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Huskers Host Illini on Tuesday Night
Dylan Talley has a 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over NU's last four games.
Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/NU Media Relations
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
01/21/2013
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Game 20: vs. Illinois
Game Date: Jan. 22, 2013
Tipoff Time: 7:36 p.m. 
Venue: Bob Devaney Sports Center
Capacity: 13,595

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2012-13 Record: 10-9, 1-5 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 10-9 (1st year)
Career Record: 293-229 (18th year)

Illinois Fighting Illini
2012-13 Record: 14-5, 1-4 Big Ten
Head coach: John Groce
Record at Illinois: 14-5 (1st year)
Career Record: 99-61 (5th year)

Promotion
Stripe the Bob Night as fans are encouraged to wear Red or White depending on the section. 
Red: A-Section, C-Padded (rows 8-18); C-Bench (29-34)
White: B-Section; C-Plastic (rows 19-28).

Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: BTN and BTN2Go
(Ch. 610 on DirecTV; Chs. 439, 9500 on DISH; Chs. 24 and 333-SD, 1333-HD on Time Warner Cable; Chs. 80 SD, 1080-HD on Cox Cable)
Play-by-play: Kevin Kugler 
Color: Eddie Johnson

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. 123, XM Ch. 190

Huskers Host Illini on Tuesday Night
The Nebraska men’s basketball team looks for its second straight win on Tuesday night, as the Huskers play host to Illinois at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. (central) and tickets can be purchased for as little as $10 by visiting Huskers.com or by calling 800-8-BIGRED.

Tuesday’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 Fighting Illini will be televised nationally on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Eddie Johnson on the call, as every remaining Husker game in 2012-13 will be televised nationally. Tuesday’s game is also available on BTN2GO, including iOS or android devices.

he Huskers (10-9, 1-5 B1G) picked up that elusive road win on Saturday, posting a 68-64 win at Penn State. Nebraska used an 11-0 second-half to take the lead for good and held on down the stretch. Freshman Shavon Shields put together the finest performance of his young career with 29 points on 10-of-11 shooting and six rebounds. His point total was one off of Nebraska’s freshman record and capped a strong week where he averaged 23.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game to earn Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week honors.

Shields’ emergence has helped the Huskers in recent games, as Nebraska has averaged 60.0 ppg in the last three games after averaging just 44.0 ppg in the Huskers’ first three Big Ten contests. 

Tuesday’s matchup between the Huskers and Illinois matches the Big Ten’s newest head coaches - Nebraska’s Tim Miles and John Groce of Illinois. The Fighting Illini come into Tuesday’s game with a 14-5 record, but are just 1-4 in Big Ten play. Illinois has been off since a 68-54 loss to Northwestern on Thursday night.  Illinois features one of the Big Ten’s most prolific scorers in senior guard Brandon Paul, who is second in the Big Ten at 18.2 points per game. Paul is one of four returning starters back this season for Illinois, which looks to snap a three-game losing streak.

By the Numbers
6 - Number of Huskers who have scored at least 20 points in a game this season after Shavon Shields had 29 at Penn State.

6-to-1 - Assist to turnover ratio for Dylan Talley over Nebraska’s last four games, as he has moved to the point guard spot to provide Nebraska with more offense. Talley has 18 assists and just three turnovers in that span.

40% - Nebraska is 9-0 on the season when they shoot at least 40 percent from the floor and 1-9 in games where they don’t meet that mark. 

100% - Nebraska was a perfect 16-of-16 in Saturday’s win at Penn State. It was one off the school record for free throws without a miss and the best effort of the 2012-13 season in the Big Ten.

Scouting Illinois
Illinois comes into Tuesday’s game with a 14-5 record, but is looking to snap a three-game losing streak. John Groce is in his first year at Illinois after guiding the Ohio Bobcats to a 29-8 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2012. Before taking the OU job, Groce was an assistant at Ohio State, Xavier and North Carolina State. 

The Fighting Illini were one of the Big Ten’s biggest surprises in non-conference play, going a perfect 12-0 and were ranked in the top-10 in the national polls. The non-conference slate was highlighted by winning the Maui Invitational, including a 78-61 win over Butler in the title game, and an 85-74 win at Gonzaga on Dec. 4. In Big Ten action, Illinois is just 1-4 with the lone victory coming in a 19-point win over then No. 8 Ohio State on Jan. 5. Since then, Illinois has dropped its last three games - all by double figures. Last Thursday, the Illini fell 68-54 at home to Northwestern, as the Wildcats placed five players in double figures. 

