But there were encouraging signs from that valiant second-half comeback against the Spartans. While the Jayhawks' rally fell short (75-62), the team entered conference play with high hopes.
Kansas (15-4, 4-0 in Big 12) has since won four straight games and will
be looking to notch No. 5 tonight against Nebraska (12-6, 2-3) in
Lincoln at the Bob Devaney Center.
Tipoff is 6:30 p.m. (CST) on ESPN2.
The Jayhawks, who dropped their first two true road games (Arizona and
Michigan State), now look to win their third straight contest away from
home following their victories at Colorado on Jan. 17 and at Iowa State
KU has had great success the last two decades over the Huskers, winning
11 straight games and 20 of the last 21 meetings. The Jayhawks' only
loss during that time came on Feb. 15, 2004 (74-55) in Bill Self's
first year at Kansas. KU, though, has crushed the Huskers in Lincoln
since then with a +20.7 average margin of victory during their last
three trips to the Bob Devaney Center.
"We've played some of our best ball that we've played over time when
we've gone to Lincoln the last couple years," Self said. "Of course we
have a different cast of players now than what we've had in the past,
but I think it's a good place to play. I think it's a place where we'll
have a few Jayhawk fans there, but for the most part it's all red and
white and we're going to have to play very, very well. Our guys have
always been excited going up there to play."
This year should be no different, even though Nebraska has struggled
lately. The Huskers have lost two straight and three of their last four
games. NU is coming off a 76-74 overtime loss to Oklahoma State on
Saturday in Lincoln. Nebraska shot 87.1 percent from the free-throw
line ( 27-of-31), setting Big 12 highs for makes, attempts and
Self knows Nebraska will be a tough test. The Huskers are an extremely
quick, small squad with their tallest starter just 6-8 (Chris Balham).
The other four starters stand 5-7 (sophomore guard Cookie Miller), 5-11
(senior guard Steve Harley), 6-3 (junior guard Sek Henry) and 6-5
(senior guard Ade Dagundero).
"I think anytime you go on the road, obviously it's a challenge," Self
said. "We're going to have to handle their speed because they are going
to play small. They really get after it. Doc (Sadler) has done a great
job with this group as far as being sound defensively. You have
pressuring all over the place."
Nebraska is limiting opponents to a Big 12-leading 57.8 points per game
and ranks second in the league with 7.1 steals per game. NU is
averaging 67 ppg.
Defensively, Self is concerned whether his players "can get to their
"That will be a big key because we will play bigger than they will the
majority of the game," Self said.
Starting senior guards Harley (12.1 ppg) and Dagundero (10.7 ppg and
team-high 51.8 percent field goal shooting) lead the Huskers. Harley
also ranks second on the team in assists (41) and steals (25). Senior
guard Paul Velander is a huge spark off the bench with 9.3 points per
game and a team-best 49 threes.
Henry is next in scoring (9.1 ppg), followed by Miller (7.2 ppg and
team-high 71 assists), freshman guard Toney McCray (6.4 ppg and
team-best 11 blocks) and junior guard Ryan Anderson (6.3 ppg and
team-high 4.8 rpg). Balham averages just 2.2 points in 9.9 minutes per
With the Huskers fielding such a small team, Self expects NU to fly
around and trap the post. KU sophomore center Cole Aldrich will have to
be strong with the ball and make good decisions.
"Every time that Cole catches it he'll feel two guys on him," Self
said. "A lot of times, small guys trapping is just as effective or more
effective than big guys because if you bring the ball down beneath your
waist there's a good chance that they could deflect it or steal it."
Nebraska must find a way to stop Aldrich (15.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, and Big
12-leading 2.7 bpg) and junior point guard Sherron Collins (18.7 ppg).
Collins has been on a roll during Big 12 play, averaging 21 points per
game and made 19 of 19 from the charity stripe.
The Chicago native has become the true leader for Self's Jayhawks,
energizing his teammates in practice and the games. Collins is coming
off a career-high tying 26 points versus the Cyclones, eclipsing 1,000
"He's obviously playing great right now," Self said. "There are not
many guys out there playing as well as he is. ... The thing I like most
is how he's leading our young guys. He's just been remarkable with the
patience and the toughness and tough love and everything else he's
given our young guys. He's kind of brought them along in an accelerated
way here in the last couple weeks."
Now, Collins and the Jayhawks hope to continue their winning ways in
Big 12 play at Lincoln. They know every road game is critical in KU's
hopes to win its fifth straight Big 12 title.
"It's going to come down to who can win on the road." Aldrich said.
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