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  1. 2009 Jul 24

    Ignoring the Naysayers


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    With the recent release of the 2010 Big 12 men’s basketball schedule and its attendant TV slate, one thing becomes pretty obvious:

    The league, and ESPN, sure doesn’t think much of Nebraska’s chances.

    For now, NU will only appear, it seems, on national TV three times before the Big 12 Tournament. One game – that matchup vs. USC in the Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge - may show up on Fox Sports Network. Otherwise, Doc Sadler’s hustlin’ Huskers just aren’t going to get much exposure beyond Big 12 country.

    That reflects expectations for the team, which, with nine new scholarship players, probably isn’t that high.

    While it’s good to fly under an opponents’ radar, league coaches know too much about Sadler’s coaching skills to take the Huskers lightly. Potentially great wins – unless it’s over Kansas in the first Big 12 home date – might be lost on a national audience.

    Which is too bad, because Sadler finally has some size to work with in 2009-2010, and although no one else much expects it in the tough Big 12 – the best four teams on paper (KU, Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State) could all begin the preseason inside the national top 15 – Nebraska intends to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.

    We know this much: The non-conference slate is enough of an upgrade over last year (and especially two years ago) that a 8-8 and 7-9 in the second-best – or maybe the best – college basketball league in America might be enough for a tourney bid.

    Tags: doc sadler, mens basketball

  2. 2009 Apr 02

    MEN'S BB: The Folks from Polk


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    On the surface, Nebraska’s two newest basketball recruits, Quincy Hankins and Lance Jeter have two things in common: Both played two years at Polk (Fla.) Community College, and both fit needs head coach Doc Sadler identified during and after an 18-13 campaign in 2009.

    Hankins, at 6-8, 230 pounds, is a raw, tough, rebounding power forward. Jeter, five inches shorter but weighing the same as Hankins, is the physical, aggressive point guard Sadler wants for Big 12 play.

    But Polk coach Matt Furjanic likes to point out another statistic that binds Hankins and Jeter together.

    “You’re looking at 50 wins and two conference championships in two years,” Furjanic said Thursday.

    The Polk boys are accustomed to success. And both said it was Sadler’s honesty on a recent visit that lured them to NU.

    In the case of Jeter, who averaged 16 points 4.5 assists and 5.6 assists last year, Sadler was blunt: Lose the extra flab, at least 15 pounds.

    “He wants to put the ball in my hands, and in order to do that, I’ve gotta lose the weight,” Jeter said. “He was up front. It made me more comfortable with him.”

    Originally a football recruit to Cincinnati as a wide receiver, Jeter said he’s never been a little guy. Even in high school, in Beaver Falls, Pa., when led his team to a 102-19 record over four years and was named the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s athlete-of-the-year in 2006.

    By the time he enrolled at Polk, he was a little huskier.

    “He was 250-some when we got him,” Furjanic said.

    In other words, Jeter has some experience shedding pounds already. Jeter said Sadler had him meet the weight staff on his visit, and already begin to craft a weight-loss plan. At NU, he said, the nutritionist is like to become his best friend.

    Said Furjanic: “We feed our players, but one day it’s Subway, and one day it’s Wendy’s. So he’s not on a nutrition program with us that he’s going to be on at Nebraska.


    PCC File

    Lance Jeter

    Not that Jeter, at 232, carried it poorly, Furjanic said. The point guard was at his best in the open court.

    “Fans up there worry about how he’s going to play,” Furjanic said. “But there’s no one better on a fast break than Lance. He’ll go in and dunk on you, he’ll finish strong. He’ll dribble into the paint and bring three people with him.”

    Because of that aggressiveness, Jeter is the best, toughest point guard Furjanic said he coached.

    Jeter, meanwhile, wanted the challenge of playing in the Big 12. He quickly rattled off the names of the league’s bigger point guards, some of whom took advantage of NU’s incumbent starter, 5-foot-7 Cookie Miller.

    “The Big 12 is a physical conference, so they’re looking for a physical point guard,” Jeter said. “That’s what I do.”

    Hankins, meanwhile, has a jones for rebounding. He averaged 12.2 of them for Polk this year, and started attracting recruiting attention because of his skill. Having just turned 19 two months ago, Furjanic said Hankins hasn’t reached his peak potential yet. Only recently did Hankins start refining his offensive game.

    “He’s developed a good little jump shot,” Furjanic said. “He was our only big man, and we started four perimeter guys, so we needed somebody to stay in there and rebound… down the road, Nebraska will have a guy who can step out and hit a shot, if they need it.”

    Furjanic said St. John’s and Seton Hall made strong pushes just in the last two weeks. Hankins confirmed he canceled visits to both schools after committing to NU; some recruiting analysts expected Hankins to return close to his Long Island, N.Y., home.

    Instead, he’ll make the trek almost 2,000 miles westward.

    “I like that it’s just the school and basketball out there,” said Hankins, who’d like to become a sports agent. “I can’t get in trouble. I’ve got to concentrate on school 95 percent of time.”

    It will be nice, Hankins said, to have Jeter throwing some of the entry passes.

    “I don’t have to get used to another point guard again,” he said “I’ll have the same one for four years.”

    Said Jeter of Hankins: “Chemistry is a big part of success. I already know what he likes and dislikes. I can relate to him.”

    Both players, Furjanic said, will be taking two courses in the first summer sessions at Polk to academically qualify, but he expects both to pass those classes and be in Nebraska by mid-June.

