2008 Big 12 Tournament
Big 12 tournament
Kansas City, Mo. Nebraska basketball coach Doc Sadler has the white flag tucked away in his back pocket. Just in case he needs it tonight when his team plays Kansas University in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.
Sadler was elated when Nebraska beat Missouri, 61-56, in the first round Thursday night at the Sprint Center. He gushed with pride about locking down the Tigers and improving to 19-11 on the season.
He then was asked about the looming matchup with the Jayhawks, which tips off at 6 p.m. today.
"I am the happiest guy in the gym because if we wouldn't have won, we wouldn't be getting the chance to play again," Sadler said. "The happiness ends there."
Chuckles scattered. But Sadler wasn't done.
"I've gotten the chance to play them four times," Sadler said of KU. ": My question to ya'll is, do ya'll have any suggestions? Because what I've done hasn't worked."
Therein lies the cruelty of the compressed Big 12 tournament schedule. Sadler and the Huskers had all of 10 minutes to enjoy Thursday's victory before turning to the monster upcoming.
Truthfully, they deserved more. Nebraska did a solid job defensively of keeping Missouri from stealing the game late. Down 59-56 with less than a minute to go, Missouri was aspiring for a tying three-point shot but couldn't get a good look. Eventually, Jason Horton unsuccessfully drove the lane, and a Leo Lyons putback was blocked by Nebraska's Aleks Maric with 11 seconds left.
Two free throws stretched the lead to five, and all but ended Missouri's season at 16-16.
"I think it is going to take some recruiting classes, no question about it," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said of turning Mizzou around. "I inherited a team. One thing about me, I never complain about what I don't have. I just work with what I got."
Nebraska, meanwhile, is looking for something extraordinary to make up two poundings KU unleashed early in the Big 12 Conference season.
For Maric, it will be his final time playing the Jayhawks, and the All-Big 12 center's troubles with KU are well-documented. He went scoreless in the game in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 26.
So knocking off the 28-3 Jayhawks today? That'd be something.
"It would mean a lot," said Maric, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots Thursday. "I think if we're able to pull this one off, it'd be a signature win obviously."
But just in case, Sadler has the punchlines ready. He's 0-4 against Kansas in his two seasons at NU, losing by an average of 32 points per pounding. It's not expected to be too much different this time.
He said it'd take a "near-perfect" effort to knock off the Jayhawks. So yeah, he already was thinking about it, just minutes after the elation of beating Missouri.
"I don't know what's going to happen, but I know this: We're going to give an effort for 40 minutes, and we have all four times we've played them," Sadler said. "It's just the score has been way out of whack.
"So I don't know. I'm happy but sad, I guess. Does that make sense?"