Welcome to Big Ten Basketball…
What better way to welcome Nebraska to Big Ten basketball than a match against Wisconsin? The Husker football team had a heart-felt welcoming at Wisconsin's Camp Randal Stadium in early October, so on Tuesday night it was Nebraska's turn to return the favor and play host to the Badgers' basketball team at the Devaney Center. Unfortunately for Husker Hoops fans, the end result reflected the football game all too well.
"Wisconsin is a very good basketball team," Coach Sadler said after the 40-64 beat down. "They value everything that a good basketball team does. They don't do anything that is going to get them beat; you are going to have to get them beat."
Perhaps the most promising aspect of the night came before the game even started. Seven minutes before tip-off, a long list of past Husker heroes received a warm welcome from an excited Devaney crowd.
The Huskers—apparently pumped up for the first official Big Ten game—opened the game with some hot shooting. Toney McCray hit two three-pointers to open the game as the Huskers went on a 7-0 run. The Huskers kept the lead until Wisconsin center Jared Berggren hit a three-pointer with 12:58 remaining in the first half. The Huskers never regained the lead.
McCray steps up… Again
Thirteen games into the 2011 season; the question has been how far Bo Spencer can carry this team? Spencer is—and has been—the leader thus far. Lately, however, teams have been finding ways to keep him in check.
While Spencer struggled with a measly five points and four turnovers, Toney McCray—once again—was the guy to step up. For a team that lacks a consistent scoring threat, he has been one of the few offensive bright spots the past few weeks. Are Husker fans finally seeing McCray become the player they thought he could be?
He reached double figures for the third straight game with a team-high 16 points and set a season-high with nine rebounds. McCray has tied or set season best in rebounds in each of the last three games and is averaging 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game over the last three games. It's too bad the nickname T-Magic is already taken on campus.
Badgers had the hot hand… the entire night
To say Wisconsin was hot from three-point range is a huge understatement. Time after time the Huskers would inch closer and closer to Wisconsin, only to allow a devastating three-pointer as the shot clock expired. As a team, the Badgers shot an astounding 52.4% from beyond the arc and 51.1% from the field.
"Defensively, I didn't think it was that bad," Sadler explained. "I thought we got tired. We can't play (our starters) 36 minutes - you just can't do it. They've got a good basketball team and they do it the right way. They don't get in a hurry. Whether they are fast or slow, the fact of the matter is that they are efficient."
The 10,812 Devaney attendees were electric, to say the least, during Nebraska's 7-0 run to start the game. With 4:37 remaining in the first half, McCray stole the ball around half court and dunked the ball to narrow Wisconsin's lead to only six points. This play, along with a few other star-studded moments by McCray, sent the crowd into a frenzy. Needless to say, Wisconsin's Ryan Evans—who finished with 22 points—quieted the crowd every time he touched the ball. Well, almost every time. He shot 81.8% from the field.
Fans seemed to have had enough and began filing out of the arena in droves with a little under five minutes remaining in the game. I'm guessing it had something to do with Wisconsin's 27-7 run? Or maybe it was the 14 total second half points scored by the Huskers? Either way, can you blame them?
- Josh Harvey -