Huskers Face No. 8 Ohio St. in Big Ten Opener
Game 14: at Ohio State
Game Date: Jan. 2, 2013
Tipoff Time: 5:31 p.m.
Venue: Value City Arena
2012-13 Record: 9-4, 0-0 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 9-4 (1st year)
Career Record: 292-224 (18th year)
Ohio State Buckeyes
2012-13 Record: 10-2, 0-0 Big Ten
Head coach: Thad Matta
Record at Ohio State: 231-67 (9th year)
Career Record: 333-98 (13th year)
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: Dan Bonner
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 (OSU feed): Sirius Ch. 128, XM Ch. 190
Huskers Face No. 8 Ohio St. in Big Ten Opener
The Nebraska men's basketball team rings in the 2013 calendar year in Columbus, Ohio, as he Huskers take on eighth-ranked Ohio State in the Big Ten opener for both teams Wednesday afternoon. Tipoff from Value City Arena is slated for 5:31 p.m. (central) and the game will be carried nationally on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Dan Bonner on the call. The matchup with the Buckeyes is also available on BTN2GO.
Wednesday'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.
Wednesday begins a challenging opening stretch for the Huskers, who play three of their first four games away from home. Nebraska is the only Big Ten team to open with three of its first conference games away from home and will likely face three ranked teams on the road over the first two weeks of the Big Ten slate (at No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 9 and at No. 18 Michigan State on Jan. 16).
First-year head coach Tim Miles brings the Huskers to Columbus with a 9-4 record despite having to replace four starters and seven of their top nine scorers from a team which won 12 games last year. Nebraska has relied on its veterans, primarily its senior class of Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley and Andre Almeida, who account for an average of 35 points and 17 rebounds per game.
Nebraska comes off a 68-59 win over Nicholls State on Saturday, a contest where the Huskers built a 19-point second-half lead before holding on down the stretch. Nebraska placed four players in double figures, including a game-high 18 by Brandon Ubel, but needed to go 10-of-10 from the charity stripe in the final 57 seconds to preserve their ninth win of the season.
Ohio State will pose the toughest challenge to date for the Huskers, as the Buckeyes are 10-2 on the season and ranked as high as following an 87-44 rout of Chicago State on Saturday. OSU put six players in double figures, including a game-high 17 points from preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas. OSU's only two losses are setbacks at top-ranked Duke (73-68) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and to No. 6 Kansas (74-66), in Columbus on Dec. 22.
By the Numbers
8 - Number of points Brandon Ubel needs to break into the top 60 of Nebraska's career points list. Ubel, who is averaging a career-high 13.2 ppg this season, has 707 career points following his 18-point effort against Nicholls State. Leroy Chalk (1969-71) currently holds the No. 60 spot with 715 points.
1997 - The last time Nebraska toppled a top-10 team on the road, when the Huskers knocked off No. 7 Iowa State, 74-69, in Ames on Feb. 22, 1997. The Huskers have lost their last 23 games away from home against top-10 teams, including 20 straight road games.
60 - Nebraska is 6-1 this season when holding opponents to 60 points or less this year following Saturday's 68-59 win over Nicholls State. The Huskers are just 3-3 when foes score more than 61 points.
4 - Number of blocked shots Andre Almeida needs to move into the top-10 on Nebraska's blocked shot list for a senior. Almeida has a team-high 18 blocked shots this year.
Scouting Ohio State
Under Thad Matta, Ohio State comes into Wednesday's game with a 10-2 record and a No. 8 national ranking. Matta, who served as an assistant to former Nebraska Coach Barry Collier at Butler, is in his ninth season at OSU and has guided the Buckeyes to six NCAA appearances, including an NCAA runner-up finish in 2007 and a Final Four appearance in 2012. The Buckeyes brought back three starters from a team that won 31 games and shared the Big Ten regular-season title last year. OSU, which has not played a road game since Nov. 28, are 8-1 at Value City Arena with the lone loss coming to sixth-ranked Kansas, 74-66 on Dec. 22.
The Buckeyes are third in the Big Ten in both scoring offense (78.2) and scoring defense (57.5) while ranking fourth in field goal percentange (.462), 3-point shooting (.377) and field goal defense (.374). Ohio State features one of the nation's top players in junior Deshaun Thomas, as the first-team preseason All-American leads the Big Ten in scoring at 19.8 ppg and is seventh in rebounding at 6.9 rpg. The Buckeyes also have two of the nation's top point guards in junior Aaron Craft (9.0 ppg, 4.8 apg, 1.6 spg) and Shannon Scott (7.1 ppg, 4.6 apg), as both guards rank among the top five in the Big Ten in assists.
