To do so would be underselling the upstarts he coaches. The Huskers, coming off a 2-14 last-place finish in the Big 12, led the undefeated Jayhawks by 10 in the second half before the Kansas frontcourt responded to the challenge and pulled out a 63-60 win.
"I think we competed; we played hard," Sadler said. "But eventually that stuff doesn't matter. You've got to win the game. Doing those things gave us a chance to win the game, but like I said, we're here to win."
They're in that position because of the vast improvement made by the Huskers, as well as Sadler's savvy coaching. He still realizes he doesn't have the talent to go up and down the court and trade baskets with ranked opponents.
So against Kansas, the Huskers patiently controlled the lane, both by pounding the ball inside on offense and clogging the middle on defense. The Kansas frontline was taken aback at first before making a rare change to a lineup with three bigs, which accounted for 21 consecutive points down the stretch to overturn the Huskers.
The defeat was the fifth in as many years for Sadler in games at Kansas, though the margins of 53, 35, 17, 11 and 3 reflect a positive progression over the years. The series will be discontinued with the Huskers headed to the Big Ten, but the narrow defeat is something this year's team can build from.
Even if Sadler chooses not to glorify a defeat after his team fell to 13-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12.
--The likelihood Nebraska will agree to a nonconference series against Kansas once the Huskers move into the Big Ten is remote. Coach Doc Sadler raved over the opportunity to coach in venerable Allen Fieldhouse, calling it "unbelievable," but he's also glad the 63-60 defeat the Huskers suffered on Jan. 15 will be their last loss at Kansas for the foreseeable future. "I can tell you this: As long as I'm coaching here, I'll be a spectator next time there's a game here. I don't like it that much," Sadler said.
--Kansas became the first opponent to shoot better than 45 percent against Nebraska. The Jayhawks were 23 of 50, a 46 percent clip. The game was the 17th of the season for the Huskers, who have held five teams to worse than 30 percent shooting while posting the top defensive average (55.5) in the Big 12.
BY THE NUMBERS: 77 -- Total for Missouri in a Jan. 12 road defeat, the most points allowed by Nebraska after limiting 11 of its previous 12 opponents to 62 points or less.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The thing I like about this team, I don't think they're going to take a second seat to anybody. They're going to come with it, and they're going to play hard. But we've got to win the basketball game (at Kansas). You've got to win it, and we didn't, so we're disappointed." -- Nebraska coach Doc Sadler.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Colorado, Jan. 18.
KEY MATCHUPS: A year ago Nebraska became the Big 12 program that finally caved and got beat at home by Colorado, ending a 36-game road losing streak for the Buffaloes in conference play. Both teams are much improved. First-year CU coach Tad Boyle took over an experienced roster and pushed the tempo to the liking of G Cory Higgins and G Alec Burks, two wings who cause matchup problems.
--at Texas Tech, Jan. 22.
KEY MATCHUPS: Anyone visiting Texas Tech must regard the matchup as a game it can win on the road. Though the Red Raiders are loaded with seniors, expectations may have been set too high for F Mike Singletary, G John Roberson and the rest of the experienced Red Raiders, who do not look as if they've improved under coach Pat Knight.
FUTURES MARKET: Nebraska hopes the Jan. 15 loss at Kansas was a breakthrough performance for C Andre Almeida. The 6-foot-11 mammoth, who's listed at 315 pounds but could weigh as much as 340, came off the bench and provided 10 points and seven rebounds while causing problems inside for the Jayhawks' big men. Almeida contributed to a 43-32 rebounding advantage. The Huskers, who have trouble shooting from 3-point range, could be better off with big lineups depending on matchups.
--Senior G Lance Jeter led a balanced Nebraska attack with 13 points at Kansas. He went 5 of 10 from the field and was the only Nebraska starter to shoot 50 percent. Other starters combined to go 8-for-33, a 242 percentage.
--Junior G Toney McCray scored a season-high 17 points in a Jan. 12 loss at Missouri. He made both 3-pointers he attempted and scored nine points at Kansas, where the Huskers were just 3 of 13 from behind the arc.
--Sophomore F Christian Stanhardinger, who left the Nebraska program at the end of the first semester, is transferring to LaSalle. He will be eligible to play there at the end of the first semester next season.