I apologize for not getting this posted earlier, but since I wasn't able to watch the game yesterday live, I wanted to watch the recorded game before I made my final judgments.
First off, I'd like to point out the positive from yesterday's game. It wasn't the best defensive performance on the season for the Huskers, but they did hold a team that normally shoots over 60% from inside and close to 40% from outside below their season shooting average. They also did a fairly good job defending ASU's two best players, Pendergraph (only 4 points) and Harden (20 points, but didn't hit a field goal in the first half and didn't really get going until the game was already out of hand).
Now, the negative. A few nitpicky things to start off: they didn't force a lot of turnovers (right on ASU's season average) and let Kuskis and Abbott get open from outside far too often. However, even with that, the Huskers played defense well enough to win. The offense was a different story.
When Eric Piatkowski is the analyst for Husker games on TV, one thing he likes to point out is that good things happen when you attack the basket. Yesterday, the Huskers didn't attack the basket -- at all -- until it was far too late for it to matter. I watched the Huskers get some decent penetration to set up shots coming out of halftime when they looked like they were going to get back into the game. Unfortunately, they stopped trying to drive the basket and seemed content to pass around the three point line. There was a 4-minute stretch where no Husker dribbled in the half-court offense, much less tried to drive.
The results? First off, the Huskers couldn't create shots. I didn't have as much of a problem with some of the ugly shots that Steve Harley, Ade Dagunduro, and Toney McCray took off of drives as I did with the early and covered threes that were taken without even an attempt to drive for an easy shot. As a result, the Huskers went cold -- a lot -- and couldn't warm up again. Further, because no Husker ever set foot inside the 3-point arc, offensive boards were pretty much impossible.
Offense: F. 44 points isn't going to be enough to beat a Top 25 team, or any Big XII team. 5-23 2-pt shooting is simply atrocious. There wasn't even a real effort to penetrate ASU's zone, and they seemed content to let Husker shooters miss 3s all day.
Defense: B-. The Huskers defended ASU well enough to win, had they been able to muster anything offensively. There was some room for improvement, still, as there weren't enough forced turnovers, and a lot of open shots from the ASU supporting cast.
Rebounding: F. THREE OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS. For the game. And two of those were immediately followed by turnovers. When you're shooting poorly as it is, you need to get second-chance shots. With no penetration on offense, there was no chance.
Ball-Handling: C-. Well, 14 turnovers isn't that bad, but the Huskers didn't really "handle" the ball for large stretches of the game, instead playing hot potato around the three-point arc.
Coaching: C-. Defensively, Doc had a good game plan. Offensively, I'm not sure what was going on. After halftime, the Huskers came out and played about 4 minutes of solid basketball, then immediately returned to tossing the ball lazily about the arc rather than really executing any sort of offense, and nothing was done to fix it until it was too late.
Officiating: ?????. I'm not sure what was going on, but the Huskers had 9 fouls in the first half to ASU's 2, and 19 for the game to ASU's 9. The contact looked fairly even on both sides, but was called lopsidedly for the home team. Moreover, there were some ticky tack fouls called late in the game when it was already out of reach.
Overall: D. If the loss had been a little more respectable (say 64-54), this probably wouldn't have been a bad grade. But the seeming unwillingness to even try to drive the hoop really makes you wonder if the Huskers got another case of stage fright. As it is, the Huskers need to really step up now in Big XII play to have any chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
Player of the Game: Steve Harley. It really seemed like any time something positive was happening, Steve had his hand in on the play. He was the only Husker in double figures scoring, and the only one who didn't commit a foul.
Next Up: Saturday at Oregon State, 7 PM CST. (on TV on FSN Midwest in Nebraska, ESPN GamePlan/ESPN 360 nationally).
Notes: Still no word on 7-1 Jorge Diaz and whether he'll be able to join the team later this month....The Big XII sits 6-4 in the Big XII-Pac 10 Challenge, with Kansas-Arizona and Stanford-Texas Tech yet to play.