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January 23, 2010
First Big 12 win won't come easy against Tigers
Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler has said all week it won't be any more difficult for the Huskers to get their first Big 12 Conference win on the road against Missouri than it would anywhere else in the league.
While that might be true to some degree, history seems to suggest otherwise.
There's no arguing that winning in Columbia, Mo., is one of the most difficult tasks in the Big 12, as the Tigers come into today's 5:05 p.m. tip boasting a 30-game home winning streak at Mizzou Arena.
The most recent home victory came in a 74-68 win over then-No. 12 Kansas State, and Missouri has won nine of its past 10 games after a rough start in non-conference play.
The good news for Nebraska is that despite the Tigers' recent domination at home, the Huskers have actually played fairly well in Columbia under Sadler. Since the 2005-06 season, NU is 2-2 at Missouri and has won two of the past three meetings there.
However, the most recent trip last season ended in a 70-47 blowout loss after Nebraska had just won three straight conference games, including a 58-55 upset win over No. 16 Texas.
"I like the way our guys are playing," Sadler said. "If we just shoot the basketball, I think that's what it all comes down to with us right now. If we would've shot the basketball against (Texas) A&M and Iowa State like we did against Kansas, I think we could realistically be 2-1."
Sadler said Nebraska would have to be nearly flawless with its ball security and shot selection if it were to have a legitimate chance of knocking off the Tigers tonight.
Despite losing all-conference forwards like Demarre Carroll and Leo Lyons and switching to a more guard-oriented lineup, Sadler said Missouri still presents tough challenges across the board, especially with its full-court press and transition offense.
"I don't know that you change your style, but you've just got to take care of the basketball," he said. "Obviously that's a priority against Missouri. They do what they do, and you must understand it. Going on the road, you definitely don't want to try and get into a game playing it the way they want to play it, especially down there."
Sadler has relayed that message to his team the past week, and even though this will be the first taste of Missouri for the majority of NU's roster, the Huskers seem to have a pretty good idea of what it's going to take to pull off a victory.
"One thing we have to do is control the game," sophomore guard Brandon Richardson said. "It's hard to run with that team. If you go in there and think you're going to try and outscore them, that's practically impossible. We have to play your game, slow the game down and take open shots. If you get in an up-and-down game with them, it's going to be a tough 40 minutes.
"You can't have rushed shots. You have to let the game come to you."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
One of the most glaring holes in Nebraska's performances the past three games has been in its free throw shooting. In their three Big 12 losses, the Huskers have shot a total of 38 free throws, making just 23 (60 percent). To put that in perspective, Missouri shot 43 and 41 free throws in their two conference wins over Kansas State and Texas Tech, respectively. On the other hand, the Tigers were just 10-of-14 from the charity stripe in last week's loss to Oklahoma, meaning the Huskers' best chance of an upset is to get to the line, make their free throws and stay out of foul trouble on the other end.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Senior guard Ryan Anderson leads the team with 11.8 points per game, but his presence in the rebounding department has been almost as valuable. With a team-high 5.0 rebounds per game, Anderson moved into NU's top-10 all-time list in career rebounds following last week's loss to Iowa State. His eight boards against the Cyclones made him the 24th Husker ever to join the 500-rebound club, and he has a chance to move into the school's top-10 by the end of the season.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE TIGERS:
He's not even a starter, but sophomore forward Laurence Bowers has been one of Missouri's most productive players, especially since the start of Big 12 play. Bowers is second on the team in scoring in league games (12.7), and is first in rebounding (9.0), blocked shots (3.0), field goal percentage (.609), 3-point percentage (.667) and also ranks fifth in steals (1.3).