Sunday, February 19, 2012

Husker Hoops Blows Up and Blows Out Illinois

I turned on yesterday's Nebraska basketball game a little late; it must have tipped off right at 4 pm.  Illinois was already up 15-7 barely five minutes into the game.  It looked like the same old thing from the Huskers.  Bad defense, and woeful offense.  Case in point, Nebraska makes a nice steal and has a 4 on 1 fast break opportunity.  Easy basket?  Hardly.  They get in too big of a hurry and a desperation layup clanks off the bottom of the rim.  Simply painful.  One of the commenters over on the CornNation game thread mentions that Kevin Kugler "sound(s) like he’s swallowing his throat" on the BTN broadcast.  Hey, it's his alma mater, and he's got to call it straight up even though he wants to let his frustration loose.

I'm doing some household chores, watching the game on the side and it's 24-16 when I get called away.  I stop back and it's suddenly 24-23.  Then before I can get back to the television, suddenly the Huskers are up 25-24.  Wow.  So now I'm transfixed.  Suddenly, there's a spark in the Big Red, led by a 2-3 zone defense.  Right before halftime, the Illini try to follow a Brandon Richardson three-pointer by playing for the final shot.  But the Husker defense locks them down, and all they can manage is a wild pass out of bounds as the horn sounds.  Nebraska surprisingly leads by 7.

Nice run, but Illinois is just too good to let this stand.  But Nebraska comes out of the locker room with a can of whoop-a$$ that hasn't been opened in a long, long time.  Another three to open the half, and the defense is stifling.  Illinois just plain gave up.  As the Husker run continued, it started to attract national attention on Twitter.  Nebraska went on a 45-7 run from that point when I got called away, and eventually the lead stretched to 30 points.

It was not only stifling defense, but also a fast paced offense that Doc Sadler had originally called for when he first arrived. Take this alley-oop from Bo Spencer to Caleb Walker, courtesy of BTN:


Yowza.  Nebraska emptied the bench shortly thereafter, and while the demoralized Illini cut the eventual margin of defeat to 23, it was still an impressive victory.  But does that change the fact that Doc Sadler appears to be on his last legs as Nebraska's head coach?

Hardly.  It's just one game.  Even Bill Callahan had his 73-31 victory over Kansas State in that awful November of 2007.  That never could save his job, mostly because Callahan ran up the score on the Wildcats to make him look better than he really was.

But I don't pretend to speak for Tom Osborne.  I attribute yesterday's outburst to everything suddenly going right against an opponent who essentially gave up at halftime.  But if Nebraska can somehow build on this performance, gain some confidence, and win a few games down the stretch, you never know.  Sadler won't be allowed to run this program the way he has going forward; he might save his job in theory, but the need for better players isn't going away.  He'll have to find a way to get those players, and fast.   There's a new arena opening in a couple of years, and fans need some reason to be optimistic about the direction of the program.  If Sadler can't do that in the next few weeks (which I'm pretty doubtful he can do), Osborne won't have much of a choice in the matter.

I like Doc Sadler, and wish him the best.  But we need more games like yesterday, and fewer like we've seen prior to that.

2 comments:

Section 37 said...

Mike,

Do you think Tom will try to get Dana Altman despite Phil Knight's deep pocket's?

IMO, Altman was the "one that got away," so to speak. I've always thought Bill Byrne kept a floundering Danny Nee a couple of years too long and should have tried to grab Dana when he had the chance.

Husker Mike said...

I'm sure there may be an inquiry...but I sense that's somewhat unlikely. I'm not sure whether Altman still has that same fire, and I'm not sure Nebraska can compete with Nike money.

Getting Altman on board would really irritate Bandwagon Brie on the Hilltop, though.