Going to Lincoln, Neb., no longer represents an easy trip.
A recent resurgence has Nebraska playing a crucial role in the Big 12 Conference, and some of the Big 12 coaches discussed the Cornhuskers’ progression in the Big 12’s weekly conference call.After starting 1-6 in the conference, Nebraska (14-7, 4-6) has won three straight, including two wins with margins of more than 16 points.
“I think we’ve gained confidence through the year,” Nebraska coach Barry Collier said. “We do know that we have to play at a high level and have all of our team do that. Obviously, the success that you have will spin off that.
“We’re not a team that can be successful, riding just one guy’s play or two guys’ play. We’ve got to have that done collectively. Every coach wants that, but I just think we have that.”
In their 74-55 win against Kansas on Sunday, three Cornhuskers scored 14 points. The Cornhuskers also defeated Missouri 78-62 on Feb. 7 and won at Texas A&M 82-77 on Wednesday.
“Obviously, Nebraska is on a roll,” Kansas State coach Jim Wooldridge said. “They’re a much improved basketball team, and I think a lot of it is because of the experience they have on the floor.”
When the Wildcats played Nebraska on Feb. 4, the Wildcats extended the Cornhuskers’ losing streak to three games with a 78-61 win, but Nebraska has not lost since.
During the Huskers’ winning streak, the Big 12 standings have tightened considerably. With the Cornhuskers’ win against Kansas, only two games separate third place from eighth place, and the Cornhuskers, who are in ninth place, are three games back.
BAD WEEK FOR THE JAYHAWKS: That was Kansas coach Bill Self’s assessment of his team’s play against Oklahoma State and Nebraska.
The Cowboys defeated the Jayhawks 80-60 on Monday in Stillwater, Okla., and the Huskers gave the Jayhawks their third conference loss 74-55 on Sunday.
This marks the first time the Jayhawks (15-6, 7-3) have lost consecutive conference games since Feb. 17, 2001, when they lost to Baylor and Iowa State.
As a result, Self said the Jayhawks’ margin for error has nearly disappeared.
“We’re good enough to play at a much higher level than the way we played last week,” Self said. “I think a lot of it is when things go bad we get so deflated so fast because I don’t think they’re used to that many bad things happening around here. …
“We have better players than the way we played.”
This stretch also marks the first time the Jayhawks have lost three straight road games since 2001.
KLEIZA TO HAVE SURGERY TODAY: Missouri coach Quin Snyder said freshman Linas Kleiza will have surgery on his injured right shoulder today.
Kleiza, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward from Lithuania, dislocated his shoulder Jan. 28 going after a rebound against Colorado’s David Harrison in the final minute of this season’s game in Boulder, Colo. After rehabilitating for two weeks, Kleiza was unable to regain his full mobility and Thursday decided to have surgery.
Kleiza averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds in 16 games. Twice this season, against Belmont on Dec. 30 and Iowa on Jan. 3, Kleiza scored a career-high 18.
EMMETT CLOSES ON COLLISON: Texas Tech senior Andre Emmett needs 19 points to become the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer. Kansas’ Nick Collison holds the record with 2,097 points from 2000-03.
If Emmett scores 112 points in the Red Raiders’ next six games, he will become the leading scorer in Big 12 games. Texas A&M’s Bernard King set the record in 2000-03 with 1,123 points.
Emmett leads the conference in scoring with 22.2 points per game.
WEEKLY HONORS: After averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds, Iowa State forward Jackson Vroman received the Big 12 Player of the Week award.
Oklahoma freshman guard Drew Lavender averaged 21 points in two wins and was named the Rookie of the Week.