Though he'd never admit it, Saturday's loss to Missouri was actually a step in the right direction for Brandon Richardson.
Sure, Nebraska suffered it's worst defeat of the season in a 70-47 loss, but Richardson had his best performance as a Husker, scoring a team- and career-high 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field.
After the game, Richardson downplayed his effort, saying his stats were meaningless because they came in a loss. Still, in the grand scheme of things, the redshirt freshman yet again made further progress in becoming the offensive threat head coach Doc Sadler wants him to be.
"I think as each game goes on, the confidence builds," Richardson said. "I'm getting to feel more comfortable and more confident
(Saturday) was kind of big for me, but I'm not worried about myself. I'm worried about how the team performs. Like I said, a win means more than points. I could care less how much confidence I get. As long as we get the win, that's all I'm worried about."
While it was a big step for Richardson offensively, it was only more of the same for him on the defensive end. As he continues to come into his own with the basketball, Richardson has already established himself as one of Nebraska's most determined defenders, especially out in the open court.
With him now adding a little scoring to his repertoire, playing 20-plus minutes like he did on Saturday should continue to become a common occurrence.
"I thought Brandon played about as well (against Missouri) as he always plays," Sadler said. "I think he's defending really well. I said from Day 1, he's one of our better perimeter defenders. He's tough. He makes energy plays, hustle plays, and you know, he scored some points (on Saturday)."
His play against the Tigers was especially encouraging for the Huskers considering he missed the first four games of the Big 12 Conference schedule after suffering a shoulder injury. Not only did he not play in the games, Richardson was also forced to miss more than a week of practice while his shoulder healed.
He currently wears a supportive brace on his right shoulder, and while he admits he's still trying to get used to playing with it, he's been able to adjust his game and try and make up for lost time.
"Brandon's been pretty consistent, but the injury kind of set him back," Sadler said. "It was pretty big. Anytime you basically miss over a week of practice, it's difficult."
Richardson said his shoulder still flares up occasionally, mostly because he forgets about the injury when he plays and sometimes aggravates it. However, he said aside form that and having a sometimes-limited range of motion, he's been able to cope with the injury as well as could be expected.
"(Missing time due to injury) was really big, knowing how much I wanted to be out there and help my guys," Richardson said. "It was really tough, but I'm back now. At times I forget because I'm reacting to the game. If I'm diving or taking a charge, I don't even think about it. I feel it afterwards, but other than that, basically it's fine."
Though his career-best performance was overshadowed by the Huskers' big loss, Richardson was apparently as eager as anyone to get back out and start getting ready for Colorado.
For him and his teammates, the hope is he'll have an even better game against the Buffaloes. Except this time it will come in a victory.
"I was trying to come in (and practice) yesterday," Richardson said. "I know all the guys are ready to get back out here and get ready to go on Wednesday. We know that now, these last six games, it's coming down to the stretch. We know as a team that we need to finish on a high note."
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