Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dagunduro sharp early, but Huskers ‘wore down’



2008 Big 12 Tournament

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2008 Big 12 Tournament

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2007-08 March 14 KU-NU Hoops

— Nebraska guard Ade Dagunduro floated through the air and finished a wicked one-handed putback with 37 seconds left Friday.

A fitting end to an explosive night. But it didn't help the Huskers that the slam was Dagunduro's only field goal in the second half.

With Nebraska's first-half key transformed into second-half silence, Kansas University came back and beat Nebraska, 64-54, in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals at the Sprint Center.

But for all the talk about Aleks Maric inside, it was the first-half play of Dagunduro that proved the most entertaining and influential on Nebraska's 27-22 halftime lead. The 6-foot-5 junior finished with 13 points, but had 10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals in the first half alone. He also had a crowd-pleasing block of a Darrell Arthur dunk to add to the Jayhawks' first-half troubles.

"He's got the quickest first step I've ever seen," KU junior Brandon Rush said of Dagunduro. "It was tough to guard him."

Rush got the call after Dagunduro had his way in the first half. Six of his points were on three-pointers, and a put-back slam was waved off because of an offensive goal-tending call.

Still, he had a presence, and so did the heavily underdogged Huskers.

"That was as well as I've played," said Dagunduro, who averaged 8.3 points per game entering Friday's showdown. "They had a big man checking me at one point, so it was kind of easy for me to get around him. I just took advantage of the mismatch they gave me."

Nebraska players said they went into halftime feeling great, but knowing they would have to brace for a flurry of KU punches to open the second half.

It's exactly what happened, and the Huskers didn't react well enough to hold their ground. Kansas outscored Nebraska, 42-27, in the second half.

"I think more than anything, it's just a physical thing," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. "Those guys are so much more athletic and bigger, and our guys wore down. We gave up four offensive rebounds in the first half and 10 in the second half. And we turned the basketball over quite a bit more often in the second half."

The Huskers dropped to 19-12, but their season probably isn't over.

It's likely they will get an invitation to the NIT for the third time since 2004.

Considering Sadler's first four meetings against KU were losses by an average of 35 points, losing by just 10 on Friday could be labeled a step forward.

But it's not enough for Nebraska's second-year leader.

"I'm not one of those dudes that get much out of losing," Sadler said. "We didn't come into this game tonight to play close.

": We've got to get to the level that no matter who we're playing, we want to win. We don't want to play close."


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