Scoring at a premium

In Big Ten play, Nebraska's biggest struggles have come on the offensive side of the basketball.


Nebraska's biggest concern entering Saturday's game at Illinois?

Finding a way to score points.

It's not a matter of scoring enough points to win a game. The Huskers need to score enough points to simply avoid another lopsided outcome. Nebraska has scored exactly 40 points in two of three Big Ten Conference games, and it has lost all three games by an average of 22.6 points.

"We have a hard time scoring right now," said coach Doc Sadler, who will be without center Jorge Brian Diaz and guard Dylan Talley, both injured, for a sixth straight game. "Every opportunity we get, we've got to make sure we take advantage of it, and that's not the case right now."

Nebraska will be facing another productive big man, 7-foot-1 Illinois center Meyers Leonard, who ranks up there with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Michigan State's Draymond Green when it comes to Big Ten players producing double-doubles.

The Huskers couldn't stop either Sullinger or Green, and given their lack of inside presence, because of the injuries to two veteran players, they'll be hard-pressed to contain Meyers.

Offensively, Nebraska has gone four straight games without making more than nine field goals in the second half. Now, the Huskers will be facing an Illinois team that's among the Big Ten's best in field-goal percentage defense.

"You can clean up some offensive execution," Sadler said, in offering something resembling a solution to the offensive woes. "The thing that can't happen is guys start feeling so much pressure that they've got to go break off and go make plays."

The Huskers shot just 30.8 percent from the floor and made only two of 18 3-point shots (11.1 percent) Tuesday in a 71-40 loss to Ohio State.

TRENDING: One way Nebraska could dent the scoreboard with more frequency is by getting to the foul line more often. The Huskers have had single-digit free-throw attempts in three games this season -- two in Big Ten play.

But Nebraska isn't getting the ball inside with needed frequency -- then again, the Huskers don't have many accomplished big men available to feed the ball. Guards aren't showing enough aggressiveness, either.

The frustrating/ironic kicker? The Huskers are on pace to set a school record for best free-throw shooting percentage.


--The Huskers, who again were battling key injuries, gave a hard-nosed effort and played with intensity in a 68-55 loss on Dec. 31 to No. 16 Michigan State.

Some wondered how Nebraska would react after its blowout loss at home to Wisconsin in its inaugural Big Ten game, when the Huskers scored only 40 points.

"I wasn't for sure that our team competed for 40 minutes against Wisconsin," coach Doc Sadler said. "I thought we got down. We got frustrated. (Against Michigan State), I think for 40 minutes, our guys played as hard as they can play.

"This team, as I've said all along, is going to win some ball games. I believe that, as long as we continue to compete, we're going to have some shots at it."

--Senior guard Bo Spencer, Nebraska's leading scorer on the season, came off the bench for the first time this season in the Huskers' Dec. 31 loss Michigan State.

The move wasn't disciplinary. Coach Doc Sadler said before the game he was considering inserting a freshman into the starting lineup, with the objective that he could give his veterans a rest by substituting without having too many inexperienced players on the court at once. To that end, he started freshman wing Josiah Moore, removed Spencer and moved senior Brandon Richardson to point guard.

"I don't know if it helped or not," Sadler said. "When you're short-handed a little bit, you try everything."

--Nebraska appears to be without center Jorge Brian Diaz and guard Dylan Talley for the indefinite future. Diaz is bothered by chronic sore feet, and Talley is resting a thigh bruise while also experiencing a muscle strain in the area because he'd been overcompensating for the sore thigh.

They've missed four straight games; when they last played, they were two of the Huskers' top three scorers. Diaz is a regular starter. When -- or if -- they return is anybody's guess.

"They haven't done anything in three weeks," Sadler said. "It's not like they're going to just show up today and do well. And even if they were, gosh, their conditioning's going to be brutal."

--Despite being shorthanded -- senior center Andre Almeida also hadn't played this season because of injury -- Sadler is adamant that he won't burn the redshirt of junior guard Ray Gallegos -- unless Gallegos chooses to play himself. It was Gallegos' wish to redshirt in the first place, and Sadler is honoring that.

"Winning's my job. I ain't stupid," Sadler said. "But it ain't going to be at an expense of a kid. That won't happen. I can promise you that."

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