Huskers Host Wildcats Saturday Afternoon
Game 21: vs. Northwestern
Game Date: Jan. 26, 2013
Tipoff Time: 2:05 p.m.
Venue: Bob Devaney Sports Center
2012-13 Record: 10-10, 1-6 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 10-10 (1st year)
Career Record: 293-230 (18th year)
2012-13 Record: 12-8, 3-4 Big Ten
Head coach: Bill Carmody
Record at Northwestern: 191-200 (13th year)
Career Record: 283-225 (17th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: ESPNU and also on WatchESPN
Television: ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 208, Dish Ch. 141, Ch. 235 on Time Warner Cable; Ch. 220 on Cox Cable)
Play-by-play: Adam Amin
Color: Brooke Weisbrod
Radio: Across the state on the IMG Husker Sports Radio Network, including KLIN (1400 AM/94.5 FM) in Lincoln, KFAB (1110 AM) in Omaha and KRVN (880 AM) in Lexington.
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Color: Matt Davison
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius Ch. 85, XM Ch. 85
Huskers Host Wildcats on Saturday
The Nebraska men's basketball team looks to get back on the winning track Saturday afternoon, as the Huskers play host to Northwestern at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Tip-off is set for 2:05 p.m. (central) and tickets can be purchased for as little as $10 by visiting Huskers.com, by calling 800-8-BIGRED or at the Devaney Center Ticket Office beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Saturday's game will be carried across the state on the 29-station Husker Sports Network, including flagship stations KLIN (1400 AM/94.5 FM) in Lincoln, KFAB (1110 AM) in Omaha and KRVN (880 AM) in Lexington, with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison calling all of the action. The game can be heard for free at Huskers.com and is also available on the Huskers' app on iOS or android devices.
The matchup between the Huskers and Wildcats will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Adam Amin and Brooke Weisbrod, as every remaining Husker game in 2012-13 will be televised nationally. The game will also be available on the WatchESPN app for iOS or android devices.
The Huskers (10-10, 1-6 B1G) were unable to get untracked against Illinois on Tuesday, as the Illini never trailed and out-rebounded the Huskers, 40-28. Dylan Talley was one of the lone bright spots for the Huskers, as the senior led the Huskers with 16 points, including a 7-of-7 effort from the foul line.
After going to the foul line just 40 times in the first five conference games, the Huskers got to the line 46 times in the last two games, including a 21-of-30 effort from the charity stripe on Tuesday. More importantly for a Husker team that has struggled at times on the offensive end, Nebraska has converted at an 80 percent clip in the last two contests.
The Huskers will need a strong effort against a Northwestern team that may be playing its best basketball of the season. The Wildcats, who are making their first trip to Lincoln since 1975, come off an impressive 55-48 win over No. 12 Minnesota on Wednesday. In that game, Jared Swopshire led the Wildcats (12-8, 3-4 Big Ten) with 16 points and eight rebounds to pace three Wildcats in double figures. Northwestern held the Gophers to 33 percent shooting, including 5-of-19 from 3-point range.
By The Numbers
10.1 - Scoring average of Shavon Shields in Big Ten games even after being held to two points against Illinois on Tuesday. The last Husker freshman to average double figures in conference games was Jamel White in 2005-06.
11 - Points that Brandon Ubel needs to crack the top 50 scoring list at Nebraska. Ubel has 751 points to rank 55th. Nate Johnson (2003-04) and Fred Sager (1952-54) share the No. 50 spot with 762 career points.
40% - Nebraska is 9-0 on the season when they shoot at least 40 percent from the floor and 1-10 in games where they don't meet that mark.
23 - Consecutive free throws made by the Huskers before David Rivers missed with 4:48 left in the first half. The school record was 34 set during the 1985-86 season.
30 - Free throws attempted by the Huskers on Tuesday against Illinois, the most by Nebraska in a conference game since joining the Big Ten.
