Playing at home against an opponent sporting a 16-game road losing streak in the Big 12, the Huskers practically surrendered in the final minute because their coach was unaware of the foul situation.
Sadler didn't realize his team had only five fouls, so he let the Cyclones chew 27 seconds off the clock after they nabbed a steal with 42 seconds remaining. Of course, when Nebraska finally did foul, the Cyclones in-bounded and it wasn't until nine seconds remained that ISU finally went to the line. One free throw was converted on that trip, the last point scored in a 56-53 outcome as the Huskers missed a 3-pointer to end it.
"The mistake that I made in that basketball game was bigger than any mistake our players have made in four years," Sadler said. "I'm very, very upset about it. I didn't know there were five team fouls. That's the mistake I made."
The Huskers can ill afford anyone being unaware of situations, most of all their coach. This team makes due with inferior talent, and Sadler has long got the most out of his players by putting them in winnable situations.
An 0-3 start in the Big 12, however, puts Nebraska (12-6) in a dire situation. The only other conference rival without a win this early into the schedule is Texas Tech. Opportunities to win in crunch time cannot be compromised.
--Nebraska used a shorter rotation in a Jan. 13 loss against Kansas. Just seven players, a season-low, saw the court. Among those who didn't play was F Brandon Ubel, who had drawn 11 starts in 16 previous games and was again in the starting lineup Jan. 16 when Nebraska played Iowa State. Following the loss against the Cyclones, NU coach Doc Sadler hinted he might adjust the minutes players were receiving because he was displeased some of the Huskers weren't following instructions.
--Both Sadler and Iowa State coach Greg McDermott arrived in the Big 12 to begin the 2006-07 season and took over downtrodden programs. McDermott holds a 5-2 edge in head-to-head matchups following a 56-53 win for the Cyclones on Jan. 16.
ON THE SPOT: Nebraska was encouraged by its 11-for-21 (.524) shooting from 3-point range in a Jan. 13 loss against Kansas. Maybe too encouraged. The Huskers converted several wide-open looks against an inactive KU defense, then settled for too many shots from long range against Iowa State. They made just 26.3 percent of their 3-pointers against the Cyclones, going 5 of 19. Expect Nebraska to work for better shots, though inferior size could dictate they still bomb away against bigger opponents.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've done as bad a job of coaching as I can do because we continue to make the same mistakes." -- Nebraska coach Doc Sadler.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Nebraska figured to give Big 12 opponents fits when playing in the Devaney Center and that held true in the first half of the conference home opener against Kansas. The Huskers led the No. 3 Jayhawks at halftime before tumbling 84-72 while allowing an uncharacteristic .578 shooting by KU. What effort Nebraska spent playing just seven players in that game seemed to take its toll in a home-court defeat three days later against Iowa State. Depth is impacted by a lack of talent.
Texas A&M 64, Nebraska 53 Kansas 84, Nebraska 72 Iowa State 56, Nebraska 53 GAME PREVIEW:
IN FOCUS: Back-to-back defeats at home sunk Nebraska to 0-3 in the Big 12 as it heads on the road. Missouri is one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12. The Tigers enjoy a 30-game home-court win streak. Colorado was once considered the easiest place to play in the conference, and still could be, though the Buffs won at home against Baylor on Jan. 12 and took Kansas State to the wire before falling on Jan. 16. Nebraska must try to influence the pace as best it can against Missouri, which likes to speed tempo by pestering opponents into turnovers.
--G Brandon Richardson was slowed by a thigh bruise and the flu entering the Jan. 13 loss to Kansas. The flu bug also affected G Eshaunte Jones and F Quincy Hankins-Cole. Richardson still led the Huskers against KU with 18 points in 21 minutes off the bench. --G Eshaunte Jones did not play against Iowa State because of the flu. He leads the Big 12 in 3-point accuracy, shooting 46.2 percent. --F Jorge Brian Diaz made 15 of 21 shots (.714) over a three-game stretch before going 3 of 13 against Iowa State. That ended a string of seven straight games in which Diaz shot 50 percent or better from the field.