Nebraska-Ohio State Series
Ohio State leads the all-time series, 6-2, in a series that dates back to 1936. The Buckeyes have won five straight meetings dating back to 1987, including a season sweep during the 2011-12 season.
Nebraska won two of the first three meetings, including a win in the 1985 Sun Bowl Invitational, but OSU swept a home-and-home series and also picked up an 85-74 win in Columbus in the 1989 NIT. Nebraska is winless in four matchups in Columbus.
In the first meeting this season, Jared Sullinger's 19 points and 12 rebounds paced three Buckeyes in double figures in a 70-41 win. Deshaun Thomas and William Buford added 15 and 13 points, respectively, while Toney McCray led Nebraska with 13 points, as three Huskers finished in double figures. Brandon Richardson had 11 points and a career-high seven steals, while Bo Spencer added 10.
In the second meeting, William Buford's 15 points led three Buckeyes in double figures, as sixth-ranked Ohio State topped Nebraska, 78-45, in front of a season-high crowd of 12,214 at the Devaney Center on Jan. 21.
The Buckeyes used a 10-0 run midway through the first half to take control and never looked back, stifling the momentum after Nebraska's quick start. The Huskers led 8-5 after a pair of Brandon Ubel free throws at the 15:44 mark, but Aaron Craft's 3-pointer began a run of 13 straight points for the Buckeyes, as Nebraska went over seven minutes without a point. The Buckeyes used a 21-5 spurt spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second half to build a 45-23 lead and never led by less than 20.
Buford was 6-of-13 shooting from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers, while Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas had 14 points apiece in the victory. Brandon Ubel and Bo Spencer led Nebraska with eight points apiece, as Nebraska shot a season-low 29.5 percent from the floor and committed a season-high 27 turnovers that led to 22 Buckeye points.
Last Time Out
Nebraska made its free throws down the stretch when it had to, as the Huskers nearly gave away a 19-point lead before holding on for a 68-59 win over Nicholls State.
The Huskers, who improved to 9-4 on the season, went 10-of-10 from the foul line in the final minute after struggling from the charity stripe for most of the afternoon. Brandon Ubel led four Huskers in double figures with 18 points, including 10-of-11 from the free throw line, as he hit 6-of-6 in the final minute to preserve the win.
Nicholls State, which never led, pulled to within 58-54 after a T.J Carpenter 3-pointer with 1:04 left before Ubel got to the line on the inbounds play with 57 seconds left. The Huskers were just 10-of-23 on the day from the line at that point, including 8-of-18 in the second half, but the senior calmly sank both free throws to push the lead back to six. The Colonels got to within 60-56 on its next offensive possession, but David Rivers knocked down another two free throws, as Nebraska ended Nicholls State's comeback bid.
Dylan Talley and David Rivers had 12 each for Nebraska, while Ray Gallegos was the fourth Husker in double figures with 10 points, as Nebraska took control midway through the first half and led by as many as 19 points with 12 minutes remaining.
Nebraska jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first five minutes and led 12-10 before Ubel keyed a 13-0 surge over a span of 4:17 to build a 15-point lead. Ubel scored six of his eight first-half points in the run, as the Huskers took a 15-point lead at 25-10 after a Talley 3-pointer. The Huskers held Nicholls State (1-9) to just 21 percent shooting in the first half in building a 31-17 halftime lead.
Nicholls State was within 12 early in the second half before Gallegos sparked a 7-0 run with consecutive 3-pointers to give Nebraska a 49-30 lead with 12:02 left. Nebraska's attack would sputter, and Nichols State responded with a 9-2 spurt to get within 51-39 after 3-point play by T. J. Carpenter with 7:37 left. The Huskers would eventually push the margin to 14 after Talley's 3-pointer with 5:51 left, but the visitors used a 12-2 spurt to close within four points in the final minute.
Dantrell Thomas led three Nicholls State players with 18 points, including 16 points in the second half after 1-of-11 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Quick Notes the Nicholls State Game
- Nebraska held Nicholls State to 59 points, the seventh opponent held to 60 points or less this year. NU improves to 6-1 this season when holding foes to 60 points or less. In addition, the Huskers have held 10 of its 13 opponents under its 2012-13 season average.
- Nebraska committed a season-low seven turnovers (previous season low was eight at Wake Forest) and committed 10 or fewer turnovers for the second straight game. NU has committed 10 turnovers or less five times in the first 13 games.
- Nebraska placed four players in double figures against Nicholls State, matching a season high. NU is 7-0 this season when at least three players reach double figures.
