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November 18, 2009Nebraska knew it was going to learn a lot about what kind of team it was when it traveled to take on Saint Louis for its first road game of the season on Wednesday.
After suffering a 69-55 loss to the Billikens, the Huskers' first big test of the season proved to a hard lesson learned.
Despite trailing by just one point at halftime, Nebraska (1-1) saw the game slip away in the second half, as Saint Louis (2-0) made some big shots from the perimeter and led by as many as 17 points.
Senior guard Sek Henry scored a team-high 14 points, while fellow senior Ryan Anderson added 10 for the Huskers. The star of the night was Saint Louis point guard Kwamain Mitchell, who scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.
"I'm disappointed," head coach Doc Sadler said on his post-game radio show. "I'm very, very disappointed, because this team's working really, really hard. But I'm not overly concerned, because were going to get better."
Through the first few minutes of the first half, Saint Louis was clearly the more aggressive team on both sides of the floor. The Billikens didn't waste much time in jumping out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, and at one point led by as much as eight early in the first half.
It also didn't help that Nebraska suffered a big blow within the game's first couple of minutes when 6-11 redshirt freshman center Brian Jorge Diaz left the game after taking an elbow to the face while going up for a rebound. Diaz ended up having a couple of teeth knocked loose on the play, and didn't return until midway through the second half.
The Huskers did eventually settle in and started to get some offense going, especially with a number of backdoor screens that led to easy lay-ups. Defensively, NU was even better to close out the half.
Saint Louis opened the first half shooting well over 50 percent from the field, but the Huskers made some adjustments as the half went along and held the Billikens to make just one of their final 12 shots of the half.
As a result, Nebraska went into halftime trailing only 28-27. Sadler said the biggest adjustment was putting more pressure defensively on the wing and forcing the Billikens to shoot more contested shots on the perimeter.
Nebraska took its first lead of the game in the opening minutes of the second half, but that wouldn't last very long. With the help of three straight 3-pointers, the Billikens reclaimed the lead and then some with a 14-2 run to take a 44-31 lead with 13:55 on the clock.
The Huskers, on the other hand, were ice cold from 3-point range, as redshirt freshman guard Eshaunte Jones accounted for NU's only 3-pointer of the game on just seven attempts. The Billikens ended the night 7-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Nebraska was unable to rebound from the Saint Louis run, and it eventually trailed by its largest deficit of the game at 58-41 late in the second half. The Huskers tried to claw their way back by fouling throughout the majority of the final two minutes, but it was all for not.
The Huskers will look to get back on track when they play host to Texas Christian on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Horned Frogs come into the game with a 2-1 record, having nearly upset Arizona State earlier this week, 52-49.
Until then, Sadler said the Huskers would try to continue to improve on a number of aspects that need a lot of work.
"The fact of the matter is Saint Louis played much harder than we did," Sadler said. "There's so many areas that this team has to get better at, but as I have told everyone, this is a hard-working basketball team, and I think, eventually, we have a chance to be a good team."