Lincoln, NE - As Jorge Brian Diaz walked to the free throw line, his team down 69-68 to No. 11 Indiana with 11 seconds left in the game, senior guard Toney McCray walked over to the junior center.
“I told him, we are with you if you make them or miss them,” said McCray. “Just go out and do what you do. Just the same routine as always.”
That routine has been off kilter the last month. Diaz has continued to struggled with foot problems - which not only benched him for five games, but has left the Puerto Rico native out of practices recently.
“He didn’t practice the last two days and it’s probably going to be that way,” said Sadler. “He’s just going to have to step in there and play.”
But during his limited availability in practices, Diaz has practiced one thing – his free throw shooting. A 65 percent shooter from the charity stripe, the junior looked calm and collected as Devaney got quiet.
“I knew I had to make those free throws for my teammates,” said Diaz. “I tried to go up there with confidence.”
His first one – swish.
Timeout Indiana. Game tied at 69 all.
“I just kept thinking that I was going to make them,” said Diaz.
Back to the line.
Second free throw – swish.
Huskers with a 70-69 lead. A lead they they would hold on to.
“We have been working hard and knew at some point we had to win,” Diaz said after the game. “We know we have a good team and we are going to win some games. So we have to keep working hard and stay together.
“It feels great to win a game and get back to winning.”
His feet are usually sore after games – something tells me they weren't as bad after Wednesday night's contest. Pain is easier to deal with after a win.
“It was very clutch. He stepped up there and made them,” said Sadler who saw his team earn their second Big Ten win tonight. “You saw six games when he didn’t play and it is a different ball team with him in the game.”
Next up, No. 6 Ohio State at home on Saturday. The 16-3 Buckeyes demolished the Huskers 70-41 in their first meeting New Years Eve.
But that was a Husker squad that didn't have Diaz or their third leading scorer Dylan Talley off the bench.
Saturday night's matchup will be tough to snatch a win, but at least the Huskers are full strength.
“Having the low post presence will be able to help open some things with our offensive game,” Diaz said.
But even more crucial than his presence on offense, Diaz's ability to block or alter shots in the lane – especially against future NBA forward Jared Sullinger.
“It's not going to be easy,” said Sadler. “We got a pretty good team coming in here Saturday.”