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January 7, 2012

Gameday: Nebraska vs. Illinois

Nebraska Cornhuskers

vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 - 12:01 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network / RADIO: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network

Illinois (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated Northwestern 58-57
G Tracy Abrams (point guard has 15 offensive rebounds this season) Fr. 6-1 185
G D.J. Richardson(leads team with 13.9 ppg, shooting 41% from 3-point range) Jr. 6-3 195
G Brandon Paul (averaging 12.2 points per game) Fr. 6-4 200
G Joseph Bertrand (shooting 56.1% from the field) So. 6-5 195
C Meyers Leonard (averaging 13.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 2.4 bpg) So. 7-1 245

Nebraska CornhuskersNebraska Cornhuskers (8-6, 0-3 Big Ten)
Streak: Lost 3
Last Game: Lost to Ohio State 71-40
G Bo Spencer (has scored in double figures 11 times this season) Sr. 6-2 196
G Brandon Richardson (averaging 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game) Sr. 6-0 190
G Caleb Walker (averaging 7.6 ppg and 4.4 rpg) Sr. 6-4 205
G Toney McCray (averaging career bests with 10.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg) Jr. 6-10 235
F Brandon Ubel (shooting 80.2 percent from the free throw line) Jr. 6-10 235

Just score

While injuries have played a big part in Nebraska's struggles the past five games, things have been as bad as ever on the offensive end since the start of Big Ten Conference play. In starting 0-3 in league play, the Huskers have averaged 45.0 points per game, including scoring a season-low 40 points against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The only way NU is going to have any chance at winning even another game the rest of the season is by figuring out a way to put the ball in the basket. With two of their best offensive players sidelined with injuries, Nebraska must try to get points from the free throw line and in transition.
Pressure the ball

The game plan for Nebraska today on the defensive side of the floor is to put as much pressure on Illinois' ball handlers as possible. Head coach Doc Sadler said one of the Fighting Illini's biggest weaknesses was turning the ball over, so look for the Huskers to use more full-court pressure than they have all season to try and force UI's guards into making mistakes with the ball. The strategy could also provide a bit of a lift to Nebraska's offense, as the press could open up a few opportunities for points in transition.
Fluster Leonard

There's no question that the No. 1 weapon on Illinois' roster is 7-foot-1 center Meyers Leonard. His size makes him a dominant presence in the post, and he's proven he can take over a game when he gets into a rhythm. However, he's also shown that he can be easily rattled as soon as things stop going his way. Sadler sees an opportunity to try and take Leonard out of his game by hounding him defensively from the opening tip and getting him into early foul trouble to make him more of a liability than a threat for the Illini.

Head coach Doc Sadler on defending Illinois center Meyers Leonard:

"I think anytime you talk about (Illinois) you start with Leonard. I mean, if he's not the best inside player in this league, then he's one of the (top) two. He's very, very good; causes you all kinds of problems in defending him to begin with."
Sadler on how Nebraska can improve its play offensively:

"The only way I know to get better offense is to get to the free throw line, get transition baskets, offensive rebounds, and all those things are hard for us right now. We're not trying to get to 70, we're trying to get to 60."

Illinois 65-61

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