Illinois is one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten, returning four starters and nine letterwinners from a squad that was ranked for much of the year before fading down the stretch. The team lives and dies by the 3-point shot, as the Fighting Illini lead all Big Ten teams in both 3-pointers made (158) and attempted (469). UI is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at 72.8 ppg, but ranks 11th in points allowed per game at 66.2 ppg. 

Senior guard Brandon Paul is one of the most explosive players in the Big Ten, as he is second in the conference in scoring at 19.2 ppg, including 45 3-pointers. Paul also tops Illinois in rebounding at 4.9 caroms per game and has dished out 56 assists. Point guard Tracy Abrams averages 11.9 points and 3.2 assists per game, while senior guard D.J. Richardson averages 10.8 ppg and has 40 3-pointers.

Nebraska-Illinois Series History
Illinois leads the all-time series, 8-3, that dates back to 1921, but the two teams split the two meetings during the 2011-12 season. Illinois won the first matchup with a 59-54 victory, as Joseph Bertrand scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half and hit 11 of 12 shots from the floor. Nebraska gained revenge in the rematch in Lincoln with an 80-57 rout, as Bo Spencer’s 29-point effort led four Huskers in double figures. Nebraska used a 43-7 run spanning parts of both halves to take control. Tuesday’s game will make only Illinois’ fourth trip to Lincoln in the series and last year’s meeting was the first between the two teams at the Devaney Center.

Last Time Out
Behind a career-high 29 points from freshman Shavon Shields, Nebraska snapped a five-game losing streak with a 68-64 win over Penn State. Shields connected on 10-of-11 shots from the field and going 8-for-8 from the foul line, as he eclipsed his career high for the second straight game. His 29 points against the Nittany Lions was one off Nebraska’s freshman record for points, and the 6-foot-6 forward added six rebounds. 

Shields was one of three Huskers in double figures, as Ray Gallegos had 15 points while Brandon Ubel had 12 points and six rebounds after missing the last two games with an elbow injury. 

The Huskers won the game at the foul line, going a perfect 16-of-16, while Penn State was 15-of-24 from the line, but just 1-of-6 in in a wacky final minute of action. 

Nebraska led 66-60 after a pair of Shields free throws with 1:19 left, but Jermaine Marshall’s 3-pointer with 32 seconds left cut the lead to three. NU had a turnover on the inbounds, and Ross Travis was fouled with 24 seconds left. After a lengthy review, the officials also called a flagrant foul on Ubel, putting Penn State in a position to win with four free throw attempts and possession. D.J. Newbill made the first shot to get PSU within 66-64, but missed the second while Travis missed both of his shots to keep NU ahead. On PSU’s subsequent possession, Marshall was fouled, but missed both attempts from the foul line, and NU got the rebound. Ubel was  then fouled and hit both
free throws to extend the lead to four for the final margin.

The Huskers overcame a slow start from the floor to open the game and took a 33-28 lead into the locker room at the break. NU missed its first nine shots from the floor and fell behind 7-0, only to hit 14 of their last 21 attempts in leading by as many as 10 points in the first half.   The Huskers took control late in the first half, as Gallegos keyed a 13-3 run to push the Huskers’ lead to double figures. Gallegos started the run with consecutive 3-pointers and had eight of his 10 first-half points in the spurt. 

Nebraska built a 41-31 lead, but Penn State would respond, as 3-pointers from Nick Colella and Marshall sparked a 12-0 spurt for the hosts, which put Penn State up 43-31 on a Travis putback with 11:56 left Shields finally ended the Huskers’ scoring drought with a 3-point play with 11:27 left before two Ubel free throws gave NU a three-point lead at 46-43. The lead would go back and forth until Marshall hit three free throws to put the Nittany Lions up 52-48 with 8:11 left. 

Nebraska would clamp down on the defensive end, holding PSU without a field goal for a span of 6:31 while Shields single-handedly took over the game for the Huskers. The freshman scored seven straight points to put NU up 55-52 before baskets by Talley and Gallegos staked Nebraska a 59-52 advantage with 4:16 left.  PSU made a run, closing to within 61-58 after a Marshall 3-point play with 2:21 left, but Gallegos answered right back with a 3-pointer from the wing to make it a six-point lead with 2:04 left, setting up a hectic finish. 

