The five starters tonight, Brandon Richardson, Brandon Ubel, Jorge Brian Diaz, Bo Spencer and Caleb Walker, play well together and are veterans – there are 3 seniors and 2 juniors among the group.
It will be important for this group of five to lead because right now I'm not sure about the depth behind them. There is a noticeable drop-off when a guy like Bo Spencer leaves the court. He didn't put up big numbers tonight, but he facilitated the offense and didn't have any turnovers… something that's important to see in a point guard.
It will be interesting to see how the minutes are distributed the rest of the season. Tonight Toney McCray and Dylan Talley were the first two options off the bench, with Christopher Niemann and Mike Fox getting playing time as well. It was a little surprising not to see more of the true freshmen. David Rivers and Corey Hilliard played but not until there was 2 minutes left in the game. Sadler said that it's still possible for anyone to redshirt: the status of the 3 freshmen and Rey Gallegos won't be decided for a couple of weeks.
Caleb Walker impressive…
Walker had a good all-around game. He led the way for the Huskers with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Walker looks like he'll be able to contribute more offensively this season. His three point shooting has improved drastically from last year. He looks so much more comfortable from behind the arc and on the offensive end in general, which is what Sadler has said, but we haven't seen before tonight.
Walker is also easily the most impressive player crashing the boards. His athleticism is something fans saw last year, but a year in the program has led to a much more relaxed Caleb Walker.
The Huskers seem to be stepping up on the defensive end. Obviously South Dakota isn't the most potent team the Huskers will see this season, but Sadler said after the game that the Coyotes were tough to guard. Holding a team to 48 points while giving up 10 offensive rebounds is impressive.
Nebraska held South Dakota to a 30.9% field goal percentage and a paltry 23.8% from behind the arc. Along with that, the Huskers totaled 8 steals and 6 blocked shots.
Nebraska made an improvement from the exhibition game in which they had 28 turnovers, but 18 is still too many. Coach Doc Sadler has said many times that he wants the total to be down around 10-12 turnovers per game.
The starters did a pretty good job taking care of the ball, and made a few improvements were made from the exhibition, but it was still a struggle to hold onto the ball at times. Sadler said 5 or 6 of the turnovers were acceptable because they were trying to enter the ball into the post.
Jorge Brian Diaz is a different player this season. Diaz is still a great talent on the offensive end: when he catches the ball deep he's just too skilled to be stopped. But what's changed is his defensive play and aggression. Statistically he had 5 blocks (a career high) and 2 rebounds in the game, but what doesn't show up on the stat sheet is the intensity with which he played - something that's been lacking in his first two seasons.
Even more impressive was the fact that Diaz played great defense without fouling. He finished the night with only 1 personal foul which has to please Sadler who is missing Almeida inside. It's obviously early in the season, so we'll have to see if Diaz can continue his strong, aggressive play against better competition.
South Dakota is good…
The Coyotes aren't Doane and they aren't as dangerous as a lot of the other teams Nebraska will play in non-conference. But they are well coached and have some play-makers. The Huskers did manage to shut out Charlie Westbrook in the first 10 minutes of the game, and held him to 10 points the rest of the way. Westbrook had 24 points in the Coyotes 8 point loss last season.
*Senior Toney McCray saw action after sitting out the exhibition game due to a removed toenail. He played 15 minutes off the bench for the Huskers and had 8 points and 6 rebounds.
*Junior walk on, Mike Fox, saw a solid chunk of action, with a total of 11 minutes played with 1 point and 1 rebound in that time.
*Still no definitive answer on who will redshirt. Rey Gallegos and Josiah Moore did not play at all and other true freshmen Corey Hilliard and David Rivers saw very limited action. Sadler says a decision on redshirts will be made in the next couple of weeks.