It was an extremely cold night outside the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska last night, but Centenary's shooting against Nebraska may have been even colder in the Huskers 68-45 win. With temperatures outside around ten below zero, Centenary was frigid inside by shooting 20 percent with only ten made field goals. The Husker defense played very well and held Centenary's extremely talented shooter, Andrew Wisnieski, to 9 points on 2-of-13 shooting. Wisniewski averaged 19.6 points/game last year.
The depth of the Huskers showed with eight players putting up at least six points and the leading scoring was Corey Simms with ten points off of the bench. Nate Johnson finished with nine points on 4-of-9 shooting and had a fantastic reverse layup in the first half. It sounded like he was much more comfortable to start this game than either of the two exhibition games. Brennon Clemmons, Jake Muhleisen, and Andrew Drevo all played solid games in their starting roles.
Along with Simms, a small surprise came from Brian Conklin off of the bench. It wasn't a surprise that he scored eight points, but that he tied with Simms for the team lead in rebounds at six. Conk was an animal in the second half and maybe, just maybe, his three year eating plan might be paying off. He is playing bigger and smarter this year and can still hit the 3-pointer with the best of them. Great to have him on the bench to really bolster the depth on this squad.
All three freshmen made their debuts and did a decent job. Wesley Wilkinson was the first substitute into the game and put in six points with a block. Jason Dourriseau only played eight minutes, but managed to get one basket and a rebound. Roy Enright, my favorite freshman as you all know, played four minutes and racked up two fouls. A bright spot is that he hit both of his free throws. I still question why he did not redshirt, but I will trust Barry on this one. I would understand it more if the Huskers were not so deep with big men.
Up next is the host school Alaska-Fairbanks at 9 pm central on Saturday. The Nanooks upset Wisconsin-Green Bay 78-55 and may give Nebraska a challenge if the crowd gets into it. While this scenario could happen, it is unlikely. Nebraska built up a LOT of confidence in the first win and the Nanooks really are not that good. The Huskers beat them 84-55 in 2000, also known as the year that Missouri-Kansas City beat the Huskers at Devaney, and a repeat of that performance should happen.
Prediction: Nebraska 78 Alaska-Fairbanks 45. Husker defense is just too strong for the Nanooks.
Extra note: I believe the Huskers had three, YES THREE, dunks last night, which was about as many as they had all year last year. Turek's dunk sounded like a great alley-oop! If this team can play great defense, shoot from everywhere, hustle for every loose ball, AND get above the rim then excitement will follow them all year.