    Tags: mens basketball, doc sadler, quincy hankins, lance jeter

  3. 2009 Mar 31

    MBB: Finally, a Power Forward


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    If the reports from a teammate are correct, Nebraska's basketball team has at last landed a big interior body with rebounding skills at the top of his resume.

    According to the Lincoln Journal-Star's story on the recruitment of Lance Jeter, a 6-3 point guard from Polk (Fla.) Community College, Jeter's teammate, 6-7 forward Quincy Hankins, has committed to NU.

    Good news, considering another Nebraska recruit, forward Anthony Harris, left Northeastern Junior College in Colorado to play professional basketball overseas. It wasn't clear whether Harris, a 6-7, 235-pounder, was in position to academically qualify anyway, although his JUCO coach said he was on track.

    Hankins, at 6-8, 240 pounds, averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds for Polk, which finished 26-6 and won the Suncoast Conference Championship. He was recruited by, among other schools, Seton Hall, South Carolina and Hofstra. In the Big 12 Oklahoma showed some interest.

    Hankins hails from Roosevelt, N.Y., which is on Long Island. The best-known basketball player from the Roosevelt area is Julius Erving.

    The most recent Polk player to attend NU was Marcus Neal, who averaged 5.3 points per game for the Huskers in 2004, and 8.6 points per game in 2005.

    Tags: mens basketball, quincy hankins

  4. 2009 Mar 25

    MBB: NU, Sadler Wrap Up Surprisingly Successful Season


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

    Now that Nebraska’s basketball season was over, head coach Doc Sadler could admit two things in his Tuesday press conference.

    First, that NU’s Tiny Mighties, with their 18-13 campaign, “far exceeded” what Sadler envisioned they could do last fall.

    “We can talk about our size not being a factor, but (the season) is over with now,” Sadler said. “It was a huge factor.”

    Second, this year was one hell of a grind. For the players. And for Sadler himself.

    “It was probably the hardest year physically on me, because we just had no room for error,” he said. “Even the preseason games were difficult. You could never really sit there and know. I can’t say there was a game we went into and I said ‘Wow, we’re going to win that basketball game no matter what happens.’”

    A season without freebies is a bear. Especially when “Bear” Jones, a true freshman shooter, goes down with a foot injury in the first week of the season. Or when Alex Chapman transfers before playing a single second of NU basketball. Or when, through eligibility and/or transcript problems, Roburt Sallie never shows up, and Christopher Niemann and Brian Diaz are forced to sit out.

    Sallie, you might recall, saved Memphis’ hide from first-round disaster in the NCAA Tournament with 35 points and ten 3-pointers. Think he might have helped a Husker squad that often struggled from beyond the arc?

    Sadler even talked Sallie one day after the game. Sallie’s message?

    “He said ‘You know, coach, I still want to be at Nebraska,’” Sadler said.

    No, Doc hasn’t been dealt the best circumstances. He signed a few lemons - Chapman and Shang Ping come to mind – and the NCAA has left a few limes on his doorstep, too. From the moment Sadler arrived at NU, he hasn’t coached or recruited like Barry Collier and the results thus far – with some of Collier’s recruits – has been better, frankly, than expected. Especially this year.

    That’s because Sadler is a superior coach. You watch practices and games and you see, at the very least, a team with a winning plan, given its talent. Nebraska might not have had any freebies this year, but it wasn’t out of a lot of games, either. Sadler’s bunch consistently won the turnover battle, which can be worth 10-15 points per game. The Huskers couldn’t block Blake Griffin’s shot. But they could strip him of the ball.

    Sadler’s not one to toot his own horn, but he’s outcoached some of his Big 12 counterparts, especially Texas’ Rick Barnes, who feasts on some of the nation’s best talent and finds himself in starving match every time the Longhorns play NU. The Huskers had Oklahoma scouted beautifully; only missed free throws kept them from an upset in Norman. And despite the meltdown in Columbia, it’s hard to dismiss Sadler’s track record against Missouri, a Sweet 16 participant in 2009.

    If success in college basketball was built merely on coaching acumen, Sadler and Nebraska would have been in the Big Dance the last two seasons.

    But Sadler has to be a coach and a general manager. Current player personnel? Sadler. Recruiting? Sadler. Earlier this season I asked for the primary handler of NU’s non-conference schedule. Again, Sadler. Some teams have coaches who delegate a lot of drill-by-drill practice duties to assistants. At one of NU’s workouts, you hear one consistent voice for two hours. Sadler’s.

    He’s not a figurehead. The man earns his paycheck. And Sadler the coach has a proven track record.

    For now, Sadler the GM is still polishing the resume. It could look very good next fall if 6-foot-11 Diaz and 6-foot-10 Niemann step in and win starting jobs. They could be two of NU’s top offensive options, and Sadler may be able to use a trapping zone defense if Diaz can defend the basket and block shots.

    “In some ways they’re not freshmen,” Sadler said. “They got a chance to sit there and look at it. I think Brian really understood and got a chance to see how much he really needs to work in the weight room. Not everything’s going to be new for them, and that’s a positive.”

    But Sadler craves speed, and he’s still on the lookout for fast, and preferably physical, guards. Like Oklahoma State’s quintet, for example, or even Colorado’s Dwight Thorne and Cory Higgins. Five-foot-seven Cookie Miller is a sparkplug, giving the Huskers key energy bursts throughout the game, but he’s simply not strong or big enough to trade blows with the best for 40 minutes. Sadler wants a beast on the perimeter, a guy with size and rebounding skills. That’s not Miller, or the slender Sek Henry.