Northwestern comes into Saturday's game with a 12-8 record following a 55-48 upset of No. 12 Minnesota Wednesday evening. The Wildcats have faced a difficult slate early on, playing five of their first seven games against ranked foes. Northwestern went on the road and topped No. 23 Illinois on Jan. 17 before knocking off the Gophers in Evanston on Wednesday.
Under the direction of 13th-year coach Bill Carmody, Northwestern has won at least 19 games in each of the past three seasons, including consecutive 20-win campaigns in 2009-10 and 2010-11. This year, the Wildcats opened the season with six straight wins before falling to Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Northwestern also picked up an impressive road win at Baylor and played both Butler and Stanford tough before losing in non-conference play.
The Wildcats were dealt a tough blow in December, as senior guard Drew Crawford underwent season-ending surgery. Crawford was second on the team in both scoring (13.5 ppg) and rebounding (4.6 rpg). Northwestern's backcourt of Reggie Hearn and Dave Sobolewski has been solid for the Wildcats. Hearn leads Northwestern in scoring with 14.4 ppg and is second in rebounding with 4.6 rpg. Sobolewski chips in 11.0 ppg and is among the Big Ten leaders in assists with 4.5 apg. The Wildcats frontcourt has been retooled with the transfer of senior Jared Swopshire (9.6 ppg and a team-best 6.1 rpg) who spent the previous four seasons at Louisville, as well as freshmen Alex Olah.
Nebraska-Northwestern Series History
Nebraska and Northwestern meet for only the sixth time ever on Saturday afternoon, as the Huskers hold a 3-2 lead in a series that dates back to 1933. This is only the second time that the Wildcats have visited Lincoln and the first time since a 79-68 win on Nov. 29, 1975.
Nebraska saw its three-game win streak in the series snapped last year in an 84-74 loss in Evanston. In that game, Nebraska cut a 15-point second-half deficit to one behind the shooting of Bo Spencer, who scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half. The Wildcats went 14-of-31 from beyond the arc, as John Shurna and Drew Crawford combined for 49 points. Shurna was 9-of-13 from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers, while Crawford finished with 21 points.
The Huskers' last win in the series came with a 61-52 win in the 1999 Hoop and Quill Classic in St. Charles, Mo. In that game, current Nebraska assistant coach Ben Johnson scored 18 points for Northwestern, including 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Johnson spent two years at Northwestern, where he teamed with current Northwestern Associate Head Coach Tavaras Hardy.
Suits and Sneakers Weekend
The Nebraska and Northwestern coaching staffs are participating in the Suits and Sneakers Weekend. Suits and Sneakers is a national Coaches vs. Cancer event that is designed to raise awareness about the fight against cancer and the American Cancer Society by encouraging member coaches and their coaching staffs to wear sneakers with their suits at games held that weekend to show support for the Coaches vs. Cancer program. For more on the Suits and Sneakers Weekend and other Coaches vs. Cancer Programs, visit cancer.org.
Last Time Out
Behind a career-high 30 points from D.J. Richardson, Illinois posted a 71-51 win over Nebraska in a physical Big Ten contest at the Bob Devaney Sports Center Tuesday night. Richardson hit a career-high six three-pointers, while nearly doubling his previous season high of 16 points. The senior scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, as Illinois (15-5, 2-4 Big Ten) snapped a three-game losing streak.
Despite his hot shooting, Nebraska (10-10. 1-6 Big Ten) was in position to make it a game down the stretch, cutting a 12-point halftime deficit to 51-44 with 8:11 left, but Richardson's 3-pointer highlighted a 7-0 Illini run that pushed the lead to 14, and NU was unable to cut the deficit back into single digits.
Nebraska was held without a field goal for the last eight minutes and shot just 31.8 percent from the field and just 2-of-14 from 3-point range. It was one of two extended field goal droughts to end the halves for the Huskers.
Senior Dylan Talley led Nebraska with 16 points, while Brandon Ubel had 10 points and six rebounds in a losing effort. The Illini did a great job on Shavon Shields, who averaged 23.5 points in two games last week, holding the freshman to just two points before he fouled out.
