LINCOLN, NEB. (AP) - Nebraska is on its longest winning streak in 16 years and Doc Sadler says he has the makings for the best team in his five seasons as coach.
He and his players understand if fans aren’t ready to jump on the bandwagon.
USC, at No. 56, is the only opponent during the 10-game streak that’s among the top 100 in the RPI released by the NCAA this week. Five are No. 225 or lower, including each of the last four teams Nebraska (12-2) has beaten.
Skeptics _ and there are a lot of them around a program that hasn’t won a conference championship since 1950 _ are waiting to see what the Huskers do now with Big 12 play starting Saturday night against Iowa State (13-2).
The Huskers finished at the bottom of the Big 12 last season with a 2-14 record, and they’re picked 10th this year.
“What we did last year doesn’t help us out a lot with fans,” point guard Lance Jeter said. “We definitely feel we’re a better team than last year, that we do have better pieces to the puzzle. We are more powerful, stronger, bigger. Now we have to go out and prove it and show people we are a different team.”
Nebraska has shot 50 percent in each of the last five games, the first time that’s happened since a six-game stretch in 2000-01. The Huskers have held their last four opponents under 50 points _ but, remember, it was against Eastern Washington, Grambling, North Dakota and Savannah State.
For the season, they are giving up just 52.9 points a game and allowing opponents to shoot 33.5 percent, ranking No. 2 nationally in both categories.
“It makes us confident,” guard Toney McCray said. “Winning is always good. But the competition is going to get a lot better down the road.”
The game against Iowa State is only the first of 16 in the Big 12, but it’s an important one considering back-to-back road games against ninth-ranked Missouri and No. 3 Kansas are up next.
“This is definitely one you have to get because it’s at home,” Jeter said. “We can prove we do belong. It’s a new team and a new season.”
The Huskers are depending on their defense as they wait for their offense to develop. Their leading scorer, Jorge Brian Diaz, averages only 10.9 points per game. But he and the Huskers’ other big men, Brandon Ubbel and Andre Almeida, have combined to shoot 62 percent.
To capitalize on the improved inside game and discourage double teams, Nebraska needs more production from its wing men. None are averaging even 6 points.
“Until we can get 15-16 points combined from those two wing spots,” Sadler said, “we’re going to struggle.”
The Huskers’ average winning margin is almost 17 points, and they’ve won their last four games by 20, 31, 40 and 30 points. Sadler said he’s not worried about how his team will respond in a close game after having won so many handily.