    If he can find that piece, and keep Niemann and Diaz healthy through the summer, NU can again compete for a top four finish in the Big 12. The Huskers were just a game out of that slot this year; next season, if the chips fall right, 10 or 11 league wins isn’t out of the question.

    And Doc is due for some good fortune.

    Tags: mens basketball, doc sadler, brian diaz, chris niemann, cookie miller, sek henry

  5. 2009 Mar 25

    Doc Adds More Fuel to the NU-CU Fire


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    I’ve stuck my own foot in my mouth enough times to know that if I have to preface a statement with “people don’t want to hear this,” I’d better make real sure it’s worth saying.

    So I felt a little for Nebraska head basketball coach Doc Sadler Tuesday as he responded to a question about NU’s future non-conference schedules by dragging the Huskers’ home-and-home series with Creighton into the conversation.

    “People don’t like to hear this, but as I tell other people: Name another Big 12 school that’s mandated by the state to play a home-and-home with someone like we do Creighton,” Sadler said. “Again: A loss to Creighton hurts us. A win at Creighton – only thing it does is make our fans happy. It doesn’t help you come Selection Sunday. That’s just the way it is.”

    Add another log to the fire of unfortunate discord between Nebraska and Creighton basketball fans.

    It’s worth mentioning that, in a vacuum, Sadler is right.
    CU, after all, didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee sat on its hands and handed spots to more-talented-but-underachieving programs like Arizona and Maryland, who in turn justified their anointing by winning games in the Big Dance. The message, at least this year, was clear: Only mid-majors who act like majors in November and December need apply. Creighton did not.

    But Sadler doesn’t coach, recruit or woo potential season-ticket holders in a vacuum. He does so in Nebraska, where, especially in Omaha, resident are fans of both teams, rooting for both to reach the NCAA Tournament on their respective paths.

    Why choose between them? Both teams had their own flavor and share some of the same leaders. One of NU’s biggest boosters, Howard Hawks, sits on CU’s board of directors. Current Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne worked with Creighton’s athletic department before returning to NU.

    With his comments, Sadler isn’t drawing a line in the sand, but he risks alienating CU fans - and their dollars - who normally would have no beef with Nebraska if Sadler wasn’t periodically trying to explain his position. Although Sadler respects Creighton and its coach Dana Altman - and has said so on several occasions - his comments make it seem as though he’d rather eat dirt than play a road game at the Qwest Center, even though NU fans are more than welcome to pack the Qwest when Nebraska travels there.

    Yes, the Qwest is a better arena than the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Yes, when filled with fans actually paying attention – and not merely wannabe fashionistas milling around with a beer buzz and a blind date – it’s a daunting venue in which to play a road game. Sadler witnessed as much Monday night when he went to support pal and Kentucky Coach Billy Gillespie as the Wildcats played the Bluejays in the NIT.

    “And as you saw (Monday) night, very few teams – I don’t care if it’s Kentucky or if it’s Michigan – they ain’t going into Creighton and winning very many games,” Sadler said. “But nobody cares about that.”

    Nobody cares? The fans do. Nebraskans do. Boosters do. The players do. And it’s a good win, too, even if some faceless committee balks at it. How many non-conference road games feature 15,000 hostile fans? Sounds like a pretty good tuneup for the Big 12 slate to me. And, honestly, given the end of the Danny Nee era and the sleep-inducing Barry Collier era, that’s more than enough justification for the series.
    Giving it up to better fit some committee profile only works if Nebraska can consistently land home-and-home contracts with high-end major programs. Getting philosophical about Creighton when TCU and Saint Louis are on the docket is a little like pinching pennies in your right hand while you pitch quarters into a wishing well with your left.

    Do I understand protecting one’s self-interest? Sure. Sadler is one of the Big 12’s best defenders, and loyal to trying building Nebraska into “the” state program. Good. He should. Sadler was right about the Big 12, too, this year. Eight teams in postseason. Six in the Big Dance. All of them won their first round games, and three remain in the Sweet 16. Baylor, meanwhile, seems poised for a NIT Championship. Sadler’s teams fought and scrapped all through the Big 12 season.

    Is Doc afraid of CU? No. Afraid is the wrong word. More like he’s aware of how a loss is perceived.

    But protecting one’s self-interest sometimes comes at the expense of one’s self-interest. If the Creighton series is inevitable anyway, it’s fair to ask: What’s to be gained, at this point, by even mildly objecting to it?

    See also: NU Wraps Up Successful Season

    Tags: doc sadler, creighton, mens basketball

  6. 2009 Mar 18

    NIT: Lobos End NU's Season


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

    It was a style, pace and score unfitting of the way Nebraska played basketball most of the season.

    New Mexico generated offense on command vs. NU in the first round of the NIT, hitting 51 percent of its shots – and 53 percent of its 3-point attempts – in an 83-71 victory at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The game’s tempo and fluidity marred somewhat by 49 called fouls and 63 free throws, UNM was able to overcome 19 turnovers by repeatedly feeding the ball to forwards Daniel Faris and Tony Danridge, who combined for 46 points and 17 rebounds.

    When they weren’t scoring with baby hooks and five-foot jumpers, they were kicking out to open marksmen Phillip McDonald and Chad Toppert for 3-point attempts. McDonald and Toppert made three treys each. That inside-outside balance was too much for Nebraska (18-13) to overcome.
    “They got it up to 19 (point lead),” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said on his postgame radio show. “We really had a difficult time with Faris inside. We couldn’t stop him.”

