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January 23, 2012

Huskers still hoping for second half surge

Less than 48 hours after suffering the worst home loss in more than 100 years, Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler took one last look back at exactly what all went wrong for his team in its 79-45 loss to No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday night.

During his interview on the weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference on Monday, Sadler said things started to get out of hand for the Huskers towards the end of the first half, and rather than stay composed and stick with the game plan, his team started to panic.

Once that happened, he said, NU had already lost the game.

"I think two things. I think Ohio State is a basketball team where even if we played perfect we were going to have to have a bad night probably by Ohio State, and I do think our guys probably tried too hard," Sadler said. "I thought for 16 minutes we played pretty good, missed some shots that probably could've kept it closer, but the last four minutes of the first half got out of control and it just snowballed.

"Instead of staying with the things that we would normally try to stay with, I think our guys got a little excited about trying to go make plays happen instead of letting them come to you. Once that happens, it just snowballs, and Ohio State's got a way of making you look very, very bad if you're not at your very best, and that's what happened."

The loss was an emphatic exclamation point on a brutal stretch for Nebraska to open its first run through the Big Ten. In starting conference play just 2-6 through their first eight league games, the Huskers faced five ranked opponents, including Ohio State and Wisconsin twice.

Not only that, they also went the first four league games without junior center Jorge Brian Diaz and junior guard Dylan Talley, who were both out three weeks with injuries.

As rough of a beginning as it's been for NU, there is some reason for optimism as it nears the midway point of its Big Ten season.

In their remaining 10 regular season games, starting with Thursday night's trip to Iowa, the Huskers are set to play just two more teams currently ranked in the Top-25 and six teams with losing records in conference play.

"You've got the coaches' perspective and you've got the players' perspective," Sadler said. "You ask about the players' perspective, it has been a difficult schedule, and they've known that we've got to play our very, very best. When you didn't have some of your guys to against those first four games, they knew they were in the disadvantage, but they continued to compete.

"I don't think these guys are going to look at Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan and those teams as being less good. We've got ourselves at 2-6. Every game had better be very, very important. But at the same time, you've got to think that now that you've got some of your guys back, at least you've got a chance maybe. But I don't think there's going to be any over-confidence."

Nebraska's first shot at trying to rebound from Saturday night's debacle will come in Iowa City, Iowa, when it takes on the Hawkeyes, who are 11-9 overall and just slightly better than NU in Big Ten play at 3-4.

Like Sadler said, the Huskers have no room to take anyone lightly at this point, but with a much easier road ahead the rest of the way, a win over Iowa would do wonders for a team desperate for any sort of a confidence boost.

"I think Iowa has obviously played some good basketball, at home especially here lately," Sadler said. "It's going to be difficult, just like it is going to any of the other four places that we've been. So it's going to be a difficult challenge, but I'm sure Iowa, they haven't played in a week now, and I'm sure (Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery) has got their team taking advantage of that. But we'll be looking forward to going, and we'll see what happens."



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