Preview: Nebraska at Penn State

After dropping a few contests in a row, Nebraska will look to get back to .500 today.

At 12:06 p.m., the two cellar dwellers of the Big Ten will face off in State College, Pa. when Nebraska travels to the Bryce Jordan Center.

But for all the Husker fans out there, don't let that deter you from tuning in to the game. Penn St. is as weak of an opponent as NU will face all year, and if the team hopes to escape the lower portion of the conference standings, NU must win the game, plain and simple.

Saturday's meeting is only the fifth matchup between the Huskers and Nittany Lions—the two most recent members of the Big Ten. The two teams have split the first four meetings following Nebraska's 70-58 win at the Devaney Center on Jan. 11.

Coach Sadler is obviously aware of his team's current situation, but has taken somewhat of a different approach during Thursday's and Friday's practices. In fact, Sadler doesn't even seem too worried about the Nittany Lions. "I don't know if we're even going to do anything to prepare for Penn State, to be honest with you," he said.

For a team that put up 15 first-half points against Michigan on Wednesday, you would assume that some sort of game plan would be in order. Sadler, however, points out that the Nittany Lions aren't doing things much differently since the last time the two teams met this year.

"The only thing they're doing different than the first time is they're running a flex offense. Well, guess, what? We've defended that quite a bit," he explained. "We've just got to get a few things squared up offensively, and even defensively."

"Squaring things up offensively" will be quite the task, though. In fact, if you asked anyone who watched Wednesday's game against Michigan, they would most likely tell you that Nebraska's offensive problems are unfixable.

In the first half, NU shot 21.7 percent from the field and missed all ten three-point attempts. The Huskers only managed to produce 15 first half points.

"I'm baffled," said senior Bo Spencer. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know. I can't really put a point on anything. I just know it's tough. We just keep on losing games. It's tough."

Coach Sadler attempted to pinpoint the problem, alluding to the fact that his players may be trying too hard.

"I think the perfect example of that was Toney (McCray)," Sadler said. "He wanted it so bad and he was so anxious, and when Toney gets frustrated by not making a shot … bottom line, that's why I sat him out basically the first half.

"I can't say if they're trying to do too much or the guys are just trying to help put points on the board, or what's going on."

Either way, Nebraska ought to be excited about the opportunity at hand. The Nittany Lions come into Saturday's game with a 10-15 record following a 77-72 loss against No. 11 Michigan State on Wednesday. Penn State has dropped its last five games since a 54-52 win over nationally-ranked Illinois on Jan. 19. The Nittany Lions have been on a tough road stretch, playing four of their last five games on the road, as four of those contests were against ranked foes.

Another reason for optimism: NU's road performances this season.

The Huskers are 3-5 away from the Devaney Center this season, a vast improvement over the 2-20 mark on the road over the past two seasons. NU also had chances to win in road setbacks at Illinois and Wisconsin, as both games were a one-possession contest in the last minute. With a win at Penn State on Saturday, the Huskers can match the program's highest road victory total since going 6-6 away from the Devaney Center in 1998-99.

- Josh Harvey -


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