    The Lobos (22-11) seized control of the game after halftime by extending a 39-34 lead to 19 with a flurry of treys from McDonald. From there, NU turned up the heat on its press and began to force more turnovers, but couldn’t hit the outside shots to climb all the way back in the game. The Huskers got as close as seven when a Ryan Anderson trey rimmed out with just under two minutes left. New Mexico grabbed the rebound and closed out the remainder of the game at the free throw line.

    Nebraska took 10 more shots than UNM, but made only 37 percent of them. Senior forward Ade Dagunduro, nursing an injured knee, had a rough night, making just 2 of 13 attempts. Anderson wasn’t much better, hitting 2 for 11. Sek Henry led all Huskers with 13 points, but the team’s best work probably came from center Chris Balham, who finished with seven points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.

    The loss ended NU’s season, one that Sadler will remember fondly. Billed as “the smallest team in America,” Nebraska still won eight games in the Big 12 Conference and returned to the postseason for the second straight year.

    “It’s so difficult to address the team the last time these guys will be together. At least we can leave the locker room – and I don’t know how many teams can say this – that there wasn’t a selfish bone in the locker room,” Sadler said. “We’ve overachieved.”

    Sadler said NU “raised the bar” for future teams by embracing a culture of hard work, tenacious defense and selfless offense. What the Huskers need now, Sadler said, is a little more height and talent.

    Tags: mens basketball, doc sadler, ade dagunduro, ryan anderson, chris balham

  7. 2009 Mar 16

    NIT: It's The Pit for Round One


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    It’s more than a mile above sea level, and its steep, imposing bowl makes it seem like, NU coach Doc Sadler said, there are “16,000 fans right on top of you who love basketball.”

    New Mexico’s University Arena – better known as “The Pit” because it’s built 37 feet underground – is a classy, old-school hoops joint, and, according to Sadler, “truly one of the best places to play in college basketball – if you’re the home team.”

    It’s also where 18-12 Nebraska must try to win its opening-round NIT game Tuesday night.

    “It’s a lot like Memorial Stadium,” Sadler said of the famous arena, which was named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 20 Sporting Venues of the 20th Century. The 21-11 Lobos routinely drew more than 16,000 for Mountain West Conference games in Albuquerque, where basketball is followed with the same passion as Nebraskans show for football.

    Sadler’s history at The Pit doesn’t include a win; he said Monday he’s 0-3 there. But he also happened to be present for the arena’s most memorable moment – the 1983 national title game in which North Carolina State upset Houston’s “Phi Slamma Jamma” duo of Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon 54-52 on alley oop at the buzzer.

    In the 9 p.m. game televised by ESPNU, not much of that history will matter. But the Cornhuskers will have to contend with a hostile crowd and an altitude that’s higher than Boulder, Colo. Not necessarily easy for a team that lives on fierce man-to-man defense like NU.

    “Oh my goodness gracious,” senior forward Ade Dagunduro joked Monday before practice. Dagunduro hadn’t been aware just how high in the sky The Pit was until a reporter told him.

    NU’s leading scorer at 13 points per game, the 6-5 Dagunduro said he’ll be ready for UNM despite nursing a knee injury he suffered in the Big 12 Tournament, when he collided with Baylor 7-footer Josh Lomers.

    “It’s nothing adrenaline won’t take care of,” Dagunduro said, adding that NU’s NIT berth gives him and his teammates “new life” after a disappointing 65-49 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament.

    The Lobos had a similar exit from the Mountain West tournament , losing the first round to Wyoming just days after beating the Cowboys on the road. UNM had finished 12-4 in the Mountain West and had a real shot at the NCAA Tournament until the loss.

    Coached by former Iowa sideline general and Indiana legend Steve Alford, New Mexico scores effectively and shoots well, utilizing the motion offense that Alford’s former coach, Bob Knight perfected over his 40 years of coaching.

    “They’re a lot like Texas Tech,” Sadler said. “We’re likely to see a little more Pat Knight than Bob Knight.”

    Sadler said Alford has “done a great job” of resurrecting the UNM program in the last two years. The Lobos finished 24-9 last year, losing in the NIT first round to California-Berkeley.

    The quick turnaround between finding out its opponent and traveling to Albuquerque – Monday morning, Sadler wasn’t quite sure when NU would be departing for the game – leaves NU a bit uncertain as to just how the game will play out. Sadler expects Nebraska to benefit from an opponent that doesn’t know its every offensive move, especially on set plays. Conversely, the Lobos get to stay home and possibly overwhelm a Husker team that thrives on energy and defensive conviction.

    Should NU win the game, it faces the winner of UAB and Notre Dame. Down the road lurks a possible quarterfinal matchup with Creighton, which is a No. 1 seed. Should the game occur, CU would host NU in the Qwest Center for the right to travel to New York for the NIT semifinals.

    “I hope we get the chance to play Creighton,” Sadler said. “That means both teams won two games. That can’t be anything but good for the state of Nebraska.”

    Said Dagunduro: “We want the chance to play them. It’d be great for the state.”

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    Tags: mens basketball, nit, new mexico, doc sadler, ade dagunduro, creighton

  8. 2009 Mar 11

    NU/Baylor Hoops Blog


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Can't watch the game on TV...that's OK! Follow it with us!

    11:30 Tip-off about five minutes away.

    11:39 Baylor starts in zone, Ade Dagunduro makes a shot and Baylor answers. 2-2.

    11:40 BU's seven-footer Lomers gets a layup and dunk to start the game. 4-2

    11:41 OKC rims are mucho bouncy. Surprising, considering they're used often for NBA games. Bouncy rims are tight. Expect poor shooting.

    11:43 Another layup for Lomers, another NU miss. 6-2 BU.

