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January 26, 2010

Struggling Huskers kicking up offensive intensity

No one has a real answer for Nebraska's offensive struggles, especially the late scoring droughts that have been one of the biggest culprits in its 0-4 start to Big 12 Conference play.

However, some have their theories. One of which is that the Huskers occasionally seem hesitant to shoot the ball or create scoring opportunities for themselves, instead opting to pass the ball around until the shot clock runs down to the final seconds.

On Tuesday, NU head coach Doc Sadler was asked about whether he agreed with the thought that the Huskers get too conservative offensively and in turn become stagnant with the basketball.

In particular, he responded to the claim by some that he has made his players scared to shoot.

"I'm on them more for not shooting than I am for shooting," Sadler said. "As I told the team yesterday, we've got to get the ball down the court, we've got to get open shots in transition, and the guys that can shoot the basketball - whether there's 30 seconds on the shot clock or three seconds - they need to shoot it.

"As I told Brandon Richardson the other day, when you don't shoot open shots, that's selfishness."

Sadler said his ideal offensive approach is for his team to push the ball up the court every possession and either attack the basket in hopes of transition points or drawing a foul, or to kick the ball out to an open shooter on the perimeter for a 3-pointer.

He admitted that the Huskers haven't been nearly consistent enough with that strategy this season, especially in not getting to the rim and forcing the defense to react. Nebraska has scored a total of just 22 fast break points in four straight Big 12 losses.

"We haven't really been getting any transition baskets," senior guard Sek Henry said. "We need to start pushing the ball more and getting those transition baskets, because we're scoring baskets, but we're not getting transition baskets or getting to the line. If we were, we'd probably be scoring 70 points a game.

"That's what Coach was really emphasizing to us yesterday, just push the ball every time and try to get transition baskets, get to the cup and not pass up open jump shots."

If the Huskers aren't attack the basket, Sadler said he wants the ball kicked out to any of the three guys he said have "green lights" to shoot the ball whenever they have an open shots.

Those players are Richardson, redshirt freshman guard Eshaunte Jones and freshman guard Ray Gallegos. Sadler said those players have earned enough of his trust for the role because of their consistent shooting, as all three are shooting better than 37 percent from 3-point range, led by Jones at 45.5 percent.

"If Bear's (Jones) got an open shot in transition or Ray's got an open shot or Brandon, I want them to shoot it," Sadler said. "They've been told that."

Henry said that offensive philosophy has been around since Sadler's arrival, but he hadn't noticed it become such a priority as much as it was on Monday and Tuesday. With a road trip at Colorado on Wednesday, the Huskers are without a doubt in a must-win situation if they are to have any chance at keeping their post-season hopes alive.

If nothing else, Nebraska is trying to make sure it doesn't do down as a team afraid to shoot the basketball.

"The last couple days, Coach has been on us saying if you're open, shoot the ball," Henry said. "Yesterday we played a lot more aggressive and more up-tempo. He just doesn't want people taking crazy shots. If you're open, shoot the ball."



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