Quick Notes From the Illinois Game
- D.J. Richardson's 30 points were a season high against Nebraska (previous high was 27) and the most by a Husker opponent since Tim Frazier of Penn State scored 30 on Jan. 11, 2012.
- Nebraska was held to 31 percent shooting and has been held under 40 percent shooting in all 10 losses.
- Nebraska had just two players in double figures and falls to 2-8 when less than three player reach double figures.
- Kye Kurkowski and Max Ritchie saw their first action of the season tonight. Ritchie had two free throws and a rebound in three minutes, while Kurkowski had two reounds in three. Trevor Menke also scored the first point of his career tonight.
- Illinois became the fourth team to score 70 points against Nebraska in 20 games and the first since Ohio State had 70 on Jan. 2.
Value the Basketball
Under Tim Miles, one thing the Huskers have done well is cut down on the number of turnovers. Despite losing its top three point guards from last year and losing its backup point guard to a season-ending injury, Nebraska is tied for third in the Big Ten and in the top 15 nationally with 11.0 turnovers per game - two fewer per game than last season - and has committed 10 turnovers or less eight times this season. The Huskers had a school-record two turnovers against Purdue on Jan. 16, breaking the mark of three set on the three previous occasions. In Big Ten action, the Huskers are tied for second in the conference with 9.6 turnovers per game, trailing only Wisconsin, which has led the country in fewest turnovers in recent seasons.
Shields Erupts Against Penn State
Freshman Shavon Shields enjoyed one of the finest efforts by a Husker freshman with his 29-point effort at Penn State on Jan. 19.
- Shields 29-point effort tied for the second-highest scoring effort by a freshman in school history. Only Tyronn Lue, who had 30 points against Oregon in 1995, had more.
- His 10-of-11 shooting effort against the Nittany Lions is the second-best shooting night by a Big Ten player this season, trailing only David Rivers' 8-of-8 effort at Michigan State on Jan. 13.
- Shields also went 8-of-8 from the foul line, which tied for the second-best effort from the foul line by a Big Ten player this season.
- The 29 points matched the highest scoring effort in a conference game this year until D.J. Richardson's 30-point effort against the Huskers on Tuesday night.
- He also tied for team-high honors with six rebounds and added a career-high three steals while playing 38 minutes before fouling out.
- Shields earned Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week honors on Monday after averaging 23.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in two games last week.
Creep, Crawl, Walk, Run
With four new starters from last season and an eight-player rotation which includes only three players who saw action last season, there have been some bumps along the way, as the Huskers install a new offensive system and the headline has been a common mantra of Coach Miles during his first season on the job.
Last year, his Colorado State team led the Mountain West Conference in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage, ranking in the top-10 nationally in both free throw and 3-point percentage. The 2012-13 Huskers come into Saturday's game with Northwestern ranked 11th (.410), 11th (.290) and eighth (.689), in those respective categories. When Nebraska has put up points, they have enjoyed success, going 8-1 when scoring at least 60 points.
One adjustment the Huskers have made recently is going to a bigger lineup and moving senior Dylan Talley to the point guard spot. Talley and the Huskers have responded well, averaging 60.0 ppg over the last four games, while Talley is averaging 3.8 assists per game and has a 3.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in that stretch.
Learning to Win the Close Ones
After getting blown out in its Big Ten opener at No. 8 Ohio State, Nebraska has had opportunities in nearly every other Big Ten game. In the next five games, NU has made it a two-possession game in the last seven minutes of each of the last five games, including a chance to tie or take the lead against Wisconsin and at Michigan State. While NU was not able to pull out wins in the first four games, the Huskers found a way down the stretch against Penn State. In the final seven minutes at Penn State, the Huskers hit 60 percent of their field goals and went 9-for-9 from the foul line to earn a four-point win. Against Illinois, NU trailed by nine with eight minutes left, but did not make a field goal the remainder of the contests.
With the win at Penn State, Nebraska now improves to 4-0 on the season in games decided by five points or less after going 4-3 in games decided by five points or less last season.
