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HEADY: Solid fans are essential in creating a strong basketball program

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Rather than give him a ticket, the trooper gave Pat Smith a quick Nebraska pitch, and told him how rich the tradition of winning was and the pride of being a Husker.

“It convinced me there’s no place I’d rather be,” Smith said in the article.

But that same pride was simply nonexistent last night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, as the Huskers fell to Illinois 71-51 for their sixth home loss of the year.

It got up from their seats and walked out the door with 5:13 left after Illinois called a timeout after claiming a 61-46 lead. Nebraska had battled all game and, though the game was slowly becoming out of reach, they were at least keeping it a fight. But Nebraska fans apparently had enough, as most of the crowd sifted out into the 10 degree cold.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles couldn’t find pride on the court, either.

“We played with zero pride,” @CoachMiles read on Twitter.

This university desperately wants a successful basketball program, a “winner” as Miles calls it, but a “winner” doesn’t just appear. It needs to be revolutionized.

And last night, Doc Sadler’s stink of a program still resonated all over the Devaney Center.

During the starting lineups, the crowd was not much more than a dull roar as Herbie Husker waved a gigantic “N” flag at center court. The “Red Zone” wasn’t much louder than 10 ceiling fans the first few Illinois possessions, and the Illini jumped out to an early 15-4 lead.

I’ve personally been at a volleyball warmup with maybe 100 people in the gym that was louder than the crowd in the first few minutes last night. For a program that insists its on a comeback, that just simply can’t happen.

Getting a new coach is one thing, and wanting a rejuvenated program is another. But actually acting toward change is the last major step for Nebraska and its fans if they really want their “only a football school” status to wear off.

And I get it, you can’t win all Big Ten games (arguably the best conference in America this year) and you can’t expect large crowds like the Creighton game each night. But Illinois was coming off three straight losses, including their last game which was a 68-54 thrashing by unranked Northwestern. Nebraska was coming off their first Big Ten win of the year over Penn State and a win would put them at ninth or tenth in the conference, two or three spots higher than their projected 12th.

Nebraska was even favored by four points over the once No. 15 team in the country coming into the game. And the Devaney Center was hardly 75 percent full.

I’m not saying the 20-point loss falls on the fans, but every “winner” in college basketball has some sort of home court, and the decency to know that a game isn’t over with five minutes left, down 15.

Talk about change needs to cease and actual change needs to begin.

Football season may end in November, but the pride of the Husker fans shouldn’t.

Chris heady is a freshman news editorial major. you can reach him at sports@

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