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February 8, 2011

Records come second to winning for NU's Jeter

It's rare to find a silver lining in a 20-point blowout home loss, but when you look past the final score of Nebraska's loss to No. 2 Kansas on Saturday, it's hard to ignore the game Lance Jeter had.

While most of his teammates struggled to get much going, Jeter once again led the charge for the Huskers with 10 points, a season-high 10 assists and a game-high three steals. His effort wasn't enough to carry the Huskers to an upset win, but the senior point guard's performance certainly caught the attention of the rest of the league.

During his interview on Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference, NU head coach Doc Sadler was asked about Jeter by reporters from around the league, as if his double-double against KU was some sort of breakout performance.

Little did they know Jeter has been doing that all season long.

"He's a guy who's playing about 35 minutes a game for us, and Kansas, Bill (Self) always does a great job of either taking advantage of maybe an inside guy or in this case Lance, and made him play 95 feet the whole game," Sadler said during the teleconference.

"They were picking him up after every made basket and tried to wear him out, but Lance is a competitor, and the game he had Saturday speaks for itself. You're not going to do that too many times against a Kansas basketball team. He just hung in there and kept us close at times."

As the Huskers get ready for tomorrow night's game at Baylor, Jeter leads the team with 10.8 points per game. Scoring, however, is far from his biggest contribution to the team.

The Beaver Falls, Penn., native ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 4.6 assists per game, second with 2.0 steals per game and leads the entire conference with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.66-to-1, which is arguably the most important stat for a point guard.

Though it's just his second year in the program since transferring to Nebraska from Polk (Fla.) Community College last season, Jeter has established himself as the Huskers' clear leader both on and off the court, and he fully settled into that role as early as this past summer, according to his teammates.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence," junior Toney McCray said. "I knew he was going to have this kind of season with the way he was playing in the summertime. Seeing him from last year, he's a lot more comfortable pushing the ball... He's like a one-man fast break. It's hard to stop him when he crosses that half court line and it's one-on-one, he's probably going to get that bucket or he's going to the foul line."

As much as his coach and teammates like to talk up his performance this season, Jeter is only concerned with one thing - winning basketball games. With the Huskers having lost three of their past four games and sitting at a now-or-never 3-5 record in league play, all of Jeter's impressive statistics won't mean anything until his team starts winning as a result.

"I've been playing alright, but I'm here for winning," Jeter said. "That's how I measure success. When you win, you just feel better about your team's chances. When I do play good and we lose, it doesn't mean anything, because I'm here to win. I want to win. I want to play in the Big Dance. I want to play for these fans who want a winner. I don't just want to play hard. I want to win.

"I don't pay attention to all (the stats), because at the end of the day, it's all about winning. We ain't winning, so those stats really don't mean anything."

As much as he insists that stats are irrelevant, Jeter admitted that assists are one category he doesn't mind keeping an eye on.

With his 10 dimes against the Jayhawks, Jeter bumped his career assist total to 235, passing Ryan Anderson (228, 18th) and tying David Ponce for 17th on Nebraska's all-time assist charts. As far as second-year players go, he ranks second behind only Eric Johnson (247, 1988-89).

"With me being a point guard, my teammates feed off the passes I get to them, so that's a team way of doing something," Jeter said. "If I'm getting assists, it's because my team was helping me out and hitting their shots. That's something you can look at. I trust my teammates that when I pass them the ball, they'll complete the play."

With eight more regular season games remaining and, at the very least, another in the Big 12 Tournament, Jeter is on pace to finish with roughly 143 assists for the year and 278 for his career. That would put him just behind Tyronn Lue (144, seventh) for eighth on the NU single-season assist list and move him past Sek Henry (256) on the career chart.

Maybe at some point down the road, after his career at Nebraska finally comes to an end, Jeter will look back on his individual accomplishments and reflect on where he stands in Nebraska basketball history.

For now, though, he's still focused on doing everything he can to make sure the Huskers play a few more games so he can add to those totals.

"I don't even know where to look for all that stuff," Jeter said about following his place in the NU record books. "When it's all said and done and I'm done playing, I might look at it and see where I'm at. But right now, I'm only concerned about winning and helping this team get better each day."



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