Huskers Look for Balanced Scoring
One of the biggest keys to success for the Huskers has been finding multiple scoring options. Nebraska has three players averaging in double figures on the season, while six players (Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos, Andre Almeida, David Rivers and Shavon Shields) have all scored at least 20 points at least once this season.
Nebraska has three players averaging at least 11.5 points per game, which would mark the first time that the Huskers have had three players average double figures in a season since 2005-06.
When Nebraska has three or more players in double figures, the Huskers are 8-2, but are just 2-8 when not putting at least three players in double figures following Tuesday's loss to Illinois.
Husker Defense Has been Solid
While Nebraska's offense has been in transition, the Huskers have done a good job slowing tempo and controlling things on the defensive end.
- The Huskers are eighth in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 66th nationally, allowing just 61.8 points per game.
- NU has held 16 of its first 20 foes under their 2012-13 scoring averages, while four teams have been held to season lows. Only four teams have scored 70 against the Huskers this season.
- The Huskers have held 19 of 20 teams to under 50 percent shooting from the field, including eight teams to under 40 percent.
- Nebraska is seventh in Big Ten games in scoring defense, allowing 63.6 points per game. Nebraska held Wisconsin nearly 25 points below its season average on Jan. 6, and limited Michigan to 62 points on Jan. 9 after the Wolverines averaged 94.5 points per game in their first two Big Ten games.
Developing Talent; Looking for Depth
While having to replace four starters and seven of the top nine scorers from last year, Tim Miles has had the challenge of putting players in new roles this year. The Huskers had five returning scholarship players in 2012-13, and all five are integral members of NU's rotation.
All five players have seen significant jumps in their averages from their last season of competition and are all enjoying personal bests in both scoring and rebounding. Prior to this season, the Huskers had only one player on the roster with a 20-point game as a Husker (Andre Almeida in 2010-11) and no returning player had averaged more than nine points per game.
One of the problems has been a lack of depth, as Coach Miles signed four players after arriving in late March (the three redshirts and Sergej Vucetic) while NU's other two scholarship freshman (Shavon Shields and Benny Parker) have been mainstays in the rotation. NU's depth will be improved next year, as Miles signed three players in the fall and has two scholarships available for the spring signing period.
Ubel Proving Offense, Leadership
Senior Brandon Ubel came into the 2012-13 season as the Huskers' most known quantity and NU's most experienced player - by a wide margin. Ubel entered the season with 59 career starts at Nebraska, while the remaining seven returnees on the roster had combined for seven career starts for the Scarlet and Cream.
While most known for his rebounding, Ubel has picked up some of the scoring slack, averaging 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, as he ranks among the Big Ten leaders in both categories. Ubel missed two games with an elbow injury, the first games he missed since his freshman year, but returned against Penn State to score 12 points and grab six rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench and had 10 points and six rebounds against Illinois.
Ubel, who averaged only 5.7 points per game over his first three seasons at Nebraska, has become more offensive-minded as a senior, reaching double figures in 14 of the 18 games he has played.
Ubel, who had one double-double in his first three seasons at Nebraska, has three this season, a 21-point, 12-rebound effort against Southern on Nov. 11, a 17-point, 13-rebound outing in the loss to Kent State on Nov. 24, and a 15-point, 10-rebound effort against Jacksonville State on Dec. 18. He enters the week ranked third in the Big Ten in double-doubles. Ubel nearly had his fourth double-double of 2012-13 against Wisconsin on Jan. 6 with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and eight rebounds, along with a career-high three blocked shots. Ubel had a team-high 10 rebounds at No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 9, the fourth time this year he has grabbed double figures in rebounds, before suffering the elbow injury in the final minutes of action.
He began the season with a career-high 21 points in the win over Southern, before pacing Nebraska with 17 points in a 50-48 win over Horizon League favorite Valparaiso. Ubel had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the loss to Kent State and also had 18 points, including 10-of-11 shooting from the foul line, against Nicholls State.
The 6-foot-10 forward is the Huskers' top returning rebounder (5.3 rpg) and second-leading scorer (6.7 ppg) while being one of the Huskers' most consistent performers at the free throw line.
