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January 30, 2012

Nebraska making most of week off

Nebraska had something to feel good about once again following its comeback road win over Iowa last Thursday, and it's been able to enjoy it a little longer than usual.

With their next game not until this coming Thursday at Northwestern, the Huskers have made it a point to take advantage of their week-long break to try and keep their momentum going.

During his interview on the weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference on Monday, head coach Doc Sadler talked about his team approach to the week off and what NU has done to build off its best offensive performance in conference play.

While he said the extra practice time has been nice, Sadler was fully aware that beginning with its trip to take on the Wildcats, Nebraska is set to play four games in a matter of just 10 days.

"Obviously with our schedule and the way it's been, and then this week only having the one game on Thursday and then not playing again until this next Thursday, and then having four games in 10 days is something that I'm not ever used to or our team is used to," Sadler said. "But at the same time, I think we're going to take advantage of the opportunity that we have to practice and get better."

Nebraska took last Friday off before returning to practice on Saturday. Sadler said the Huskers came back to practice with another good effort, but said there was still a lot of work left to do before they return to action.

On one hand, Nebraska shot 52 percent from the floor in it's 79-73 win over the Hawkeyes, marking its highest scoring output in Big Ten play this season. On the other, the Huskers' gave up their second-most points to a league foe so far.

"I thought our team offensively probably had as good of flow as we've had in conference play," Sadler said. "Defensively was a concern obviously, and that's something that we've got to spend the next three or four days getting better at."

As far as his team's offensive performance, Sadler said he hoped the Huskers could gain some confidence from being able to knock down big shots in clutch situations and getting to the free throw line 24 times.

"I think a lot of it comes back to just making some shots," Sadler said. "We had played awfully well at Wisconsin and Illinois and had chances, as we all know, in the last minute to win those games, but just didn't get that shot to go down. This team's been a good free throw shooting team up to this point, and once we got it down to two or three minutes, we did go to the free throw line and for the most part made our free throws. That always helps.

"I was just proud that we showed the toughness, because Iowa, as you saw yesterday (in a 103-89 loss to No. 17 Indiana), is a team that can really score points. To be able to go on the road and score 79 points is a credit to our guys and them taking advantage of opportunities when they did have them to make shots."

Around the rim

***Senior guard Brandon Richardson was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Monday for his breakout performance in Nebraska's win over Iowa. Richardson led the Huskers with a career-high 25 points and five assists and shot 9-of-10 from the field, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range.

Richardson becomes the first NU player to earn a weekly award from the conference. He joined Michigan State forward Draymond Green for player of the week honors, while the Spartans' Branden Dawson was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

"I know it surprised a lot of people that he maybe made the shots that he made, but it was just good to see him shoot the basketball," Sadler said. "I'm so happy for him, because he's one player as a coach that you talk to your players about, especially in their senior year, not to leave anything out there, because you're not ever going to get an opportunity to play again, and he's truly taken advantage of every day that we've practiced and every game that we've played this year. He won't have any regrets, and I'm happy about that."

***With the extra time off this weekend, Sadler said he and his coaching staff were able to hit the recruiting road a little bit.

"We got a lot done this weekend and was out of town and was able to get back and forth for practice on Saturday," Sadler said. "We did get out and take advantage, because you know for the most part - we have another situation like this I guess in the middle of February that we'll be able to get out - but this next week as you well know is going to be pretty busy with the four games in 10 days, so we won't get much done in recruiting as far as that's concerned. But we were able to do it this weekend."

***At just 12-8 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten play, Northwestern may not seem like much on paper coming into Thursday night's game, but Sadler said the Wildcats' struggles have been due more to some bad breaks than any lack of talent or effort.

Of Northwestern's six conference losses, three have been by two points or less, including a 66-64 overtime loss at Michigan. Also, one of their two league wins was an 81-74 upset over then-No. 7 Michigan State at home.

"I think the team we're playing this week, Northwestern, has probably had as bad of luck as anyone," Sadler said. "They could very easily be up at the top of the league with some awfully close losses. We're going to have to get a lot better defensively these next two or three days."



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