Huskers Won't Be Overlooked

With the biggest game of the season looming Monday at No. 2 Oklahoma and the Big 12 leading Sooners (11-0), KU coach Bill Self doesn't expect his Jayhawks will overlook Nebraska on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas (21-5, 10-1 Big 12) and the Cornhuskers (16-8, 6-5) tipoff at 3 p.m.

"Nebraska is a team that gave us fits when we played them there, and we were fortunate to win," Self said on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show. "Hopefully, we'll perform better. Doc (coach Sadler) has done a fabulous job with that group."

Nebraska, which has won four of its last five games, indeed gave KU a huge test in Lincoln on Jan. 28. KU won 68-62, but it was never easy. Kansas didn't take its second lead until 6:37 left in the game at 51-50. After KU looked poised for victory, NU hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut KU's lead to 63-62 with over a minute left. Sherron Collins then made 4 of 4 free throws in the last 30 seconds to ice the win.

Nebraska's defense gave KU problems all night, forcing 21 turnovers and limiting star big man Cole Aldrich to just eight points on five shot attempts.  NU, the nation's No. 9 scoring defense team (Nebraska allows just 58.2 ppg, No. 1 in Big 12), almost upset KU despite shooting just 40 percent from the field and 29.2 percent beyond the arc.

The Huskers are on a roll and coming off a 46-41 victory over Colorado on Wednesday in Lincoln. Senior guard Ade Dagunduro led the Huskers with 18 points and six rebounds. He also paced NU in the last meeting against Kansas with a game-high 24 points.

Nebraska has held each of its last six foes to 70 points or less. Overall, 22 of 24 opponents have scored 70 or fewer points with 13 foes under 60 points.

Dagunduro leads Nebraska at 12 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He's also shooting a team-high 53.4 percent from the field. Senior guard Steve Harley is the other Husker in double digits at 10.7 points per game. He leads NU with 41 steals and ranks third on the team with 50 assists.

Junior guard Sek Henry is next in scoring at 8.6 points per game, followed by sophomore guard Cookie Miller (7.3 ppg and team-high 84 assists), junior guard Ryan Anderson (6.2 ppg), freshman guard Toney McCray (5.8 ppg and team-high 15 blocks), freshman guard Brandon Richardson (4.3 ppg) and starting junior forward Chris Balham (2.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg).

Nebraska is quite small with a guard-dominated lineup and the tallest starter Balham at 6-8. (He averages just 10.8 minutes per game.) However, the Huskers are extremely quick, trap the post, and create havoc on defense.

"They are a team that is always going to play hard and it is going to be how we handle their post traps," Self said after KU beat Iowa State, 72-55, at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday.

 "Tonight we didn't handle it well at all as Cole had five turnovers. We are going to practice more on this and get better at it. They are small and scrappy."

Freshman forward Marcus Morris knows Nebraska will be a tough challenge.

"They fight for extra possessions," Morris said. "They're small, they're quick. Sometimes, it's kind of hard to guard them. Last time, I had to guard a guard, a 6-3 guy and chasing him around. That was kind of hard for me. But whatever makes our team win, that's all I'm worried about."

Self wasn't happy with his team's energy Wednesday during their shootaround before the ISU game and made them run, something he's rarely done at Kansas on game day. KU, though, came out tough against the Cyclones with a 16-2 lead and were up by 17 (30-13) before Iowa State rallied and got within five (43-38) with 12:33 remaining. The Jayhawks then pulled away behind 22 points each from Aldrich and junior point guard Sherron Collins.

"I think our guys weren't as focused," Self said. "I think we'll get on them hard enough that they'll be more excited to play on Saturday Certainly, Nebraska will play us tough, no doubt about that."

Morris said the Jayhawks won't be thinking ahead to Oklahoma on ESPN Big Monday.

"Our focus is to win the Big 12. That's what we're trying to do, but we can never skip over an opponent because anybody is capable of getting beat," Morris said.

Of course, KU has to beat Nebraska Saturday in order to keep pace with Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship race. OU plays at Texas Saturday night.

"They gave us everything we wanted in Lincoln," Self said of Nebraska.  "Monday's game against Oklahoma isn't a big game unless we take care of business on Saturday."

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