Ubel is fourth on Nebraska's career free throw percentage at 80.7 percent. Last year, Ubel shot 82.5 percent from the foul line. Ubel is shooting 94 percent (33-of-35) from the line dating back to Dec. 15.
Ubel closed out his junior season by playing some of the best basketball of his career, averaging 9.3 points on 68 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in the Huskers' final six contests. He reached double figures in scoring seven times in 2011-12, including a season-high 17 points against Iowa on Feb. 28, on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the floor.
Off the court, Ubel is a broadcasting major who will graduate in May. He has done some women's basketball play-by-by for the campus radio station and interned at a local ABC affiliate over the summer.
Talley Takes Offensive Role
Senior Dylan Talley came into the 2012-13 season as the Huskers' most proven scorer and has shouldered a significant role in NU's offense. The 6-foot-5 senior enters Saturday's game with Northwestern averaging 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He is 16th in the league in scoring and third in minutes played with 35.5 per game.
Talley has been in double figures in 15 contests and has topped the Huskers in scoring eight times this season, including 16 points in Tuesday's loss to Illinois. He put on a display against Kent State on Nov. 24, scoring a career-high 27 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists. It was one of three 20-point efforts for the senior, who did not score more than 18 points in any game during 2011-12. Talley also had 22 points against Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 18 and 21 points, including a career-best six 3-pointers, against Central Michigan on Dec. 22.
Talley's role has changed in recent games, serving as one of the Huskers' primary point guards and helping to run the offense. Over the last five games, he has a 2.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while averaging 11.8 points, 4.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game.
He handled much of the point guard duties at No. 2 Michigan as Benny Parker battled foul trouble, and finished with 12 points and a then-career-high five assists. Talley started at point guard against No. 22 Michigan State on Jan. 13 and had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes. In Wednesday's loss to Purdue, he had just six points, but led the Huskers in rebounds (eight), steals (four) and assists (three). At Penn State last Saturday, he dished out a season-high six assists and added eight points and four rebounds.
In his first season at Nebraska, Talley tied for the Big Ten lead in scoring by a reserve, averaging 8.9 points per game, as he was in double figures 11 times. Talley has been a prolific scorer throughout his collegiate career, earning America East Conference Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2009-10, averaging 11.8 points per game at Binghamton University. At Blinn (Texas) College, he was sixth nationally in scoring at 23.0 points per game.
Gallegos Provides Ray of Light for Offense
One of the biggest surprises for the Huskers has been the emergence of Ray Gallegos. The fourth-year junior from Salt Lake City redshirted last year and spent the year adding strength and improving his shooting range. The work has paid off for Gallegos, who may be one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises in 2012-13.
Gallegos, who averaged 2.6 points per game in 2010-11, is second on the team in scoring at 12.8 ppg and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 2.3 3-pointers per game. He has been in double figures 14 times this season after accomplishing the feat just three times in his first two years at Nebraska.
Gallegos has led the Huskers in scoring three times in conference play, including a 19-point night at No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 9. Gallegos had been in double figures in each of the last seven games, the longest stretch in his career before being held to nine points against Purdue. Gallegos came back with 15 points at Penn State, including eight points in a 13-3 first-half run. He was held to just five points on 2-of-8 shooting against Illinois on Tuesday.
Earlier this season, Gallegos put on a show in El Paso, as he earned a spot on the Sun Bowl Invitational All-Tournament team. He averaged 20.5 ppg, including a career-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting in Nebraska's loss to UTEP. In the semifinals against Central Michigan, he scored 11 of Nebraska's first 16 points to help the Huskers get out to an early lead and finished with 19 points.
Gallegos put together the best two-game stretch of his career, posting consecutive 20-point efforts at Wake Forest and USC, a stretch where he shot 56 percent from 3-point range. Against USC on Dec. 3, Gallegos had a career-high six 3-pointers and scored the Huskers' final 11 points of the first half to break open a tie game. At Wake Forest on Nov. 27, he finished with a career-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, as he made his first seven shots of the second half and totaled 17 of his 20 points after halftime.
