"As I said back in Nebraska, the thing that's the hardest thing to do right now is probably convince your fans and your players that something down the road is going to be better," Sadler said after his Cornhuskers came out on the wrong side of a 71-40 loss at No. 6 Ohio State on Tuesday night.
"We knew we were coming in here to play an awfully good basketball team; that wasn't a surprise," Sadler said. "They're so long and physical. I don't know if it was just us, but I thought it was their best defensive game they've played in terms of intensity — and they sustained it."
The Cornhuskers were outrebounded 44-21 and had more turnovers (17) than field goals (16).
Spencer came in leading the Cornhuskers in scoring at 15.1 points a game (24.3 in three road games). But he, like the rest of his teammates, never came close to competing with the Buckeyes.
Nebraska was without two of its top scorers for the fifth consecutive game: 6-foot-11 Jorge Brian Diaz is out with chronic foot soreness, and junior-college transfer Dylan Talley has been sidelined by a thigh injury. The Cornhuskers are also missing 6-11 Andre Almeida.
Sadler said he didn't know if any of the three would return from their injuries this season.
The Cornhuskers have had the most difficult early-season schedule in the Big Ten, with home games against No. 11 Wisconsin (a 64-40 loss) and No. 16 Michigan State (a 68-55 defeat) before coming to Ohio State. Those are also the top three teams in the preseason Big Ten poll.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta recognizes what Nebraska is up against.
"It is challenging, coming into a league where we all have a feel for what teams are trying to do, and players. This being their first year, it's obviously a tremendous challenge for them," Matta said. "We've played some of these teams twice or three times in a season. (Nebraska's coaches) are probably looking at scouting saying, 'Now, who's this guys? Who's this guy?' But that's part of the change in the league."
They played good defense — forcing 19 Ohio State turnovers — but had 17 turnovers of their own and shot just 31 percent from the field.
Offense is the biggest concern, obviously.
"We've got to find a way to get better offensively," Sadler said. "Because if we can't get into the mid-60s (in points), we're not going to win many games in this league. I don't care how good we play defensively."
The Cornhuskers got out to a miserable start. From a 4-all tie, Ohio State ran off the next 13 points while Nebraska was continually turning the ball over. During one span, the Huskers had turnovers on four consecutive possessions.
Five players scored in the 13-0 run for the Buckeyes, with Buford hitting two baskets and Lenzelle Smith Jr. adding a 3-pointer.
Ohio State never trailed again.
"I don't know that we were much of a test," Sadler said. "The bottom line is it just wasn't much of a contest for them tonight."