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February 2, 2012

Gameday: Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Nebraska Cornhuskers

vs. Northwestern Wildcats
Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 - 6:02 p.m. CT
TV: ESPN2 / RADIO: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network

Northwestern (12-8, 2-6 Big Ten)
Streak: Lost 3
Last Game: Lost to Purdue 58-56
G Dave Sobolewski (leads team with 3.9 assists per game) Fr. 6-1 185
G Reggie Hearn (averaging 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game) Jr. 6-4 210
G/F Drew Crawford (ranks third in Big Ten with 17.2 ppg) So. 6-5 210
F John Shurna (leads conference with 19.0 ppg, averaging team-high 5.9 rpg) Sr. 6-9 215
F Davide Curletti (averaging 4.4 ppg and 3.5 rpg) Sr. 6-9 230

Nebraska CornhuskersNebraska Cornhuskers (11-9, 3-6 Big Ten)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated Iowa 79-73
G Bo Spencer (leads NU in scoring, assists and minutes played this season) Sr. 6-2 196
G Brandon Richardson (scored career-high 25 points in win over Iowa) Sr. 6-0 190
G Caleb Walker (had eight points and four rebounds against Iowa) Sr. 6-4 205
G Toney McCray (second on team with 10.1 ppg along with 5.0 rpg) Jr. 6-6 210
F Brandon Ubel (leads team with 5.3 rebounds per game) Jr. 6-10 235

Stay disciplined on D

Nebraska will get a bit of a flashback when it sets up on defense against Northwestern, as the Wildcats run a motion style of offense very similar to what the Huskers saw twice a season from 2007-10 against former Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik. Because Northwestern generally thrives more in its half court offense than in transition, NU's defense will have to be on top of its game in order to keep the ball movement out of rhythm and limit open looks. More than anything, Nebraska needs to keep an eye on forwards John Shurna and Drew Crawford. Those two are averaging 36.2 of Northwestern's 68.7 points per game, and have combined to take 56 percent of their team's shots in Big Ten play.
Keep on shooting

The biggest difference in Nebraska's breakout offensive performance last week against Iowa was mostly due to its ability to make shots it had been missing more often than not in recent weeks. When the shots finally started to fall, you could see a renewed confidence in the Huskers every time they came down court. Nebraska is definitely going to have to count on its shooting again tonight, as Northwestern features a unique 1-3-1 zone defense that is utilized unlike any other the Huskers will see this season in the way the Wildcats defend the wing and the baseline. Lay-ups will likely be hard to come by for NU in the half court, it's going to need that same confidence it had against the Hawkeyes to go out and knock down some jumpers.
Make it two

There's been a frustrating theme with this Nebraska team ever since the start of Big Ten Conference play. After both of its two league wins this season over Penn State and Indiana, the Huskers have followed up with disappointing efforts the next time out. Nebraska hasn't put together two straight victories since defeating Alcorn State and Central Michigan to close out its non-conference schedule, and for it to have any chance at making one last run here in its final nine Big Ten games, it's going to have to find a way to put together some consistent outings. Against a Northwestern team with the second-worst conference record in the league, tonight will be as good as any to do so.

Head coach Doc Sadler on the difference in Nebraska's offense against Iowa:

"I think a lot of it comes back to just making some shots. We had played awfully well at Wisconsin and Illinois and had chances, as we all know, in the last minute to win those games, but just didn't get that shot to go down. This team's been a good free throw shooting team up to this point, and once we got it down to two or three minutes, we did go to the free throw line and for the most part made our free throws. That always helps."
Sadler on the Huskers shooting 75 percent from the free throw line this season:

"The right guys are getting fouled, I guess. That's one of the frustrating things when you look back at four of the five years I've been here. If we would have shot free throws like we are shooting now, there's probably a statue out there of me because we'd have probably been an NCAA tournament team in three or four of those years."

Nebraska 63-58

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