The 2002-2003 Huskers played their first game against someone other than themselves on Thursday night when they took on the EA Sports Midwest All-Stars in an exhibition game. It was an ugly game with some poor shooting from the Huskers (39% from the field) and even poorer shooting from the "All-Stars" (23%). Nebraska looked shaky on offense, but was impressive defensively and decent on the boards in the 63-36 win.
Brennon Clemmons led the scoring with 16 points on 4-6 shooting and 6-6 from the free throw line. He looked very confident with the ball in his hands although he did have a couple charges called on him. Nebraska as a team had some trouble with body control with 5 charges in the first half. Amazingly, all 5 of those calls were drawn by former Illinois player Lucas Johnson. He knew it too because he held up five fingers and laughed after the last of the calls was made.
The rest of the Huskers really struggled shooting the ball, especially from the 3-point line. They started out 4-6 from beyond the arc, but finished with only 1-13 after that. The positive aspect of this, even with the poor shooting tonight, is that most of the team is capable from long range and this will cause a lot of problems for opponents later in the season. Drevo, Wilkinson, and, of course, Conklin all have the ability to shoot 40% from beyond the line this season.
Nate Johnson struggled tonight, but should become more consistent as he plays in a few more games in front of medium-sized crowds, like the 4548 people that were at the game tonight. He needs to look for the quick pull-up jumper like Tyronn Lue used to do during his tremendous three years here. Defenders can not stay with Nate, but he's not big enough to be able to finish in the low post, so a short quick jumper from the free throw line is perfect for him. He'll make his share of 3-pointers as well and play some fierce defense.
A couple other bright spots tonight were Corey Simms and John Turek, who both rebounded very well. Simms had 7 boards in 17 minutes as well as 4 points. Simms will always be a very good, if not great, defender and he will see more minutes this year if he can add rebounding to that defense. Turek had 9 in 18 minutes with 6 points. If you project Turek's night out to an average of 35-36 minutes, that would be 18 boards and 12 points per game, which would be an outstanding average for the year. You have to love the improve Turek has shown since the middle of last season.
Barry Collier said that he would announce which players he will hopefully redshirt after the game, but that list was unavailable as I write this review. My guess would be Enright, Heimos, and maybe Dourisseau. Enright needs to improve his footwork quite a bit, but he could possible contribute as a big man in the coming years. Heimos is behind Turek, Drevo, Wilkinson, and maybe even Tony "The Alliance Animal" Wilbrand, so a redshirt would be a good idea for Dan.
All in all, this was a good start for a young team. EA Sports is definitely not a Big 12 quality opponent, but they did have two guys (Lucas Johnson and Sergio McLain) who played quality minutes for Illinois in the past. They played at Wisconsin last night and lost 71-52. You cannot take much stock in exhibition scores, but Wisconsin is number 29 in the Coaches poll and 24th in the CBS Sportsline Power Poll, so the Huskers at least matched that effort tonight.
The next game is one that should be real treat for Nebraska basketball fans because Sports Tours is coming to town. Former Huskers, Jaron Boone and Bruce Chubick, will make their return to Devaney next Thursday. Who can forget the shot that Boone made in 1994 against Oklahoma in overtime over the backboard to win only to have it waved off as Nebraska fell short on the upset bid. And Bruce Chubick's "block" at the end of regulation against Kansas in 1992, which sent the game to overtime and led to Jamar Johnson's 3-pointer to beat highly ranked KU. Lots of great memories will be relived as the game tips-off at 7:05 pm on Thursday, November 14th.
Side Note: The last two minutes of the game remained interesting in spite of the blowout because of Mitch Urosevich of EA Sports. This little guy (about 5'8") is a student at Nebraska and won a contest which allowed him to play for EA Sports. He entered the game to a standing ovation from his friends and most of the student section. While wearing mismatched shorts, the All-Stars tried their best to get Mitch as many shots as possible. He was able to heave up three 3-point shots and a very weak half court buzzer beater attempt, but none of them went in. Mitch also added a foul to his 0-4 shooting night. It had to have been a great night for him anyway!