Gallegos, who never played more than 27 minutes in any game during his first two seasons, leads the Big Ten and is sixth nationally with 37.0 minutes per game. He played every minute of the Huskers' first five Big Ten games and saw his streak of consecutive minutes end at 218:39 when he exited the game midway through the first half at Penn State last Saturday.
His minutes per game are the most since Dave Hoppen averaged 38.5 minutes per game in 1984-85. In the last 25 years, Charles Richardson Jr. is the only Husker to average more than 35 minutes per game for a full season when he averaged 36.3 minutes per game in 2006-07.
As a sophomore, Gallegos played in 25 games, including a start in the season opener, and averaged 2.8 points and 1.0 rebound per game. The Salt Lake City native's best game of 2010-11 came against Grambling, when he came off the bench for 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Nebraska has enjoyed a pair of efforts with multiple 20-point games this season. Against Central Michigan, Dylan Talley (21) and David Rivers (20) both had at least 20 points in Nebraska's 89-74 win. Earlier this season, Andre Almeida and Ray Gallegos enjoyed 20-point efforts against Wake Forest on Nov. 27, marking the first time since March 5, 2007, that the Huskers had multiple players with 20-point nights. In that game, Marcus Perry (25); Aleks Maric (23) and Paul Velander (20) all eclipsed the 20-point mark.
Almeida Looks to Provide Inside Presence
As Nebraska hits the grind of the schedule, the Huskers will need a strong interior presence and are hoping Andre Almeida can fill the role. The 6-foot-11 senior averages 5.8 points on 51 percent shooting, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Almeida sprained his right ankle in the first half of the Big Ten opener at Ohio State on Jan. 2 and missed the Wisconsin contest before returning to action. His best effort since his return was eight points and four rebounds against Penn State on Jan. 16. Almeida came off the bench against Illinois and had four points and four rebounds in just 13 minutes of work.
Almeida put together the best game of his career at Wake Forest on Nov. 27, when he had 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting and a career-high 11 rebounds to earn Big Ten Player-of-the-Week honors. His effort at Wake Forest marked the first time since 2009 that a Big Ten player had 20 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 90 percent from the field.
Almeida put together a dominant effort against UNO on Nov. 18, when he had 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and seven rebounds. Against Tulane on Nov. 21, the 6-foot-11 center keyed Nebraska's second-half effort with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks, as he scored nine of his 10 points in the second half. Almeida had eight points and three blocked shots against USC and added six points, five rebounds and a season-high four blocked shots in the loss to Creighton. He made the most of his opportunities against Nicholls State with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and six rebounds in his last game before the injury.
In 2010-11, he averaged 5.2 points on 56 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game as the Huskers' top reserve in the post. Almeida reached double figures on five occasions, including a 20-point, seven-rebound effort in his debut against South Dakota. Two of Almeida's best efforts of 2010-11 came against a pair of top-five teams, as he had 10 points and seven rebounds at No. 3 Kansas and 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and five rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench in Nebraska's win over No. 3 Texas. Almeida was a force on the defensive end, ranking sixth in the Big 12 in blocked shots.
Shields Makes Name For Himself
For nearly the first month of the year, Nebraska relied on a shortened bench, as Shavon Shields missed five of NU's first six games with an elbow injury. A layoff following the win at Wake Forest helped Shields get back into game action, and the freshman has provided a much-needed boost.
On the season, Shields is averaging 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while averaging 25.8 minutes per game. In Big Ten play, he has continued to make strides, raising his scoring and rebounding numbers from his non-conference totals, averaging 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per outing. He is on pace to be the first Husker freshman since the 2005-06 season to average double figures in conference games despite being held to two points in Tuesday's loss to Illinois.
