February 14, 2009

Huskers get overmatched in 70-47 loss to Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri drained 3s, swatted shots and threw down dunks, and in doing so proved it was a far better team than Nebraska on Saturday.

From the opening tip, it was clear the Huskers were overmatched by the bigger, stronger Tigers, as they simply couldn't match Missouri's big plays and intensity in a 70-47 loss at Mizzou Arena.

After trailing by six at halftime, Nebraska watched a once manageable deficit grow to as many as 28 points in the second half. It got to the point late in the second half that the Huskers were only hoping to keep the score respectable.

Altogether, the Tigers had four players score in double figures, led by DeMarre Carroll and Matt Lawrence, who both finished with 13. Redshirt freshman guard Brandon Richardson led Nebraska with a career-high 12 points, while senior Ade Dagunduro and junior Sek Henry both added 11.

"They just beat us in every area, especially in coaching," head coach Doc Sadler said. "As I told our team, it's my responsibility to have our guys ready to play and do some things, and I didn't do that. Unfortunately that's the first time we've had a meltdown all year. It was a meltdown that you can't afford to have on the road against a good basketball team."

Both teams appeared to be reeling a bit from their respective big-win hangovers, as Nebraska and Missouri combined for just seven points on 3-of-16 shooting with five turnovers. While the Huskers had just beaten Texas a week ago, the Tigers were coming a huge win over rival Kansas on Wednesday.

Missouri finally got going midway through the half, as a put back by J.T. Tiller capped off a 10-point run to give the Tigers a 12-4 lead with 13:10 to play. The momentum stayed with Missouri the majority of the half, and it led by as much as 18-10 before the Huskers were able to get anything going offensively.

Trailing by eight with 7:52 left in the half, the Huskers put together a 6-0 run highlighted by a Richardson 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 18-16. Richardson had a chance to reclaim the lead on NU's next possession, but hit just 1-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.

After that, the Tigers ended the half on a 7-2 run in the final 2:14 to take a 25-19 into halftime. From there, however, it was all Missouri.

The Tigers used a 27-5 run midway through the second half to take a commanding 67-39 lead with less than 5 minutes to go in the game. The Tigers were simply on cruise control after that, throwing down breakaway dunks and hitting 3-pointers seemingly at will.

"We just fell apart, man," Dagunduro said. "We climbed back in the game in the first half when we were down 20-18, and then we just fell apart from there… We feel like we got out-muscled there in the first few minutes. They sent the message early, and we should've responded way better there. We should be able to play harder than this."

The Huskers' frustrations were best summarized when Sadler was hit with a technical foul for arguing with the officials with 5:07 remaining and NU trailing 65-39. Sadler continued to jaw with the refs the rest of the way, though a second technical wasn't issued.

When all was said and done, the Huskers committed a season-high 20 turnovers, which the Tigers were able to convert into 28 points. Nebraska also had their worst shooting performance of the year as a team, hitting just 14-of-49 (28.6 percent) shots from the field.

"We probably gave up more transition baskets today than we have all yea combined," Sadler said. "You can't beat a team like that and give them easy baskets… They probably scored as many easy baskets as we did regular baskets, and that was the difference."

Now sitting at 15-8 overall and 5-5 in the Big 12 Conference, the Huskers must find a way to put Saturday's loss behind them and focus on beating Colorado at home on Wednesday. The Buffaloes took NU to the final seconds in their first meeting a couple weeks ago in Boulder.

"We've got to get it out of our heads and have a short-term memory," Dagunduro said. "Coach said Colorado's going to be our biggest game, and we've got to get this out of our heads and get ready for Colorado."

Sadler takes blame for blowout loss

Following Saturday's 23-point loss, Sadler said he had nobody to blame but himself for Nebraska's performance against Missouri.

As mentioned earlier, Sadler said he felt responsible for not getting his team prepared well enough to go on the road and take on a team the caliber of the Tigers. He said he felt his players played as hard as usual, but the Tigers were just better prepared.

"We competed," Sadler said. "We played hard. We competed, we just didn't execute, and that comes back to me… You can't play as hard as we do every day and not expect this to happen sooner or later. It just happened today. I'm not disappointed in our effort at all. Our guys wanted to win. They wanted to compete. It just wasn't there."

Talking with Nebraska's players, however, they felt that they were just as guilty if not more so for their worst loss of the season.

"Coach is our general," Richardson said. "If he's going to take the blame, that's on him. But at the end of the day, we're players. We've got to make the plays. We've got to go out and get it done. Unfortunately we didn't get it done."

Dagunduro said Sadler told the team in the locker room after the game that he wasn't completely surprised by the game's outcome based on the previous week of practice the team had leading up to the game.

"Coach Doc said that he figured this would happen, in terms of the way we prepared," Dagunduro said. "We've got to do a better job of preparing… Coach Doc was a little disappointed. The way we came out, we just didn't play Nebraska basketball. The whole game, usually if we have a bad first half we counter that with a good second half. We just had a bad first and second half."

Richardson's career game all for not

It wasn't bittersweet for Richardson knowing that his best game as a Husker came in the worst loss of the year. As far as he's concerned, his stats don't mean a thing.

Despite scoring and team- and career-high 12 points, Richardson said he took no pleasure in his numbers because they came in a loss for his team. Overall, he shot 3-of-5 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers, but he also missed two free throws in the first half that would've given NU the lead after being fouled on a 3 attempt.

"Nah, because we didn't get the win," he said when asked if he was happy with his individual performance. "Just because you contributed and all that, if you don't get the win, it doesn't mean anything."

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