Bo Spencer might have said it best – the monkey is off their back.
The Nebraska men's basketball team got their first Big Ten win on Wednesday night, a 70-58 triumph over Penn State.
But it didn't come easy. Penn State's ¾ court press bothered Nebraska (9-7, 1-4 Big Ten) in the second half. Not because the Nittany Lions were showing something new, but because Nebraska was pressing themselves.
After dropping their first four contests in conference play, the Huskers hardly looked like a team that was supposed to be Doc Sadler's best at Nebraska.
“We got caught up in it,” said guard Brandon Richardson. His head coach echoed his statement.
“They’re getting asked about it by students, parents, girlfriends, everybody. As a coach, you understand,” said Sadler. “For four games, these guys have competed and played hard. We didn’t win. But at no time during those four games have I gotten down about it. But if somebody asks if it’s a must win, sure it’s a must win.”
With a must win situation on their plate, Nebraska played the first half aggressive. The second, not to lose.
With a win out of the way, it's the hope that the Huskers play a different style of basketball the remaining part of the conference schedule.
“Hopefully this gets us on a roll,” said Richardson. “It's a long season.”
Richardson is right. A very long season, with a chance to play opponents again that Nebraska struggled with in their first four contests.
The new kids on the block might have played somewhat timid the first time around. New opponents can seem somewhat unbeatable – causing a team to play cautious. Don't expect that the second time around for the Huskers. It starts in Madison with Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon, a team Nebraska lost to by 24 just a few weeks ago.
“It won't be easy, going on the road is never easy,” said Richardson. “We just have to have that mentality and try to steal one.”
It will help that Nebraska should have two key players this time around in the form of Dylan Talley and Brian Jorge Diaz. Talley can be instant offense coming off the bench, while Diaz is a force inside both offensive and defensively.
“You can't play this game without having a low post presence,” said Salder when speaking of Diaz's return. “Our guys confidence has gone up, but that doesn't say all of our problems are fixed.”
* Nebraska played a 7-man rotation against Penn State on Wednesday and plans to continue the trend throughout the rest of the conference season.
* Brandon Richardson tweaked his knee against the Nittany Lions, but after getting rehab Thursday feels he should be fine for Wisconsin on Sunday.