- Nebraska set season highs in free throws (20) and attempts (33), but shot 60.6 percent from the line. It is NU's second-lowest FT percentage of the season (min. 10 att.). NU shot 57.9 percent against Tulane.
- Brandon Ubel set career highs in free throws made (10) and attempted (11), as he finished with 18 points, his highest output since the season opener. It is the second-highest total of his career. Ubel also went over 700 career points with his performance against NSU.
- David Rivers finished with 12 points, the second time this season he has finished in double figures. Rivers is averaging 10.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game over the last three games.
Learning to win the Close Ones
The Huskers have been tested early in 2012-13, posting a 9-4 mark entering Big Ten play. The Huskers have found ways to win the close ones, going 3-0 in game decided by five points or less, including the four-point win over Jacksonville State on Dec. 18. Last year, NU won just four of seven games decided by five points or less.
Balance Has been key to Success for Huskers
One of the biggest keys to success for the Huskers has been finding multiple scoring options. Nebraska has three players average in double figures on the season, while five players (Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos, Andre Almeida and David Rivers) have all scored at least 20 points at least once this season.
Nebraska enters Big Ten play as one of only two teams with three players averaging at least 13 points per game and has not 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 7-0, but just 2-4 when less than three players reach double digits.
Huskers Against Ranked Teams
Nebraska will face its second ranked team of the season on Wednesday, as the Huskers take on No. 8 Ohio State. Nebraska is 0-1 against ranked teams, falling to No. 16 Creighton on Dec. 6, but will have plenty of chances to knock off ranked foes during Big Ten play. In all, six conference teams are ranked in the top-20 heading into the start of Big Ten action.
Nebraska is 59-222 all-time against ranked teams and has knocked off at least one ranked team in 11 of the past 12 seasons. Nebraska's last road win against a ranked team was a 65-59 win at No. 22 Texas A&M on Feb. 23, 2008, while NU's most recent win over a top-10 team on the road was a 74-69 win at Iowa State on Feb. 22, 1997.
Creep, Crawl, Walk, Run
With four new starters from last season and an eight-player rotation which includes only two players who saw action last season, there have been some bumps 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 Wednesday's Big Ten opener ranked ninth, ninth and eighth, in those respective categories. Nebraska scored a season-high 89 points - its highest offensive output in four seasons - before being held to 52 points in the loss to UTEP. Nebraska is 11th in free throw attempts, but the Huskers have been better in recent games. Since the losses to Creighton and Oregon, Nebraska has averaged nearly 24 free throws per game over the last four contests.
Husker Defense Starts Strong
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, allowing just 60.8 points per game. NU has held 10 of its first 13 foes under their 2012-13 scoring averages, while four teams have been held to season lows, including Creighton and Oregon, which both rank among the top-25 nationally in scoring offense.
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 came into this season with 59 career starts at Nebraska, while the remaining seven returnees had combined for seven career starts for the Scarlet and Cream.
While most known for his rebounding, Ubel has picked up the scoring slack in the early going, averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, as he ranks among the Big Ten leaders in both categories.
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 Big Ten action ranked second in the Big Ten in double-doubles.
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 11 of the Huskers' first 13 contests despite averaging less than nine attempts per contest. He is 14th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, shooting at 54.3 percent.
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 11 points in 18 minutes in the win over Wake Forest. Against USC, he was held to nine points, but grabbed seven rebounds, dished out four assists and limited USC's Dewayne Dedmon to just two points. Ubel nearly had his third double-double of the season against Creighton, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds. Ubel finished in double figures in both games at the Sun Bowl Invitational, including a 14-point effort on 6-of-8 shooting from the field against Central Michigan. Against Nicholls State, Ubel had 18 points, and went 10-of-11 from the foul line to help the Huskers wrap up non-conference play with a win.
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 fifth on Nebraska's career free throw percentage at 79.9 percent. Last year, Ubel shot 82.5 percent from the foul line. Ubel is shooting 92 percent (23-of-25) from the line over Nebraska's last five contests.
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.
Talley Takes Offensive Role
Senior Dylan Talley came into the 2012-13 season as the Huskers' most proven scorer and has shown versatility early in the season. The 6-foot-5 senior enters Wednesday's game at Ohio State averaging a team-high 13.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He is 11th in the league in scoring and 17th in rebounding while ranking third in minutes played with 35.2 per game.
