Sek Henry, Ryan Anderson, and Ben Nelson will take the court for one last time at the Devaney Center on Tuesday night. Senior student-coach Chris Balham will also be joining those honored before the game. This season hasn't exactly seen the same glamour and fortune as the womens team, but it's been one full of hard-fought games, identity(and ego) checks, and close losses. The Cornhuskers 2-12 league record would indicate a failed season by most accounts, but this group of seniors were tasked with keeping together a young, and inexperienced bunch after losing three scholarship players early on.
Highly touted sophomore Toney McCray, who saw action in all of Nebraskas games last year, played all of 56 total minutes in the first 3 games before a detached elbow ligament sidelined him for the season. McCray was rated as the 10th best player out of the state of Texas when recruited, and averaged over 5 points a game during his freshman season. The 6'6" forward is not just a large presence on the floor, but has enormous reach and a pretty good jump-shot to go along with it.
6'11" Christopher Niemann, another likely starter, was also relegated to the bench after tearing the same ACL he injured back in March of 2009. Although just a sophomore, Niemann would have been the Huskers first option in the paint before bringing in freshman Brian Jorge-Diaz as a bench player.
Lastly, Junior walk-on Mitch Albers decided that Omaha was more his speed...and transferred away from a possible scholarship at Nebraska to play for the UNO Mavs. Albers originally averaged over 15 points while playing for the Mavericks, but decided to walk on at Nebraska in 2009 before changing his mind yet again and returning to his old team. Division II school or not, 15 points per game is nothing to sneeze at, and Nebraska needed all of the scoring power it could muster this year.
(more after jump..)
Can you really lose that much potential, and still expect to have a great year? Granted, this season has been worse than most could have predicted, I still think with those 3 guys on the roster we could've made some noise in the Big 12. We'll get Niemann and McCray back for next year, along with the young crop of guys that have played so much all season long in their absence. It's just too bad though, because Ryan Anderson and Sek Henry are probably not NBA caliber anytime soon (if ever), and for them to get 6 or 7 more wins would have been nice. Oh well, maybe the NBA-D League has a spot for them, and I'll see one of these guys over in Des Moines someday soon?
The home season wraps up with a clash against Colorado, three days after a gut-check, double-overtime win against Texas Tech on Saturday. Following a senior-night presentation, the Cornhuskers will do battle with the Buffaloes for the second time this year. The first meeting saw Nebraska lay a house full of bricks, trailing the whole game and losing by 12 points thanks to some pretty terrible shooting, and a defense that was unable to match Colorado's athleticism on offense. We did see freshman Christian Standhardinger in his first solid performance, leading Nebraska on that horrid night with 14 points. Remember that game? That's when Husker fans everywhere caught wind of this new German kid who could supposedly torch the nets, and possibly be what Nebraska needed to win some ball games? Turned out to be too much pressure for a freshman out of the eastern bloc.
Nebraska followed that loss with a blowout win over Oklahoma, but then proceeded to lose 7 of their next 8 games. Colorado hasn't fared all that much better, losing 6 of it's next 8 games after beating Nebraska. Something tells me that Nebraska is by far the better coached team here, and if it weren't for the previously mentioned losses to it's starting rotation, the Huskers would be a notch or two above the Buffs. The Huskers have been a streaky team this year, hitting strides this season where the 3 pointers have fallen at incredible rates. This of course is often followed by stretches of poor shooting, giving us no chance to win a game regardless of how our defense plays.
The shooting has been coming alive again lately though, and the senior is leading the charge. When counting just Big 12 play, Nebraska's Ryan Anderson is the top 3 point shooter in the league at 48%. Spanning the whole year, Anderson ranks third in the Big 12 at 42% from downtown. Not bad! Esaunte (Bear) Jones is actually shooting 49% from the arc this year, which would lead the Huskers if he had enough shots to qualify for Big 12 statistics.
Having said that, we will need to keep the winning momentum rolling here on Tuesday night if we are to get a second straight conference win. Confidence seems to be building every game for this young group (it's a bit late for that!) , but as we saw on Saturday, the seniors can..and will need to step it up and lead this team. Colorado guard Alec Burks got the best of the Huskers last time scoring 21 points, so it will be interesting to see what Doc has up his sleeve to stop the freshman standout this time around. Nebraska will also need a plan for Junior guard Cory Higgins, who is averaging almost 19 points per game this year. Hopefully the home crowd will turn out to support the departing senior class, and boost these guys to victory.
Make the shots when they count, and take care of the ball. Those are the keys in my opinion. Home court for Nebraska spells advantage for the Huskers in this one. Colorado hasn't swept a season series since 1972, so I'm going with the Big Red here. I think they may have found a little swagger in their step, and in what would otherwise be seen as an even matchup, I think these two factors will give us another conference win heading into the last game of the regular season versus Oklahoma State. Look for Ryan Anderson to step up here and have a good game. Something tells me that he won't be going out a loser at home.
Tipoff: 7:07pm CST
Venue: Bob Devaney Sports Center - Lincoln, NE
Television: FS Midwest, ESPN Fullcourt
Radio: Husker Sports Network (Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison)
Internet Radio/Stats: www.Huskers.com
Live Game thread: www.CornNation.com