LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -Nebraska coach Doc Sadler says it's high time that the nation's smallest Division I team be rewarded for its hard work.
The Cornhuskers have pushed Oklahoma State, then-No. 6 Oklahoma and defending national champion Kansas to the limit during a three-game losing streak.
Just call them the little team that almost could.
``They have given me far more effort than any team I've ever been associated with,'' Sadler said. ``And that's what is so tough.''
A tough loss to Kansas on Wednesday night dropped the Huskers to 12-7 and 2-4 in the Big 12. With very winnable road games up next against Texas Tech and Colorado, Nebraska hopes to be .500 in the league when No. 11 Texas visits Feb. 7.
The Huskers have proved to be one of the toughest defensive teams in the nation, but that virtue hasn't offset their lack of size and several other shortcomings.
the league in rebounding.
Sadler has flummoxed opponents by mixing and matching his defenses. The 6-foot-8 Chris Balham is the Huskers' tallest player, but his minutes are managed carefully because of knee problems. That has left 6-5 Ade Dagunduro covering post players who sometimes have a half-foot height advantage.
Still, the Huskers are just pesky enough to knock opposing offenses out of sync. Just ask Kansas big man Cole Aldrich, who was held without a point or rebound in the first half Wednesday and ended up with a season-low eight points.
But for all the Huskers' hard work on the defensive end, they either can't make a shot when they need it most or get a call to go their way.
``How can you get mad?'' Sadler said. ``The mistakes they are making are effort. How many times did we dive on the floor? We dive on the floor and get a tie-up and we don't get any of them because the arrow goes the other way.
``At some point it has to turn. That is what I told the guys in there: 'You are giving too much effort.' It's a coach's dream to coach them. At some point it's going to turn.''
It's no comfort to Sadler when he looks down the bench and sees a couple of 6-11 players sitting idle.
At Oklahoma last week, the Huskers led by seven points in the first half and were tied with the Sooners in the final seven minutes. Then OU took over, and Nebraska lost 72-61.
Last Saturday against Oklahoma State, Dagunduro appeared to be fouled after rebounding an intentionally missed free throw with 3.5 seconds left in overtime. There was no call, and the Cowboys won 76-74.
On Wednesday, Nebraska trailed 63-62 when KU's Sherron Collins had a baseline shot blocked cleanly by Sek Henry in a crowd. But a foul was called on Ryan Anderson, who was several feet away from the play. Collins made the two free throws with 29 seconds left, and the Jayhawks won 68-62.
All the Huskers can do is keep on scrapping.
``We definitely want to win,'' Dagunduro said. ``The character and our senior leaders will not allow us to lack any effort, no matter if we lose every game to the Big 12 tournament.''

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