February 21, 2009

Kansas's Collins, Aldrich go off on Huskers

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Nebraska knew it had to at least contain Kansas's star power if it wanted any shot at upsetting the No. 15/18 Jayhawks on Saturday.

Problem was, KU's star players got that billing for a reason.

Led by a game-high 22 points from junior guard Sherron Collins and 18 from sophomore center Cole Aldrich, the Jayhawks' big names proved too much for the Huskers in what ended in a 70-53 blowout loss.

Senior guard Ade Dagunduro scored a team-high 13 points for the Huskers, who dropped to 16-9 overall and 6-6 in the Big 12 Conference and are essentially now in a must-win situation the rest of the season to keep any NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

"Obviously we knew it was going to be a difficult game and a tough place to come here and win," NU head coach Doc Sadler said. "At the same time, I thought that we - for the first time since I've been here - we were confident that we could do that. We made way too many mental mistakes, and they're way too good to make mental mistakes defensively."

Though Nebraska ended the first half trailing by 11, it could've been much worse had it not been able to respond from several big KU scoring runs.

The first of which came about four minutes into the game, when the Jayhawks jumped out to a 15-5 lead on a 12-2 run capped by consecutive 3-pointers by Tyshawn Taylor and Marcus Morris.

The Huskers were able to bounce back and cut the deficit to 15-12 with 8:19 left in the half, but Kansas came right back with a 12-4 run to go back up 25-14 four minutes later. Collins scored the final eight points of the run by himself.

Nebraska kept the flood gates from breaking open, but Kansas got the last laugh of the half as Aldrich scored on a put back with 1.9 seconds on the clock to make the score 34-23 at the half.

Both Aldrich and Collins scored in double figures in the first half, as they each had 10 points.

"They were tough, in particular Collins," Dagunduro said. "We thought we were going to do a good job on him. He just made some tough shots."

The second half was only more of the same, as both Collins and Aldrich only got better as the game went along. The duo combined for 20 more points in the second half, including 12 by Collins.

While they showed glimpses of possibly putting together a rally, the closest the Huskers would come the rest of the game was six points with a little more than 16 minutes left to play.

Despite the sting of a 17-point loss, Nebraska won't have much time to dwell on it, as it returns to action a day earlier than usual for a showdown at home with Texas A&M on Tuesday.

All things considered, getting Saturday's loss out of their heads as soon as possible is probably just what the Huskers need the most.

"We just never could get over that hump," Sadler said. "I mean, same story - we're just having trouble scoring points. Maybe the score could've been a little bit closer, but you're not going to win at Kansas scoring 53 points."

Defensive breakdowns help spark Collins, Aldrich

After the game, Sadler said he was disappointed in Aldrich and Collins' big games, he was more upset than anything in the Huskers' defensive breakdowns that allowed Collins to get open for wide open shots on the perimeter.

In the first half, Sadler said at least 15 of Kansas's 34 points were due to defensive mistakes by the Huskers, and that number only grew as the game went along.

"They may have made the shots, but it was mistakes that we made, and you can't do that against a good basketball team on the road," Sadler said. "We had some things that we wanted to do, and we made some mistakes and it cost us baskets. They made you pay on the mistakes that you made. That's what good teams do."

Sadler said the biggest and most common mistake came when the Jayhawks ran single screens to get Collins an open look from the perimeter.

The game plan was to switch assignments defensively when KU ran screen plays, but often times the player who was supposed to step up and help on Collins got caught up in the paint, leaving Collins with a wide-open look.

"I knew that Collins had to have a game like he had against Iowa State where he didn't shoot the basketball well to have a chance, but he didn't do that," Sadler said. "He hit some timely shots… He's one of the best guards in the country. It's real difficult (to defend him). He hit some timely shots when the shot clock was down. We defended pretty well, but he's supposed to do that. That's why he's one of the best."

Huskers get dominated on the glass

Looking over the stat sheet, some of the more noticeable numbers came in the rebounding department.

Led by Aldrich's 12 rebounds, the Jayhawks dominated NU on the glass to the tune of 46-24, including a 15-4 advantage in offensive rebounds. As a result, Kansas outscored Nebraska 23-2 in second-chance points.

"Bill made a decision to send all five guys I guess to the offensive glass, and they hurt us on the offensive boards about as bad as anybody has. We weren't able to make them pay on the other end."

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