Looking for a purpose

Nebraska is looking for a purpose after dropping to 11-13 overall.

Brandon Richardson hears the negativity surrounding Nebraska's basketball program.

What criticism bothers him most?

"That we give up," said Richardson, a senior guard. "That's not the case. This team has been fighting hard ever since I got here, and even before that.

"People say that we give up, or we've given up on the season. I don't feed into that."

The results on the court, though, are becoming less and less indicative of Richardson's words.

Nebraska has lost four games in 10 days, plummeted into a last-place tie in the Big Ten Conference standings and, according to their beleaguered head coach, is playing hard, but without a purpose.

The Huskers' 11-13 record has them on track for a second losing record in three seasons, and has put sixth-year coach Doc Sadler in the crosshairs of a fan base tired of losing.

"I don't know what's going on. I don't care," Sadler said, in reference to fan unrest. "My concerns, believe it or not, are big enough to get this basketball team playing good. That's my only concern.

"Anything else I can't control, I don't care to control. I'm not stupid. I know wins and losses, it's always good to have a lot more wins than it is losses. We need to win some basketball games."

Sadler said players may now be pressing too hard and trying to do too much individually, which isn't helping matters.

"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," senior guard Bo Spencer said.

"I'm baffled. 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."


BY THE NUMBERS: 38.2 -- The season shooting percentage of Nebraska's last opponent, Penn State -- a mark that ranked 328th out of 338 Division I basketball teams. The Huskers allowed the Nittany Lions to shoot 52.3 percent, a further indication Nebraska's once-proud defense is now matching its slumping offense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got to get back to playing with a purpose. Right now, this team doesn't have a purpose, and that's my responsibility to make sure that we get one. We're just out there playing." -- Nebraska coach Doc Sadler.



--vs. Illinois, Feb. 18

KEY MATCHUPS: Nebraska limited 7-foot center Meyers Leonard to seven points and four rebounds in its first matchup with Illinois, but won't have the services of 6-11 center Jorge Brian Diaz this time. The Huskers could also mix in some zone defense to limit penetration from wing Joseph Bertrand, who torched NU with 25 points last time.

FUTURES MARKET: Erick Strickland wants to help out Nebraska's basketball program, in any way possible. In fact, the former Husker hoops star and Bellevue, Neb., native has met with coach Doc Sadler and, perhaps more importantly, athletic director Tom Osborne about possible roles within the program.

"Erick really loves Nebraska. He loves Nebraska basketball," Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said. "Of course, Erick has had some success at the professional level and is a good person.

"We'll see how those things work out. There's no definite plan right now in place going forward. Certainly, Erick would be somebody who would be attractive. But I can't say right now it's all going to work out."

The 38-year-old Strickland played at Nebraska from 1992-96 and is Nebraska's No. 7 all-time scorer. He was the MVP of the 1996 NIT, a second-team all-conference player as a senior, and went on to a nine-year career in the NBA. He lives in Dallas.


--Senior G Brandon Richardson had two steals in a Feb. 11 loss to Penn State and moved past Larry Florence (137, 1997-2000) for sole possession of eighth place on Nebraska's career steals list. Richardson also had five assists, the fifth time this season he had at least five assists in a game.

--Senior G Bo Spencer, whose 15.5 points per game leads Nebraska, scored only seven points in a Feb. 11 at Penn State, only the fifth time this season he's not reached double-figure scoring. His eight field goal attempts tied a season low.

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