Talley, who has been in double figures in 11 of Nebraska's first 13 contests, put on a display against Kent State on Nov. 24, scoring a career-high 27 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists. He has topped NU in scoring six times in 2012-13, including a then-NU best 22 points against Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 18. He also paced the Big Red with 17 points and seven assists in a 61-57 win over Tulane on Nov. 21 and had 14 points and seven rebounds in the win at Wake Forest. Talley also finished with 14 points in the win over USC on Dec. 3 and against No. 16 Creighton on Dec. 6. Talley had 10 points and four rebounds against Jacksonville State, including a pair of free throws to preserve the four-point win. Talley led NU with 21 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, against Central Michigan. Against Nicholls State, he was one of four Huskers in double figures with 12 points and four rebounds.
His biggest contribution this year may have come in the only game he was held out of double figures. Against Valparaiso, Talley scored one point, but topped NU in rebounds (six) and assists (four) while holding reigning Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff to just 2-of-11 shooting in NU's 50-48 win.
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, spending the year adding strength and improving his shooting range. The work has paid off for Gallegos, who may be the Huskers' most improved player in 2012-13.
Gallegos, who averaged 2.6 points per game in 2010-11, is third on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 2.5 3-pointers per game. He is shooting 34 percent from 3-point range and has been in double figures nine times after accomplishing the feat just three times in his first two years at Nebraska.
Among Big Ten players, only Brandon Paul of Illinois (six) and Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State (five) have had more 20-point nights than Gallegos this season.
Gallegos is averaging 17.0 points per game over the Huskers' last three games, following a 10-point effort in the win over Nicholls State last Saturday. Two weeks ago, 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, he scored 11 of Nebraska's first 16 points to help the Huskers get out to an early lead.
Gallegos put together the best stretch of his career earlier this season, posting consecutive 20-point efforts against Wake Forest and USC, a stretch where he shot 56 percent from 3-point range. Against USC, 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 had 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the opener against Southern. His shooting also keyed NU's win over Valparaiso on Nov. 15, as he finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. He was held to just five points against Creighton and had nine points and three steals in the loss at Oregon. He took just seven shots against Jacksonville State and finished with six points, but dished out three assists, had two steals and four rebounds in 39 minutes.
As a sophomore, he 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.
Andre Provides Giant Inside Presence
While Gallegos' return helped shore up the Huskers' outside attack, the return of senior Andre Almeida following a knee injury has helped the Huskers on the interior. The 6-foot-11 senior has been steady, averaging 7.6 points on 58 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, ranking sixth in the league in both blocked shots and field goal percentage.
He put together the best game of his career at Wake Forest, 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 on Dec. 3. It 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 matched his then-career best with seven rebounds. Against Tulane, the 6-foot-11 center keyed Nebraska's second half effort against Tulane on Nov. 21 with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks, scoring 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. Almeida had eight points and five rebounds in Nebraska's loss to UTEP. He made the most of his opportunites against Nicholls State with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and six rebounds.
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 third-ranked Texas. Almeida was a force on the defensive end, ranking sixth in the Big 12 in blocked shots.
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.
With a short bench, the Huskers have relied on their starters often through the early part 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 averaging over 31 minutes per night. Over the last 14 years, only one player - Charles Richardson Jr. in 2006-07 - has averaged more minutes than 32.5 minutes per game, while NU has two players on track this season to eclipse that mark.
Parker Makes A Point
The lone freshman in the Husker starting lineup, Benny Parker became only the 10th freshman to start a season opener since 1995. Parker has been steady early on, averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 assists per game. Parker has a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio and has had one turnover or less five times in NU's first 13 games.
The Kansas City, Kan., native has shown his toughness in recent games, battling through foot and knee sprains over the last three weeks without missing any action game. Parker played 27 minutes at Oregon after suffering the knee injury on Dec. 10. Parker had four points and four assists in 28 minutes against Nicholls State on Saturday.
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. Against No. 16 Creighton, Parker was held scoreless, but had five assists in the losing effort.
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.
Of Nebraska's three active point guards playing this season, two are Division I newcomers, as junior college transfer Mike Peltz joined the team in October. Sophomore Trevor Menke is the Huskers' other primary point guard, as junior college transfer Deverell Biggs is redshirting this 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 early on, as he has averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as the Huskers' sixth man in 2012-13. He has already eclipsed his entire freshman year totals nearly every category, including points, rebounds and blocked shots. The Little Rock, Ark., product 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. On Saturday, Rivers cracked double figures for the second time in three games, totaling 12 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals in 28 minutes against Nicholls State.
Rivers played a major role at Wake Forest with five points, a career-best seven rebounds and two assists and also had seven points and five rebounds against Valparaiso.
Shields Returns to Add Depth
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 to the Husker bench.