    11:44 Under 16-minute timeout and Nebraska's offense smells like an old shoe. Baylor's zone is confounding the Huskers, who are just swinging around the key without much energy. The first 4 minutes belong to the Bears. Not a good sign.

    11:46 Steal and a layup for Baylor. 8-2.

    11:47 NU hammers the zone and Ade hits a short one. 8-4.

    11:49 The Big 12 Network analyst, Stephen Howard, is awful. Mush-mouthed. Meanwhile, Ade hits a layup and BU hits a trey. 11-6.

    11:50 Another trey by Baylor. 14-6. Nebraska's defense seems confused, worried too much about the Bears' inside game.

    11:52 Under 12 timeout and Baylor leads 14-8. Nebraska took off the first four minutes of offense, and now it trying to recover on defense.

    11:55 Ryan Anderson nails a trey, but Ade is hurt. He's grabbing his knee.

    11:56 Just a knee-knocker. He's OK. Whew!

    11:57 Harley rattles home a trey. We're tied halfway through the half.

    11:59 NU forces a shot clock violation. Ol "mo" has on white shirt.

    12:01 Lomers with a putback. BU 16-14.

    12:03 Under eight-minute timeout, and Baylor leads by 2. The pace fits NU like a glove so far. Just gotta make some shots.

    12:05 Ryan Anderson hits 2 free ones. 16-up.

    12:06 Baylor hits a trey and a 3-point play. 22-16. Nebraska's offense is really struggling.

    12:09 Harley hits a jumper and now the teams are trading bricks.

    12:10 Dunn hits two long 3-pointers in a row and Baylor suddenly leads 28-18. The difference isn't BU's offense, although it isn't bad. It's Baylor's defense, which has the Huskers totally lost.

    12:15 Ryan Anderson hits a 3. Huge make. Did we say the analyst, Stephen Howard, sounds like oatmeal?

    12:16 Ade with a layup and Baylor turns it over. Then a putback by Ade and another steal and another Ade bucket. That. Was. Fast. 28-27 Baylor.

    12:19 End of half here and Baylor has the last shot...Dugat misses a 3 and it's halftime. Baylor leads 30-27.

    12:36 We begin the second half. Baylor has it.

    12:37 Dunn hits his third trey of the game. 33-27. NU misses a shot.

    12:38 Jerrells hits one. 35-27.

    12:39 Sek misses a 3. Jerrells hits a jumper. 37-27. Nebraska off to an terrible start. Doc takes a timeout.

    12:43 Harley shoots an airball we return. Nebraska seems caught between being aggressive and being afraid to do something wrong.

    12:45 Under 16 timeout and Baylor still ahead 37-27. Velander shot another brick and now Ade will be at the line for two.

    12:48 Ade makes both, 37-29.

    12:49 Jerrells another layup. Velander another brick.

    12:51 Velander another brick, but then Ade makes a terrific hustle play, gets a rebound, and a basket.

    12:52 Double technical foul on Ade and Dunn, which is a ridiculous call. Baylor has a turnover and Doc benches Ade. That was a mistake. Along with Ryan Anderson, Ade is only guy playing well. They need spend the rest of the game on the floor.

    12:54: Baylor takes a 11-point lead. Doc absolutely has to get Ade back on the floor. NU has nothing but awful 3-point shots.

    12:55 Under 12 timeout and Baylor leads 42-31. Let's see if Ade gets reinserted into the game. He's got 16 of NU's 31 points. Velander, Henry, Harley and now Richardson have launched shots that are beyond awful.

    12:57 Kevin Rogers of Baylor has 15 rebounds.More than NU's whole team.

    12:59 Another miss from Cookie Miller a mile away, Ade called for a foul going for a rebound. His third.

    1:00 Ade hits another. 42-33...time for a run!

    1:01 Ade makes a terrific steal...then Toney McCray travels. That kind of day.

    1:03 Velander another brick. NU now 0-for-10 in the second half from 3-point land.

    1:03 Jerrells another hoop. 46-33.

    1:04 Baylor busts NU's press after a Harley basket with a dunk from the 7-footer. Velander with another brick. With 7:14 left, Nebraska trails 48-35 and has eight points in the second half. Against Baylor. The Bears' zone defense is crushing NU's will to live.

    1:08 Nebraska's last gasp begins now as we return.

    1:09 NU forces a jump ball. Baylor has 18 turnovers.

    1:10 Sek finally hits one. 48-37

    1:11 Ade with his fourth foul of the game.

    1:12 Sek misses a point blank layup. We said this early in the blog and we meant it: These rims will be tight all tournament. Bouncy as all get out.

    1:14 Baylor now ahead 53-37. Technical foul on Ryan Anderson, apparently. Dunn hits two free throws. 55-37.

    1:15 Another brick by Brandon Richardson. How many more can NU miss?

    1:17 Jerrells hits a pull-up 26-footer. 58-37 folks. Chew on that. Nebraska picked the wrong day to stink. Jerrells has hit a ton of tough shots.

    1:20 3-point play by Ade to cut the lead to 58-43. 3:29 left.

    1:22 Typical of NU today: Harley misses a 3-footer, McCray gets the ball, passes to Harley, who passes to Ade, who's not ready, and fumbles the ball, passes to McCray, who misses a 3.

    1:24 Velander misses another trey. How many more for Paul?

    1:25 Velander misses another 3...but is fouled. So he'll get some points now.

    1:31 It's over, and thank goodness. Baylor 65 Nebraska 49. NU trailed the entire game and only had one lead: At 2-0. NU finishes at 18-12 and will wait to see if it gets an invite to the NIT. We think so - but we'd also bank on a road game.

