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January 28, 2010

Thursday notebook: NU needs attitude adjustment

Following Wednesday night's loss to Colorado, Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler said his team would have to make some changes in the way it prepares for each game in order to snap its current five-game losing streak.

As it turned out, the only thing he hoped to change in Thursday's practice was the Huskers' attitude.

After admittedly one of the worst performances in his five years at NU as far as offense and overall intensity go, Sadler said the only thing he plans to do get his squad back on track is continue to work hard in practice and make sure the Huskers come out with a more aggressive approach in their final 11 regular season games.

"We've just got to keep working," Sadler said. "The guys are working hard, but at some point it's got to carry over into the game. There's no question that I thought the first 20 minutes were 20 minutes of less aggressiveness than we've had. I thought we were more aggressive offensively, but defensively we weren't as aggressive as we needed to be. We were driving the ball a lot more, but we just weren't finishing plays."

One thing Sadler did say he wanted to change from now on was how he handles the pre-game warm up and shoot around sessions. He said he's been a little too relaxed and positive before games, which he thought may have contributed to Nebraska not coming out with enough fire at tip-off.

"We are not good enough to show up and just play and take our chances," Sadler said. "As I told the team, there is a line drawn and if you are on that side of the line then you have a chance. If they are on your side of the line, then you are going to be in trouble."

Senior guard Sek Henry agreed with the notion that the Huskers needed to show more intensity for all 40 minutes each game. He said Wednesday night was one of the worst examples of a team not being ready to play that he'd ever been a part of.

"Maybe step up the intensity in practice and hit each other more, because I really thought we played soft yesterday," Henry said. "We are a better team than last year and the year before that. The problem is that we're just not as aggressive. We play too finesse. We've got to play strong. It's the Big 12, and teams aren't just going to let us do what we want. We've got to attack them as they attack us, and they've got to back down instead of us backing down.

"We've got to come out with more intensity, offensively and defensively. We let Colorado do what they wanted in the first half, and we just didn't have a good game at all. We've got to do better than that. We all know that. There's no time for excuses. We've got to go out and play."

Huskers focused on themselves, not OU

Oklahoma might be the next challenge up on Nebraska's schedule on Saturday, but the Sooners appear to be the furthest thing on the Huskers' mind at the moment.

With so many issues to address internally before the next time they take the court, Sadler said he hasn't even brought up Oklahoma to his team yet, and likely won't until Friday. For now, he's strictly focused on as many problems going on with the Huskers as he can as quickly as possible.

"I ain't even worried about Oklahoma," Sadler said. "I've got way too many things to worry about besides somebody else. We've got to worry about Nebraska. We're not to the point where we've got to worry about somebody else. We've just got to get better in every area, from stretching to everything. We've got to get better. There's not just one thing that we've got to get better at. There's a multitude of things, and we will get better."

Sadler should get a little more help from his seniors than usual the rest of the season, as Henry and guard Ryan Anderson have started to realize that their chances of ending their collegiate careers as winners are getting slimmer by the game.

"It's time to wake up," Henry said. "This is me and Ryan's last year, and I know a lot of these cats are freshmen and stuff and they've got another three years to go, but me and Ryan, this is all we've got. I ain't trying to leave out of this conference with a bad record.

"I never expected for this to happen. But it happened, and we have to turn it around. If we don't turn this around, we could go 0-16, because they're going to keep putting a whooping on us. If we keep backing down, they're going to keep giving us a whooping."

Free throws continue to be an issue for Huskers

Wednesday's loss was actually somewhat of a step forward for Nebraska in at least one area, as it shot 81 percent (17-of-21) from the free throw line. In fact, the Huskers have hit nearly 79 percent from the charity stripe in their past two games.

However, while the percentages may be up, the number of trips to the line is still lower than they need to be, especially in crucial points during games. On Wednesday, the Huskers shot just four free throws the entire first half, and they managed to score just eight points through the game's first 15 minutes as a result.

On the season, Nebraska still ranks toward the bottom of the Big 12 Conference rankings in free throw shooting, as it's hit just 65.5 percent from the line.

Sadler said free throws have been always been an emphasis, but there isn't much the team can do in practice to improve its free throw shooting besides making them in games and gaining some confidence.

"The only thing you can do in my opinion is continue to work on it," Sadler said. "Just like if you're struggling defensively, you just continue to work at it… As I tell so many people, I think out-of-bounds plays and free throws are kind of like special teams in football. You've got to work on it or you're not going to be good at it. That's all I know what to do. I don't think there are any secrets to it. If there were, people would've figured it out a long time ago.

"Nobody steps up there wanting to miss a free throw. You've got professional golfers three feet away from a putt, and it's calm and quiet Then you've got a 19-, 20-year old kid up there at the free-throw line with 12,000 people going nuts. It should be an easy shot, but you know, some of the professionals, it's a tough shot for them too."

Around the rim

***Sadler said freshman guard Ray Gallegos has faired well in his first season as a Husker. In particular, he said the Jordan, Utah, native has toughened up quite a bit both mentally and physically over the past 20 games, though he may not show it much.

"You can't tell with Ray," Sadler said. "Ray's the same if he plays or doesn't play or he scores 20 points. He's just a consistent kid… I think Ray's getting tougher. I thought he showed some toughness against Missouri in a tough place with guys coming after him. In the Iowa Sate game, I thought his defense was a bit more aggressive."

***Fellow freshman guard Myles Holley sat out of Thursday's practice with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, an injury he suffered during Wednesday's loss. The injury was initially diagnosed as a shoulder stinger, but it turned out the stinger only temporarily covered up the more serious sprain injury. Holley is listed as day-to-day.



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