After playing once in NU's first six games, Shields has averaged 22.4 minutes per game over the Huskers' last seven games, averaging 5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Shields had tied or set career bests in either points or rebounds in a stretch of five straight games before it was snapped against Nicholls State on Dec. 29. At 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. At Oregon on Dec. 15, Shields seven points and logged a career-high 30 minutes. In the loss to No. 16 Creighton, Shields had five points in 20 minutes, while he had two points and two assists in 10 minutes against USC on Dec. 3.
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.
Shields also provides the Huskers with another scoring option, as NU was getting just 5.5 points per game from the bench in its first six games before averaging 13.4 points per game in the last six games.
Walk-On Peltz is Huskers Jack of All Trades
While the Nebraska football program is nationally known for its walk-on program, Nebraska basketball has a walk-on of its own playing a significant role in junior Mike Peltz. The 6-foot-2 guard from Alliance, Neb., joined the team in October days before the start of practice and has been a valuable contributor.
A two-year starter at Western Nebraska Community College, Peltz has backed up Benny Parker at the point guard spot, but has also seen time at guard and forward, depending on the matchup. He has played in all 13 games, playing nearly 16 minutes per contest and averaging 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 points per game.
He had one of his best games of 2012-13 at Oregon, totaling four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes of action. Peltz played a career-high 22 minutes against Kent State, where he grabbed six rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, and had three rebounds and two assists in the win over USC on Dec. 3. Peltz tied for team-high honors with four assists in 18 minutes off the bench against Central Michigan.
Two other former walk-ons have been in the Huskers' rotation at times this season in sophomores Trevor Menke and Jordan Tyrance. Menke came to Nebraska as a walk-on, but was put on scholarship for this season for his efforts in the classroom and on the practice court. Menke, who played seven minutes as a redshirt freshman, played a career-high 16 minutes in Nebraska's season opener and has averaged 7.7 minutes per game in six contests. Tyrance has played in seven games off the bench for the Big Red.
- Nebraska is a perfect 4-0 when it shoots above 50 percent from the field, but has struggled in its four losses, being held under 40 percent in each setback.
- The Huskers have held 12 of 13 opponents under 50 percent shooting this year, as Kent State, which shot 57.1 percent on Nov. 24, is the only foe to shoot better than 50 percent. The Huskers have also held five opponents to under 40 percent shooting.
- Balance has been key for the Huskers, as Nebraska is 7-0 when three players reach double figures and just 2-4 when two players or less reach double digits.
- Nebraska's 89 points against Central Michigan on Dec. 22, was the Huskers' highest total since scoring 94 on Southern Utah on Dec. 29, 2009.
- The 89 points against Central Michigan was Nebraska's highest total in a road or neutral site since scoring 89 in a 101-89 loss at TCU on March 15, 1999.
- Husker coach Tim Miles became just the sixth coach in the 117-year history of Nebraska basketball to win his first four games. In fact, only two Husker basketball coaches had won their first four games since 1920.
- Miles becomes the first Nebraska Head Coach to win his first road game at Nebraska since Paul Schlisser in 1919-20, a 47-9 win over Hastings College on Jan. 13, 1920. Prior to Miles' win, the previous 14 Nebraska basketball head coaches had lost their first road game as Husker head coach.
- Nebraska's 16-point victory at Wake Forest was its largest road margin since a 77-60 win at Minnesota on Nov. 29, 2003, and the seventh-largest win over the past quarter century. Prior to the Wake Forest win, Nebraska has won nine road games by double figures over the last decade.
- Nebraska's win over Wake Forest marked the first time the Demon Deacons had lost at home in seven ACC/Big Ten Challenge games and was just their third loss in the series history.
- Nebraska's 51-point second half at Wake Forest was its highest scoring half since scoring 55 against Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 15, 2010, a span of 67 games.
- Nebraska held Horizon League favorite Valparaiso to just 48 points in a 50-48 win, the Crusaders' lowest point total in 29 games dating back to Nov. 25, 2011. Over the last three-plus seasons, Valparaiso has been held to 50 points or less just four times.
- Nebraska's 50 points in the win over the Crusaders equaled the fewest the Huskers have scored in a win since a 50-44 win over Oregon State on Dec. 12, 2009.
- Nebraska held Southern to 55 points and Valparaiso to 48 points, marking only the fifth time in the last 60 years that the Huskers had held its first two opponents of the season to 55 points or less (1958-59, 1985-86, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2012-13).
- The Huskers defeated Jacksonville State while going 0-of-5 from 3-point range. It marked the first time since Feb. 14, 1998, that NU won a game without making a 3-pointer.