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January 5, 2010

Huskers wrap up non-conference play with win

The last warm-up before the start of Big 12 Conference play came and went for Nebraska on Tuesday night.

According to head coach Doc Sadler, his team still isn't anywhere close to being ready for what's about to hit it.

Though the Huskers finished off their non-conference slate at 12-3 after taking care of Southeastern Louisiana 77-59 at the Devaney Center, Sadler said his young team would likely have to learn what the Big 12 is all about on the fly.

"I'm like you guys - I don't know what to expect (in Big 12 play)," Sadler said. "I do know that these guys are going to play hard. I think there's going to be some nights where we're going to be really, really good. As I told the team, what we must understand as a young basketball team is that it's a 16-game schedule, but it's one game at a time. You may win some games and you may lose some heartbreakers, but the fact of the matter is the next day, either way it's over with.

"I think the unknown of having so many young guys - you have to have some mental toughness, and I don't think this team right now has the mental toughness that some of the other teams have had, but I think they're getting better at it."

As for Tuesday night's game itself, Nebraska once again was able to turn an average overall performance into its sixth victory in its past seven games.

The Huskers wanted to get off to a fast start, and it showed in their 10 3-point attempts in the first half. While NU definitely came out firing, it didn't finally get its offense going until roughly 10 minutes into the half when a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Brandon Richardson sparked a 14-2 run that bumped the lead up to 22-8 with 8:22 left before halftime.

However, the Lions weren't afraid to hoist up a few 3-pointers either. Southeastern Louisiana responded by hitting four 3s to close out the half cut NU's lead to as few as nine before eventually heading into halftime with a 39-28 score.

The Huskers controlled the majority of the second half, but they didn't finally pull away until after SELU cut the lead back down to 49-41 with a little more than 12 minutes to play.

A trio of 3-pointers from senior guards Sek Henry and Ryan Anderson and freshman forward Brandon Ubel helped lead an 11-4 run that increased the lead back up to 15 with 8:28 remaining. The Huskers eventually went up by as many as 23 points in the final minutes before ending with an 18-point win.

Richardson led the way by tying his career high with 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc, marking his fourth straight game scoring in double figures. Anderson followed up with 14 points and a team-high five rebounds, and the Huskers shot 63.2 percent (12-of-19) from 3-point range as a team.

As has been the theme all season, Nebraska was undoubtedly happy to end non-conference play with a victory. Whether Tuesday's win served as a good enough springboard into Saturday's Big 12 opener at Texas A&M, though, is a completely different story.

"We better be (ready)," Richardson said. "It's here now. We've prepared ourselves to this point, and now it's just time to let the chips fall where they may."

Around the rim

***Nebraska's 12 non-conference wins tied its most since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996 and its most since the '94-'95 season. While there were definitely plenty of ups and downs along the way, Sadler said he couldn't have asked for a better start to the season in terms of his team's record.

"Before the season, if you would have told me we were going to be 12-3 I would have told you I'd be happy with it," Sadler said. "Obviously when you get to 12-3, I don't know if there's any of the three games that we lost that we probably deserved to win. I think we played really well in a couple of games against USC on the road and we played well against Tulsa on a neutral (court), so that was good. But you've got to win your home games, whether it be in non-conference or conference games, and this team's been able to do that at home. We're sitting here at 12-3, and looking back, I'd say I'm very happy with it."

***Sadler said he was very pleased with the Huskers' six total turnovers on the night, marking the fourth time this season they've committed seven turnovers or less. On the other side, NU also forced Southeastern Louisiana to commit 20 turnovers and has now forced at least 19 in its past three games.



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