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December 12, 2009
Young Huskers get another new test against OSU
It's usually pretty hard to walk away from a 35-point victory with concerns about what the future holds for your team the rest of the season, but such was the case for Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler.
Even after a 74-39 win over Chicago State on Thursday night, Sadler's demeanor in his post-game press conference made it seem more like the Huskers had just suffered a disappointing loss than a blowout victory.
On Friday, those same concerns were still there for Sadler, as his team had just one day of practice to try and fix all of the problems from Thursday's in time for tonight's showdown with Oregon State at 7 p.m. at the Devaney Center.
More than anything, it's been the rash of mental mistakes and unforced errors the Huskers have committed this season that have been the biggest red flags for Sadler. In its past two games, NU has committed 37 turnovers, 47 fouls and shot just 66 percent from the free-throw line.
Sadler said the Huskers' inexperience in terms of both playing at the Division-I level and playing together as a team has been the biggest culprit for the mental struggles. As he's stressed since before the season even started, those factors will likely be things Nebraska will have to deal with for the rest of the season.
"There's going to be so many things we're going to experience for the first time," Sadler said. "You can talk about stuff, but until you experience it, I don't think you truly know what to expect. You're looking at three guys (Sek Henry, Ryan Anderson and Brandon Richardson). Three guys is all you're looking who have been there. That's not very many."
That means the rest of the team will get its first taste of OSU's 1-3-1 zone defense, which, because of the height of their wing players and center and how effectively the Beavers run the scheme, presents a challenge fairly unique in college basketball.
In fact, the Beavers' defense has been so good that they have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 69 points in seven games this season.
"We've faced some zone this year, but we've not faced a team that is going to be 40 minutes of zone," Sadler said. "They're going to run their zone as good as we hope to run our man. It's going to be a test.
"I think it's going to be that type of year. We can talk about this 1-3-1, we can practice against it, but they're fixing to experience it, and it's going to be (two 6-foot-7 players) on the wings and 6-10 in the middle. It's going to be big. Obviously it's a concern."
To make matters worse, Nebraska is also dealing with its share of injury issues coming into the game. On Friday, Sadler listed off five players who have been at least somewhat limited in practice due to various ailments.
Hankins-Cole, Jeter and Jones all practiced Friday, but Henry sat out with a bruised knee and Richardson missed the early portion of practice because he was at the doctor getting his injured back treated again.
Henry and Richardson are both questionable for tonight's game.
Asked if he's had to scale back the intensity of his practices because of the Huskers' injury issues, Sadler said his team's inexperience hasn't allowed for any time to take a step back.
"If we were a more experienced team I would," Sadler said. "We don't have the luxury to do that."
***Those worried about missing Ndamukong Suh's potential Heisman Trophy victory by going to tonight's game can rest easy. After the Heisman winner is announced, the game will pause at an appropriate time to broadcast the announcement on the video boards as well as show a season highlight reel of Suh's accomplishments. The award should be announced right around halftime of tonight's game.
***The American Red Cross will be at the game tonight for the annual "Pass the Bucket" collection. If you think of it, bring an extra buck or two and donate to a worthy cause.