LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska coach Barry Collier watched his
team roll over Montana State 78-45 Sunday afternoon, then
pronounced them ready for Big 12 conference play. That is, if they
play hard for all 40 minutes of the game.
Nebraska stood at 6-4 in non-conference play following Sunday's
win. Collier said his team is improving, particularly on defense.Montana State struggled to score against Nebraska's stifling
defense. The Huskers held the Bobcats to just 30 percent shooting
while forcing 20 turnovers and blocking six shots."Overall tonight, we played well defensively," Collier said.
"One thing we wanted to improve this year was defense. Now, to a
great extent, the real test begins."We've played some opponents who have given us fits," Collier
said. "We played a good schedule that's prepared us for the Big
12. If you're not fired up about playing here, the butter has
slipped off your biscuit."Nebraska faces Kansas State in Lincoln on Saturday in its
conference opener."The biggest challenge we have is to prepare mentally for the
game regardless of the opponent," he said.Collier said he is hoping the Huskers don't repeat Sunday's
start against the Bobcats.Nebraska used a 17-5 run to take a 27-12 lead on Joe McCray's
layup with 7:59 remaining in the first half. But Montana State
(5-8) countered with nine straight, cutting the Husker lead to
27-21 on Ryan Holmes' basket with 5:10 left."In the first half, we didn't play 100 percent all the time,"
said Wes Wilkinson, who came off the bench to tie his career high
with 13 points and eight rebounds. "We had minutes where we played
hard. That's when we built our lead. Then we let them back in the
game. We have to play hard the whole game."Nebraska closed the half on a 6-2 run, then opened the second
period with a 13-2 spurt. The Bobcats outscored the Huskers 7-2 in
the next three minutes, but Nebraska put the game away with a 16-0
run capped by a McCray 3-pointer that made the score 67-34 with
7:06 left.That second half performance and last week's one-point win at
Tennessee had freshman McCray encouraged as he prepares for his
first conference game."People are stepping forward and making the extra pass and
playing as a team," he said. "I think we're going to come out and
surprise some people."McCray scored 19, leading four Huskers in double figures.
Joining McCray were John Turek with 15, Wes Wilkinson with 13 and
Marcus Neal Jr. with 11.As a senior, Turek knows what it will take to be competitive in
the Big 12."If we get guys to consistently play well for us, we're going
to be a tough team to beat," Turek said. "I think things do step
up at this level. We're going to have to step up our intensity in
practice and in the games."