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January 13, 2012For the first time since joining the Big Ten Conference, Nebraska has the small luxury of familiarity on its side heading into Sunday's game at Wisconsin.
Though the Huskers are just five games into their conference schedule, they'll get their first rematch of the season when they take on the Badgers for the second time in just 20 days.
While Wisconsin gave NU a rough introduction into its new league with a 64-40 drubbing in Lincoln on Dec. 27, the Huskers are confident that things will be a little different for Round 2 up in Madison, Wisc.
"I think it's definitely a good thing, especially early and coming off this win," junior forward Brandon Ubel said getting another shot at Wisconsin so quickly. "To play somebody that we've played and that we're finally familiar with, now we kind of know how the game's going to go, who's going to do what for them and how they're going to play offensively and defensively. Now we can be a little more comfortable out there on the court."
In the first meeting in Lincoln, Wisconsin shot lights out from the opening tip while Nebraska couldn't have shot much worse. While the Badgers connected on 11 3-pointers, the Huskers shot just 30.6 percent from the floor en route to their lowest scoring output of the season.
Head coach Doc Sadler said Wisconsin's perimeter shooting was obviously the biggest difference in the first meeting, and after scouting the Badgers over the past five games, he's found that UW truly does live and die by the 3.
"It looks like the success that they have is directly related to the number of 3-point shots they're making," Sadler said. "Offensively, when we played them before, they were 11-of-21, and probably would've beaten anybody in the league on that particular night. Then the next game (against Iowa) they go 3-for-28 at home and get beat. Again, you had a situation last night (in a win over Purdue) where they were making their shots. When they're making 3-point shots, that seems to be where their offense is at its best."
The other issue facing Nebraska is finding a way to put up more than 40 points like it did the first time around. The good news is the Huskers are coming off their best offensive showing since the start conference play in their 70-58 win over Penn State on Wednesday.
Against the Nittany Lions, NU finally picked up a bit of confidence on the offensive end, something Ubel said the Huskers were definitely lacking when they faced Wisconsin in their first ever Big Ten game.
"I think we played a little tentative," Ubel said. "We didn't really push the ball on offense like we have in the past couple games where we've been a little more successful. We watched the film again of the Wisconsin game yesterday, and we were walking the ball up pretty much every time. So I think if we push the pace and get a little more tempo on offense it might get them on their heels a little more so we can run our stuff and get some better looks."
Stepping up the tempo certainly seems like a good idea against a Badger squad that loves to slow things down and shorten the game, but Sadler said that might be a little easier said than done against UW head coach Bo Ryan's team.
"We'll try, but I don't know that they're going to let you," Sadler said. "I mean, they're a very, very good defensive rebounding team, good offensive rebounding team, and they jam the ball when you do get an offensive rebound so they don't just give you a free outlet pass. So sure, yeah, we'd like to run, but I don't know in the history of Bo Ryan's teams that anybody's been able to score enough points by doing that.
"We're going to try, but his teams, typically you can't get many transition baskets and you don't get a lot of free throws. That's what makes it difficult."
Though Nebraska will get its first rematch of the season less than three weeks since the first meeting, the Huskers are confident that things will be much different this time around.
"It's encouraging when you know you can't play much worse and you don't think they can't hit at that high of a percentage again," Ubel said. "Going in, we have a little more confidence. We've found things that are working on offense for us, and then also knowing that we're finally coming around offensive and defensively, we've definitely got some more confidence heading into this one."