Nebraska basketball's all-time leading scorerwas sitting in his mid-court seats with his wife Wednesday night, rooting his alma mater on against the hustling Hoosiers of Indiana and once the final gun sounded, like all Husker fans standing on their feet inside the Devaney Center, Dave Hoppen could “feel it” and he could spell it … R-E-L-I-E-F.
“You can just tell people were waiting for something good like this to happen. We needed that bad,” Hoppen said as he watched Big Red fans storm the court to celebrate the season’s biggest win over No. 11 Indiana.
“We played well in a couple of other games on the road and didn’t finish them out at Illinois and Wisconsin. So this is a great win,” Hoppen said. “We knuckled down on defense and came back strong from 13 down. We should get a full house Saturday night for Ohio State … we should have had a full house tonight.”
Now that the Huskers have cracked the safe and pulled out a big-big-big Big Ten win, “it’ll bring another 4,000 or 5,000 fans in here Saturday night,” predicted Jerry Seiler, a Hastings, Neb., surgeon who has Nebraska season tickets in football and volleyball and attended his first basketball game of the season Wednesday night.
Sign of a Happy Man: Watching Doc Jump
“This win was big because it’s the Big Ten,” said Ayr, Neb., basketball season ticketholder Glen Wiens, who convinced Seiler to ride with him from Hastings. “I like Doc. It’s great to see him jumping up-and-down on the court with all the students. We needed a game like this, but no one needed it more than Doc.”
Marc Boehm, Nebraska’s executive associate athletic director in charge of basketball, called it a great night. “I just want to thank all the fans,” he said. “When it was coming down to the last two minutes, I couldn’t help but look up into the stands and see everyone standing and cheering when the game came down to the wire.”
Boehm made an announcement on the Husker Sports Network while Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison waited for Sadler to finish national television interviews. “For all the people who came out tonight and supported this team, this one’s for you,” Boehm said. “Let’s face it, we’ve had a tough stretch, and it was just great to get a win for these fans, these kids who have worked so hard and for Doc and his entire staff.”
Praise and credit were well deserved, but Boehm transitioned quickly to the next big hurdle in the Huskers’ road to Big Ten respectability: The big, bad Buckeyes from The Ohio State University and their all-everything sophomore forward, Jared Sullinger.
“It doesn’t stop here,” Boehm said of the Indiana win. “We have a huge game here Saturday night. Ohio State comes in, and I think these kids are up to the challenge once again.”
Boehm didn’t say it, but he knows a bigger crowd creates a stronger home-court advantage and exponentially increases any opportunity to manufacture an upset against a team that handed Nebraska its most lopsided loss of the season in Columbus.
Holly Adam, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for tickets, said Thursday that 9,700 seats have been sold for Saturday night's game against No. 4 Ohio State. Tickets for the OSU gameand its 7 p.m. tip-offare available onHuskers.comand by phone. Pricesbegin at $20. Tickets also can be purchased by calling 402-472-3111 or 1-800-8BIGRED.
“I hope the Devaney is crammed to the rafters for the Ohio State game,” Pavelka told his listeners after Sadler’s post-game show. Translation: Even a radio guy knows the impact a full house can have on a national television audience, not to mention the extra adrenaline it can create in players who will battle valiantly to score an even bigger upset that could change the course of this historic season.
All Sadler can vouch for is what he promised earlier this week – relentless effort and a never-give-up mindset. Now that his team has some confidence to go with all that effort, Saturday night offers a once unimaginable reward. With one big win and in one fell swoop, Nebraska has a chance to change its path from Rocky Road to Glory Road.
And the Huskers already have the perfect role model in the Michigan Wolverines, who recovered from a 1-and-6 start in the Big Ten to qualify for last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Following in those footprints will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
“We need our fans,” Hoppen said. “You could see tonight the kind of impact they can have.”