Notes From the Penn State Game
  • The win snapped Nebraska’s nine-game losing streak in Big Ten play dating back to last season. 
  • Nebraska’s 66 points were its highest total in Big Ten play and the third straight game NU had tied or set its season high in Big Ten play. The Huskers are 8-1 on the season when scoring at least 60 points. 
  • Nebraska shot 47.1 percent, its best shooting effort since Dec. 22. The Huskers are now 9-0 this season when shooting at least 40 percent. 
  • Shavon Shields 29 points were a career high (previous high was 18 against Purdue) and second-highest total by a freshman in school history. Only Tyronn Lue, who had 30 points against Oregon during the 1995-96 season, had more than Shields today. Prior to today, the last 20-point game by a freshman was a 25-point effort by Christian Standhardinger at Iowa State during the 2009-10 season. 
  • Shields’ 29 points was the most points by any Husker this season (previous high was 27 by Dylan Talley against Kent State on Nov. 24. 
  • Nebraska went 16-of-16 from the foul line, which was one short of the school record for most free throws without a miss in a game (17 vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 31, 1979). 
  • Dylan Talley had a career-high six assists (previous season and career high was five) and played a career-high 39 minutes against Penn State.
  • Brandon Ubel returned after missing two games and had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in 31 minutes. Ubel is now 31-of-33 (.939) from the foul line over Nebraska’s last 11 contests.
  • Ray Gallegos came out of the game with 11:17 left in the first half, the first time in six Big Ten games he has not played every minute. It ended a streak of 218:39 consecutive minutes dating back to Dec. 29. 

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 third in the Big Ten and 12th nationally with 10.8 turnovers per game - nearly 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 Wednesday, breaking the mark of three set on the three previous occasions. In Big Ten action, the Huskers are second in the conference with 8.8 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. 
  • 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 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 Tuesday’s game with Illinois ranked 11th (.414), 11th (.297) and eighth (.688), 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 three games, while Talley is averaging 4.3 assists per game and has a 6.5-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 each of its last five Big Ten 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. 

With the win, 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 12.0 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 following Saturday’s win at Penn State, but are just 2-7 when not putting at least three players in double figures. 

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 seventh in the Big Ten in scoring defense and 66th nationally, allowing just 61.3 points per game. 
  • NU has held 15 of its first 19 foes under their 2012-13 scoring averages, while four teams have been held to season lows.
  • The Huskers have held 18 of 19 teams to under 50 percent shooting from the field, including eight teams to under 40 percent.
  • Nebraska is fourth in Big Ten games in scoring defense, allowing 62.0 points per game. Nebraska held Wisconsin nearly 25 points below its season average on Jan. 6, and limited Michigan to 62 points 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 12.1 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. 

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 13 of the 17 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 80.6 percent. Last year, Ubel shot 82.5 percent from the foul line. Ubel is shooting 94 percent (31-of-33) 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 Tuesday’s game with Illinois averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 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 14 contests and has topped the Huskers in scoring seven times this season. 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 four games, he has a 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5.5 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, 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, leads the Huskers in scoring at 13.2 ppg and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 2.4 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.
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 with 36.9 minutes per game and played ever minute of the Huskers’ first five Big Ten games. He saw his streak of consecutive minutes end at 218:39 consecutive minutes dating back to Dec. 29. 

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. 

20-20 Vision
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.

Husker Ironmen
With a short bench, the Huskers have relied on their starters often through the first half of the season. Ray Gallegos and Dylan Talley rank first and third, respectively, in the Big Ten in minutes per game while NU has three players (Gallegos, Talley and Brandon Ubel) averaging over 32 minutes per night. 

When Ubel missed two games, David Rivers averaged 39.5 minutes of action while Talley played nearly 38 minutes per game. In addition, Gallegos played every minute of the Huskers’ first five Big Ten games and is at 39.7 minutes per play in conference play. 

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 5.9 points on 51 percent shooting, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, ranking ninth in the Big Ten in blocked shots. 

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. He had two rebounds and a blocked shot in 10 minutes at No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 9, but went scoreless in 24 minutes at Michigan State on Jan. 13. Almeida had eight points and four rebounds in 19 minutes during Wednesday’s loss to Purdue, but had three rebounds in just nine minutes of work at Penn
State.

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 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while averaging 26.1 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 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per outing. 

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 third in conference games in both scoring (11.5) and field goal percentage (.531) and is second in rebounding (7.2). Shields has also grabbed at least six rebounds in all six of Nebraska’s Big Ten games, including a personal-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 5.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while playing in all 19 contests. He has been at his best in recent games, averaging 8.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last nine games.  Rivers is shooting 55 percent from the field in that stretch and has put together the first three double-figure efforts 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. 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. 
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