    Tags: mens basketball, big 12 tournament

  9. 2009 Mar 10

    New Practice Digs One Step Closer to Reality


    By SMcKewon

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    The crucial first financial step toward a new practice facility for a host of Nebraska sports has been completed.

    NU’s athletic department announced Tuesday that Tom and Mary Hendricks donated $10 million toward the creation of a practice facility – which is planned to house Nebraska’s basketball, wrestling and gymnastics teams – and various improvements around the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

    Called the Devaney Center Improvements Project, the effort would also repair some aspects of the basketball arena, update coaching offices and retool athletic medicine, strength and conditioning departments housed within the “Bob.”

    “This new practice facility is vital for student-athletes’ game-day preparations as well as recruiting,” Osborne said. “With the introduction of Title IX and women’s athletics after the Devaney Center was built, we have two Division I basketball programs trying to effectively practice and compete on one floor, not to mention all of the other sports and activities that take place in the Devaney Center. We are very grateful for this most-generous gift from the Hendricks family and appreciate what they are doing for the future of our student-athletes and programs.”

    NU is currently the only Big 12 program not building or already using a practice facility. Two weeks ago, during the state high school swim meet in the Devaney Natatorium, scores of flip-flod clad swimmers and their parents laid in the halls and on Devaney bleachers eating chips and texting on their cell phones while the Husker men's team warmed up for practice. They had in part been drawn to the arena because of the proximity of it to the swimming pool, and partly because football coach Bo Pelini was playing pickup basketball earlier.

    Although the athletic department said Tuesday it remained committed to the possibility of a basketball arena in the Haymarket, it is proceeding with the practice facility at the Devaney without “compromising the City Arena Project.”

    Nebraska also announced the fundraising for the new Student Life Complex, to be housed in Memorial Stadium, is complete. More than $10 million was raised – including more than $1 million from former NU student-athletes – for the project that will rework the Huskers’ former weight room into an academic and career center and placing “recruiting enhancement” displays inside campus athletic facilities.

    “We are pleased to complete this project that is so crucial to the total-person development of our student-athletes,” said key fundraiser Paul Meyers, NU’s associate athletic director for development. “Despite the difficult economy we are all in, everyone has recognized the importance of these two facilities as our student-athletes strive to be the best they can be on and off the court.”

    Tags: mens basketball, practice facility, haymarket arena, wrestling

  10. 2009 Mar 10

    Mini Dance in the Car Dome: Your Big 12 Tourney Planner


    By SMcKewon

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    Here’s our primer for the Big 12 Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Enjoy and feel free to argue where you wish.


    No. 1 Kansas – The Jayhawks have the two most consistent, defined offensive options in Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, the surrounding cast of young pups understand their roles quite well. In many ways, this KU team functions better together than the national title squad of last year. It’s just not quite as strong with the ball. We think there are only three teams that can legitimately beat the Jayhawks in OKC; and they’ll play one of them in the second round.

    No. 2 Oklahoma – Suddenly mortal after spending much of the season a cut above the rest of the league. Over the last five games, OU is averaging 15.6 turnovers a game. That won’t win a Big 12 Conference tourney title, no matter how good Blake Griffin is. The Sooners must win the league title to have a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tourney.

    No. 3 Missouri – Capable of winning the whole the crown or bowing out in the quarterfinals, the Tigers have a likely game against Texas A&M awaiting them in the quarterfinals. One never really knows how well Mizzou will shoot free throws.

    No. 4 Kansas State – KSU’s getting no love as the tourney begins, thanks to late-season losses at Missouri and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats are more balanced and a tougher out than people think, though, and we like them, straight up, against Texas in that quarterfinal round.

    No. 5 Texas – An apparent shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament thanks to some wins they earned three months ago, the Longhorns will survive round one against Colorado. But it won’t be easy. We see UT exiting stage right in round two. We wish it were a demotion to the NIT. It’s what Texas deserves and would have gotten if Blake Griffin hadn’t suddenly contracted vertigo.

    No. 6 Texas A&M – Hot at the right time. The real difference in this six-game winning streak? The emergence and energy of freshman point guard Dash Harris.

    No. 7 Oklahoma State – Are the Cowboys for real? Bedlam 3 in the quarterfinals will help us find out.

    No. 8 Nebraska – A brutal draw, really, for NU. First a game against Baylor, which has talent to burn. A win there brings a quarterfinal matchup vs. Kansas. While the Huskers are one of the few teams that can force KU into an ugly style, the similarities between the Jayhawks and Huskers’ offensive attacks make it hard for Nebraska to score.

    No. 9 Baylor – Talented but undisciplined and discouraged bunch that is still waiting for all the 3-pointers to fall. Nebraska hopes it isn’t Wednesday. The rest of the Big 12 hopes it isn’t this week.

    No. 10 Iowa State – One of the worst ISU teams I can remember. Very little talent outside of Craig Brackins and Lucca Staiger, a backcourt that absolutely can’t handle pressure defense…Okie State could win by 40.

    No. 11 Texas Tech – Upset Kansas, then promptly lost to Iowa State. You figure it out. Tech is always going to get its points; the Knight motion offense still works. The Red Raiders just lack the chops on defense.

    No. 12 Colorado – CU isn’t particularly good, but Texas has to be dreading this game. The Buffaloes play a weird style, use junk zone defenses and have one guy, Cory Higgins, who could, on the right day, go for 40. How sweet would it be to see UT lose here? Pretty sweet.


    Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin: I’m not sure the guy even knows his own talent. Unusually athletic for his size, Griffin is like a cross between Tyler Hansbrough and Michael Beasley. Like Beasley, he can damn near do anything inside of 15 feet. Also like Beasley, he tends to take some dumb chances. Like Hansbrough, he gets bailed out by the refs because he plays harder than his opponent.

    Kansas guard Sherron Collins: He’s been there, done that. Collins is only a junior, but he leads like a fifth-year senior. He’s still a little sloppy with the ball, but few players can get and create a perimeter like he can.

    Texas A&M Josh Carter: An absolute assassin from behind 3-point line. Heartless, really, when he’s hot. He’s hit 33-67 3-point attempts in the last ten games. How’s 50 percent sound?

    Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll: The heart and soul of Missouri. He’s at the front of the press, he throws down mean jams, he’s got cool hair. When you think Mizzou, you think of this guy.

    Kansas State guard Denis Clemente: The Puerto Rican isn’t big or flashy. He just scores. Whether it’s from the line, in transition or beyond the arc, Clemente is the straw that stirs the Wildcats’ drink, averaging 18.3 points per game in Big 12 play.

    Nebraska guard/forward Ade Dagunduro: Another guy who just scores, rebounds and makes plays. His stat sheet is almost always impressive after the game and his effort on the floor is commendable.


    Oklahoma forward Juan Patillo: OU pulled the redshirt on this freshman, and for good reason. He provides a little extra toughness to the Sooners and a breather for Griffin. Plays much bigger than his 6-6 frame. Sneaky good.

    Kansas guard Brady Morningstar: The hustle weasel of the league for the next two years. Bank on it. Morningstar just seems to be “around” a lot. Here he is, taking a loose ball up the court. There he is, sitting wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer. A 45-percent shooter from beyond the arc. Incredibly annoying dude for anybody who’s not a KU fan – which, of course, means he’s terrific.

    Oklahoma State forward Marshall Moses: He’s been a different player since OSU lost center Ibrahima Thomas in the non-conference season. Moses can light a team up for 15 points and 16 rebounds, like he did against Texas, or he can disappear, like he has against Oklahoma twice. Blake Griffin can do that, of course.

    Missouri forward Matt Lawrence: Lawrence willfully took a reserve role for the Tigers this year, but still comes off the bench to hit deadly 3-pointers. The Tigers have only one truly good shooter – one guy you absolutely have to mark – and it’s Lawrence.

    Nebraska guard Toney McCray: If the light’s on, NU has a quality defender and a gifted scorer around the basket. If the light’s off, NU has a player sitting on the bench, with Doc Sadler in his ear. We’ll see which Toney steps off the bus in OKC.

    Texas A&M guard Dash Harris: The more this upbeat freshman plays, the better the Aggies’ energy becomes. He’s an instant jolt to their team, but he also gets careless with the ball.

    Upset Special: Texas A&M over Missouri, Colorado over Texas. The Aggies have a team built for busting Mizzou’s press, and the Tigers aren’t about the change the way they do defense for anyone. Meanwhile, we just see CU taking UT to the limit. Ugly game, the Longhorns won’t be in it, the Buffaloes will treat it like their bowl game…you know the drill. OK, so I really kinda like UT. But a man can dream, right?

    Best potential game of the tournament: Who doesn’t want to see Bedlam 3 on a neutral court in OKC? Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State will be the toughest ticket for the entire Big 12 mini-dance.

    Worst game: Iowa State should get wiped off the court by Oklahoma State. The Cyclones will do well to keep the game within 20.


    First round:
    Nebraska 68 Baylor 65
    Texas 53 Colorado 46
    Oklahoma State 92 Iowa State 65
    Texas A&M 88 Texas Tech 77

    Kansas 60 Nebraska 53
    Kansas State 76 Texas 65
    Oklahoma 93 Oklahoma State 85
    Texas A&M 86 Missouri 84

    Kansas 73 Kansas State 70
    Oklahoma 80 Texas A&M 75

    Kansas 85 Oklahoma 75

    Tournament MVP: Sherron Collins, Kansas

    Tags: mens basketball, big 12 tourney, car dome

  11. 2009 Mar 08

    MBB: Texas Two-Step


    By SMcKewon

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    A Lone Star State homecoming suited Toney McCray and Alonzo Edwards just fine Saturday night.

    The two redshirt freshmen from Texas helped Nebraska’s basketball team earn its first .500 record in the Big 12 Conference in a decade, combining for 24 points in a 66-62 win over Baylor in Waco.

    McCray, from Missouri City, Texas, scored a career-high 18 – which included a crucial block and fast break basket play near the end of the game – and added four rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Houston native Edwards, who played sparingly - if at all - in most Big 12 games this season, scored six second-half points on two surprising 3-pointers.

    Edwards was called into service after NU guard Sek Henry suffered a knee bruise during a first-half collision with a Baylor guard. Edwards hit two treys at the top of the key right at midway through the second half, the last of which tied the game at 38.

    Nebraska (18-11 overall, 8-8 in the Big 12 Conference) took the lead for good at 44-42 on a Ryan Anderson’s 3-pointer. On the Bears’ next possession, McCray got a block, started the fast break, and finished it when he received a pass back from Anderson for a transition dunk. NU led 46-42.

    The Bears (17-13 and 5-11) hung tough, hitting a quartet of 3-pointers down the stretch to stay with striking distance. But Nebraska made all ten of its free throws in the game’s final minute to seal the victory.