Shields set career highs in both of the Huskers' games last week, highlighted by a 29-point effort at Penn State. Shields hit 10-of-11 shots from the field and went 8-of-8 from the line in posting the highest scoring effort by a Husker this year. He also had team bests in both rebounds (six) and steals (three). On Jan. 16 against Purdue, Shields became the first Husker freshmen to lead the team in scoring in three seasons with 18 points and eight rebounds. Shields was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Jan. 21, the first time since 2009 that a Husker freshman was honored by the league.
Among Big Ten freshmen, he is second in rebounding in Big Ten games, third in field goal percentage (.510) and fourth in scoring (10.1). Shields has also grabbed at least six rebounds in six of the Huskers' seven Big Ten games, including a season-best nine rebounds at No. 8 Ohio State on Jan. 2.
At the Sun Bowl Invitational, he averaged 5.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, as he grabbed seven rebounds in each game. Against Jacksonville State on Dec. 18, Shields came off the bench to score a career-high 14 points, hitting 6-of-7 shots from the field and also added three rebounds and two steals to help NU snap a two-game losing streak.
His return helps the Huskers depth, as NU has only nine scholarship players available for the 2012-13 season, a total which includes former walk-on Trevor Menke. Of NU's nine scholarship players, only four (Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel, David Rivers and Menke) saw action for the Huskers during the 2011-12 season.
Rivers Looks to Get into Offensive Flow
Throughout the summer and the preseason, one Husker returnee who was flying under the radar was sophomore David Rivers. The 6-foot-7 wing totaled only 20 points and 16 rebounds in 19 contests as a freshman, but has added nearly 20 pounds since last year and has made significant strides.
Rivers' improvement has been evident, as he is averaging 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while playing in all 20 contests. He has been at his best in the last 10 games, reaching double figures for the first three times of his career.
He made his first career start at No. 22 Michigan State on Jan. 13, leading the Huskers with 18 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the field. His eight field goals without a miss was one off Nebraska's single-game record, and he also chipped in six rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Rivers was held to five points in 39 minutes against Purdue on Wednesday and had four points in the win over Penn State.
Rivers put on a show in Nebraska's win over Central Michigan on Dec. 22, scoring a career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting and matching his personal best with seven rebounds. His effort against CMU matched his entire season output as a freshman. Prior to that game, Rivers turned an ankle against Oregon and played just 11 minutes in NU's previous two contests.
Against Nicholls State on Dec. 29, Rivers cracked double figures for the second time in three games, totaling 12 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals in 28 minutes. He came off the bench to add seven points and four rebounds at No. 8 Ohio State on Jan. 2 after not scoring in Big Ten play as a freshman.
Parker Makes A Point
One of two freshmen who have started for the Huskers this season, Benny Parker became only the 10th freshman to start a season opener since 1995. Parker averages 3.0 points, 2.4 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game. Parker has a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio and has committed one turnover or less in 10 of NU's first 20 games. The Kansas City, Kan., native has shown his toughness during the season, overcoming foot and knee injuries without missing any playing time. He originally suffered the knee sprain in practice on Dec. 10, but played 27 minutes in the Huskers' loss at Oregon five days later.
Parker made a major contribution in NU's win at Penn State, as he played exceptional defense with two steals and also had two assists in 18 minutes of work. His best performance in Big Ten action was against Wisconsin on Jan. 6, when he had just one turnover in the Huskers' loss to the Badgers while playing a career-high 31 minutes. He came off the bench at No. 22 Michigan State and had two assists and two steals in 20 minutes of work, as he has come off the bench in the Huskers' last four contests.
Parker dished out a career-high seven assists and had one turnover in Nebraska's 61-57 win over Tulane on Nov. 21, and totaled eight points, four assists and a career-high four steals at Wake Forest on Nov. 27. Against UNO on Nov. 18, he had eight points - all coming in the second half - after sitting most of the first half because of foul trouble. Parker also had seven points, three rebounds and three assists in a two-point win over Valparaiso on Nov. 15.
Parker was a four-year starter at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, leading the school to an 85-15 mark and a pair of state titles during his high school career. As a senior, he averaged 24.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.9 steals per game, winning the 2012 DiRenna Award, representing the top player in the Kansas City metro area.