February 18, 2009

Huskers not overlooking last-place Buffaloes

Today's game against Colorado could be described as a must-win situation for Nebraska in terms of its postseason aspirations. At this point, however, you could say that about all of its final six games.


Following Saturday's loss to Missouri, the Huskers are currently a half-game behind Texas and Kansas State for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference standings. While their chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament took a hit after the loss to the Tigers, the Huskers haven't given up hope just yet.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 8:05 p.m. CST

Where: Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (52-35 overall)

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


TV: ESPNU (Play-by-play: Mitch Holtus. Color: Rich Zvosec.)

Series: Nebraska leads 75-68






So in keeping that goal alive, Nebraska must start with Colorado (9-15 overall, 1-9 Big 12), who comes to Lincoln for a 8:05 p.m. tip as the conference's cellar dwellers. That, however, doesn't mean the Huskers are taking CU lightly.


In their first meeting in Boulder two weeks ago, the Buffaloes took NU to the final second as a half-court shot fell short in a 55-53 win for the Huskers. Knowing Colorado has nothing to lose, head coach Doc Sadler said CU is as scary of a match-up as any of his team's remaining regular season games.


"It is a scary basketball game," Sadler said. "(Guard Cory Higgins) is playing as well as any guard that's in the league right now. Anytime you've got a guard that's playing that well and shooting it, it can be difficult."


Higgins comes into the game as Colorado's most lethal score, averaging 17.9 points per game. In the first meeting in Boulder, Higgins scored 14 points and hauled in a team-high six rebounds.


However, Sadler said he was far more concerned with the Buffaloes' knack of slowing down the game and making defenses work as long as possible before taking a shot. With a game plan similar to the Princeton offense, CU utilizes screens and back-door cuts set up with heavy ball movement.






Colorado (9-15, 1-9 Big 12)

8:05 p.m. CST


Nebraska (15-8, 5-5 Big 12)

ESPNU






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 13-7




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

11.0/3.4

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

11.8/4.2

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.3/2.2

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.2/2.6





Colorado 9-15




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

12

Dwight Thorne II (6-2, 185)

Jr

13.2/4.0

G

11

Cory Higgins (6-5, 185)

So

17.9/5.8

G

1

Nate Tomlinson (6-2, 180)

Fr

7.7/2.9

F

31

Jackson-Wilson (6-6, 230)

Sr

5.5/3.9

F

33

Austin Dufault (6-8, 210)

Fr

8.9/4.0






"The style that they play is good to be going on the road," he said. "They're not going to come down and try to out-score you, and it's the same style at home as it is on the road. So they're pretty consistent. They're going to make you defend for 20 to 25 seconds before the look for a shot. That right there starts it. Early in the conference they were turning the basketball over, but they're not turning it over right now.


"That obviously concerns us, because we haven't been a team that has the luxury of having a lot of offense that can maybe give you some cushion. Even our home games are close."


Along with figuring out how to better counter Colorado's style, the Huskers are also trying their best to put their loss to Missouri behind them. By all accounts, Saturday's defeat was Nebraska's worst overall performance of the season. Now just four days removed from the loss, the Huskers have been trying their best to forget it ever happened.


"We just have to move on," junior guard Sek Henry said. "Like we did before, we lost three games straight and then we won three games straight. Basically we just have to forget about this last game and focus on the next game and try to win that one and move on."


With just six games to try and save their NCAA Tournament hopes, the Huskers - even more so than before - have little to no room for error. That's why they're not overlooking anyone, even the team with the worst record in the conference.


"If you want to continue to try to continue to be one of the main guys or one of the man players in this thing, you need to take care of home court," Sadler said. "You've got six games left. Every one of them is big. As I told the team yesterday, if each game isn't getting bigger, then it's not good. So the next game, hopefully, is going to continue to be a bigger and bigger and bigger game."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


With the way Colorado likes to slow down the tempo of the game on both ends of the floor, Nebraska's shooting is going to be pivotal in determining tonight's outcome. In their first meeting, the Huskers shot 52.4 percent in the first half and then dropped down to 42 percent in the second.


As a result, the Buffaloes were able to climb back from a nine-point deficit with roughly four minutes left and have a chance to win on the game's final possession. The Huskers' generally thrive when the score is kept low, but when both teams are that way, points will come at a premium.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


Senior guard Ade Dagunduro has taken his game offensively up a notch recently, as he's scored 20 points or more three times since the start of Big 12 games. In Nebraska's previous 16 games, he's averaged a team-best 13.9 points per contest while shooting 58.6 percent from the field.


Dagunduro's been even better at home against conference foes, leading the team with 16.2 ppg and hauling in 5.4 rebounds per game.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE BUFFALOES


While Harris is obviously the biggest scoring threat for the Buffaloes, junior guard Dwight Thorne II has been equally as dangerous at times. Along with averaging 13.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game this season, he's proven himself as one of Colorado's best perimeter shooters.


Against Nebraska two weeks ago, Thorne scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, including hitting 5-of-8 3-pointers.

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