    With the win, NU finished exactly at .500 in the Big 12. The last time the Huskers pulled off that feat was in 1998-99, when they finished 10-6. Their reward for the milestone? Facing BU again in the first game of the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Beat the Bears, and Nebraska would play top-seeded Kansas.

    Tags: mens basketball, toney mccray, alonzo edwards, ryan anderson

  12. 2009 Mar 08

    Well done, Ade


    By SMcKewon

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    For almost the entirety of his two-year career at Nebraska, forward Ade Dagunduro toiled in relative obscurity, quietly deferring shots and credit to his teammates. This year, despite a major height disadvantage nearly every game, he played what amounted to the center position, guarding players way outside of his area code with savvy and speed.

    Sunday, the Big 12 Conference coaches took notice of Dagunduro’s efforts, naming him to the All Big 12 Third Team, and the league’s All-Defensive Team. League sportswriters put Dagunduro on the all-underrated team.

    A senior, Dagunduro led the 18-11 Cornhuskers to their first .500 finish in the Big 12 in a decade, averaging 12.7 points per game. He heated up in the conference, improving to nearly 15 points per game on 53 percent shooting. He also led NU in rebounding, field goals made and free throws made. And he did so standing three-seven inches below his competitor, night after night. His defense was equally tough, as Nebraska led the Big 12 in scoring defense at 61 points per game – despite lacking a true center.

    Junior forward Ryan Anderson and senior guard Paul Velander were honored by league sportswriters, who put Anderson on their All-Defensive Team and Velander on the All-Reserve team.

    Not surprisingly, the coaches selected Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin Player of the Year. The surprise was that he wasn’t the unanimous selection for the award. Griffin led OU to its best season since the Sooners’ Final Four campaign in 2002 and is expected to be the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

    OU’s Willie Warren was a unanimous selection for Freshman of the Year. Bill Self of Kansas won Coach of the Year for leading the Jayhawks to a league title one year after a national championship prompted four starters to bolt for the NBA Draft. Defensive player of the year honors were shared by KU center Cole Aldrich and Missouri guard J.T. Tiller. Kansas State guard Denis Clemente won Newcomer of the Year.

    Griffin was also on the league’s first team, joined by Aldrich, KU guard Sherron Collins, Iowa State forward Craig Brackins and Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll.

    Tags: mens basketball, ade dagunduro, paul velander, ryan anderson

  13. 2009 Mar 05

    Hustle N Smother Huskers Press Cys Into Obilivion


    By SMcKewon

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    (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

    For nearly a half, Nebraska’s 77-61 win over Iowa State looked like a scary replay of the Cyclones’ victory in Ames. ISU forward Curtis Brackins was shooting over the top of the smallish Cornhusker front line, and guard Lucca Staiger was draining 3-pointers straight out of a P-I-G contest.

    But on NU’s Senior Night, two Huskers senior fittingly turned a 31-29 deficit into a 34-31halftime lead in a matter of seconds. Guard Steve Harley banked in a long 3-pointer as the shot clock was nearing expiration. Then, his defense helped force a steal that turned into an Ade Dagunduro layup just before the halftime buzzer.

    Nebraska’s press then melted ISU in the first ten minutes of the second half, giving coach Doc Sadler a rare opportunity to clear his bench and get each senior a standing ovation from the more than 9,000 fans in Bob Devaney Sports Center.

    Following a three-game losing streak , it was hard to imagine a more therapeutic win for the Huskers last home game of the regular season.

    “For some reason our energy wasn’t what it needed to be to start that game and Coach told us we had to find a way to get some energy,” said Dagunduro, who continued his late-season tear with a career-high 24 points. “So we took it upon ourselves to boost our energy. We got a couple of scramble plays and that gave us some momentum going into the second half.”

    Although NU (17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big 12 Conference) gave up two Staiger treys to start the second half, the defensive tone had been set, and the Huskers then went on a 17-6 run, forcing a glut of turnovers in a row, and 17 for the game. Repeatedly guards Cookie Miller, Sek Henry, Harley and Toney McCray trapped the Cyclones (14-16 and 3-12) on both sides of the half court line, forcing a travel and two over-and-back calls.

    Aside from the tall, possibly NBA-bound Brackins (25 points) and Staiger (17), ISU’s entire roster scored just 19 points, many of those coming after the game was out of reach.

    “A lot of them are just hurried mistakes and not taking our time and not reading the floor,” Iowa State Coach Greg McDermott said. “When we read the floor, we attacked the pressure and got layups. It’s unfortunate, but we kind of melted down against their pressure.”

    NU, meanwhile, got a balanced scoring performance to compliment Dagunduro’s work. Miller scored 14, rattling home two treys. Forward Ryan Anderson, having nailed almost 50 percent of his 3-point attempts over the last eight games, hit three more to finish with 11 points. Harley chipped in ten and didn’t force many jumpers outside of the scope of the offense.

    “If Steve can get into double figures for us, especially down this stretch, and we’ll have a chance to win some games,” Sadler said. “But we have to get Steve into double figures and he did that tonight.”

    Senior Night gave Sadler the opportunity to start Dagunduro, Harley, Paul Velander and Nick Krenk, all of whom were honored before the game with a video and a framed jersey. Dagunduro said NU battled nerves in the opening minutes; it showed when ISU jumped out to a 5-0 lead.

    “I would have been devastated if we went out with a loss,” Dagunduro said. “But that’s a credit to our guys, they wouldn’t let us seniors down and they did a good job rallying.”

    Tags: mens basketball, ade dagunduro, ryan anderson, doc sadler, iowa state, curtis brackins, lucca staiger, cookie miller

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