Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nebraska React: Two Games In One

Well, that was a tale of two halves to the fullest extent. In our preview, we highlighted four keys; two with the ball and two when guarding it. The first defensive key was to keep the feet moving. This was a huge failure for the first ten minutes as we looked disinterested, but it was also the first thing we fixed and as big a reason as anything that we were able to fight back and get the win. Secondly, we mentioned the need to box out. Numbers may not always tell the story, but in this case they’re emphatic. First half rebounding: NU 13 – KU 12. Second half rebounding: NU 5 – KU 25. They’re not absolved of blame for their first half effort, but they also deserve credit for coming back and dominating in the second stanza.

Offensively, our first key was to work through the post. In the first half, Cole was 0-1 for 0 points and 0 rebounds. And if memory serves, he touched the ball no more than five total times. Credit Nebraska for flustering him and taking away the angles on entry passes, but that is just pitiful. Quite simply, Nebraska sped them up and they took themselves out of their own offense by being impatient. The second key was to be smart with the ball. 21 turnovers and 6 assists should tell you all you need to know there; not to mention the ridiculous ball security we showed on a couple late possessions letting them make it a tighter ending than it should have been.

So needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it played out exactly how Nebraska had it scripted for a win – get a big early lead, get the crowd hyped up and put the pressure on us to find a way to win an ugly, low-scoring battle. And that’s exactly what we did. For a team this young to come back from 13 down, on the road, with your two stars in foul trouble, says a whole lot about their makeup and fortitude. There have been several wins that said more about our ability to be a good team, but none said more about our ability to win. Long story short, two to three weeks ago we do not win that game. This team is making a lot of progress.

Sherron Collins
Tough to grade him out in this one because aside from a 90 second stretch in the first half and knocking down all his free throws late, he never looked like Sherron. 6-11 for 17 points is nice, though we really needed him to do a bit more in this one and for some reason it wasn’t there. The three turnovers and 0 assists were terrible, but when it came down to it, he kept us in the game in the first half and closed it out in the second – that’s what you need from your star.

Cole Aldrich
Much like the keys above, Cole played two different games each half. After posting goose eggs in the first while picking up two fouls, Cole came back in the second and controlled things for us with 8 points and 8 boards – his first game of the year not hitting double-digit scoring. He was clearly bothered early and he still should have done more in the second, but at least he stepped up when we need him the most. Go figure, tallest guy on the floor plays the smallest team in the country and it’s his first game in single digit scoring and first without a block since Christmas.

Tyshawn Taylor
Like those above, I had a tough time evaluating Tyshawn. His help defense was horrible, though he was pretty good on ball. He came in a grabbed 4 boards. And he did some nice things offensively (6 points & 3 assists), yet he also turned it over 6 times - a couple of which led directly to easy points & took two very ill-advised threes early on in the first half. Not his best game, but does deserve credit for his perimeter defense.

Brady Morningstar
Took 1 bad shot and had 2 bad turnovers. The rest was typical Brady. Knocked down 2 threes (out of 3) on his way to 11 points and came up with 5 boards as well. And of course, his defense was fantastic. The Huskers were 7-24 (29%) from deep; 2 of which came late from Henry and 1 unexpectedly from Dagunduro. Take those out to really analyze our perimeter defense and they were 4-21 (19%). Brady was the primary reason.

Tyrel Reed
His atrocious late turnover aside, Tyrel was great. His defense, especially when he was on Velander was excellent, never allowing a clean look. And as he’s been doing lately, he knocked down two huge threes right as we were trying to separate midway through the second.

Mario Little
The biggest thing to take away from tonight was him playing 30 minutes (previous high was 14). It wasn't quite what we’ve come to expect from him offensively (2-6 for 4 points) and he looked a little indecisive, but he also dished out a couple of assists from the high post and grabbed 7 rebounds (2 offensive). His defense on Dagunduro wasn’t very good at all, but he’s still getting acclimated on that side of the court and isn’t near quick enough on that leg to guard someone that athletic.

Marcus Morris
7 minutes, 5 points and an offensive board. But what he deserves credit for is stepping up and knocking down 3-4 free throws when we needed them most. He’s really struggled there this year and those points were huge, especially at the time.

Travis Releford & Markieff Morris
The unsung heroes of the night. When we weren’t getting anything from the 4 early on Travis came in and in only 6 minutes gave us 3 boards, solid defense and 5 points – 2 of which came in the closing seconds of the half to take some momentum into the locker room. And Markieff came into the second fired up, and gave us 5 points (3-4 from the line), 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 steal, 1 block, 0 turnovers and only 1 foul. Without either of these efforts, we don’t win this game and both players can use this going forward as they showed a lot tonight.

Part of me wants to blame Bill for not having them ready from the start and for the schematic lapses on both ends of the floor early on. But even if all that falls on him (which it shouldn’t), he still pushed enough of the right buttons early on to get them back in the game. And more importantly, he made the necessary adjustments at the break, got his message across and they turned a thirteen point deficit into a 6 point win on the road, against an exceptional defensive team. As ugly as it was to watch, that really was an exceptional win for this young team and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Put it this way..For a team that has trouble on the road, we have three conference road wins; the rest of the North has 2. And our closest Northern competitor went on the road for the second time in the division tonight and, just like the first time, they shit the bed. What was that about good defense? I know that's what comes to mind when I see that a poor shooting K-State team shot 53% and scored 88 points (the third straight game of allowing 86+).

What did you think?


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