorns' ability to shoot 3-pointers. Despite their size, the Longhorns love to kick the ball out to guard A.J. Abrams beyond the arc.


If Texas struggles with its perimeter shooting, the Huskers' game plan of shutting down the post should work to near perfection. If the Longhorns come out shooting, though, it could be Nebraska's worst nightmare.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


Senior guard Steve Harley had been dealing with some serious confidence issues shooting the ball lately, but that all might have changed in Wednesday's win over Colorado.


Harley led the Huskers with a team-high 12 points against the Buffaloes, but the most encouraging numbers in his box score was his 5-of-6 shooting from the free throw line. Prior to Wednesday, Harley had shot just 3-of-12 from the line in NU's five previous games.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE LONGHORNS


Averaging 16.6 points per game this season, Abrams has been Texas' go-to guy offensively. In Wednesday's loss to Missouri, the senior was the only Longhorn to score in double figures.


Though he's seen his scoring average dip to 15.2 ppg since the start of Big 12 Conference play, he's still undoubtedly one of the Longhorns most potent offensive threats.

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