Huskers Face No. 22 Michigan State
Game 17: at Michigan State
Game Date: Jan. 13, 2013
Tipoff Time: 5:06 p.m. (CT)
Venue: Breslin Center
2012-13 Record: 9-7, 0-3 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 9-7 (1st year)
Career Record: 292-227 (18th year)
Michigan State Spartans
2012-13 Record: 13-3, 2-2 Big Ten
Head coach: Tom Izzo
Record at Michigan State: 425-172 (18th year)
Career Record: Same
Huskers Face No. 22 Michigan State
The Nebraska men's basketball team takes on its third ranked team of 2013, as the Huskers trek to East Lansing, Mich., for a showdown with No. 22 Michigan State on Sunday. Tipoff from the Breslin Center is set for 5 p.m. (central).
Sunday'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 Spartans will be televised nationally on BTN with Eric Collins and Sam Vincent on the call, as every remaining Husker game in 2012-13 will be televised nationally. Sunday's game with the Spartans is also available on BTN2GO, including iOS or android devices.
The Huskers (9-7, 0-3 B1G) put together an inspired defensive effort at second-ranked Michigan on Wednesday, holding the Wolverines to a season-low 62 points and 38.9 percent shooting. Michigan, which had averaged 94.5 points per game in its first two conference games, had just 25 points in the first half, while Nebraska became only the third team to hold Michigan to under 70 points. The Huskers were within five points with 7:12 left before the Wolverines pulled away down the stretch.
Junior Ray Gallegos continued his strong play at Michigan, leading Nebraska with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, He has been in double figures in each of the last six games which is the longest streak of his career. Gallegos, who had made just 21 3-points in his first two seasons of action, now ranks third in the Big Ten with 40 this season.
Michigan State (13-3, 2-1 B1G) comes into Sunday's game on a two-game win streak following a 62-59 win at Iowa on Thursday night. The Spartans, who are ranked 22nd this week, put four players in double figures, led by Branden Dawson's 17 points. MSU has won eight of its last nine games, with the only setback being at Minnesota in its Big Ten opener on New Year's Eve.
By the Numbers
6 - Number of turnovers for the Huskers at Michigan, the Huskers' lowest total since committing a school-record three turnovers against Baylor on Feb. 10, 2010.
1991-92 - In each of its first two years as a Big Ten member, Nebraska has played three ranked teams in its first four conference games. Prior to the last two seasons, the 1991-92 campaign was the only other time since the AP poll started in 1949-50 where Nebraska had played three of its first four conference games against ranked teams.
16 - School record for 3-point attempts in a game, set by Ray Gallegos at Michigan on Wednesday. It marked the second time this season he has set the mark, as he also had 15 against Ohio State. Gallegos is second in the Big Ten at 2.5 made 3-pointers per game.
62 - Season-low point total by No. 2 Michigan on Wednesday, the fifth time the Huskers have held an opponent to its current season-low total.
Scouting Michigan State
Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans have been the one of the flagship programs in the Big Ten. The Spartans have made six Final Fours in the last 14 seasons and made 15 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. MSU returns three starters and 10 letterwinners from a team that won 28 games and shared the Big Ten regular-season title before winning the Big Ten Tournament.
This season, MSU comes into the game with a 13-3 record, including a non-conference neutral-site win over No. 6 Kansas, and has won eight of its last nine games following a three-point win at Iowa. MSU's strength is its interior defense, as the Spartans are holding opponents to just 37.4 percent shooting, a total which ranks second in the Big Ten, and out-rebounding opponents by nearly 10 rebonds per game.
Junior point guard Keith Appling guides the MSU offense with 14.2 points and 4.2 assists per game, as three Spartans average in double figures. Senior Derrick Nix and junior Adreian Payne give the Spartans one of the best center combos in the conference, as they combine for 17 points and 14.7 rebounds per game, while freshaman guard Gary Harris is second on the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game and has made a team-high 25 3-pointers.
Nebraska-Michigan State Series History
Michigan State leads the all-time series, 10-6, that dates back to February of 1920 following a two-game sweep of the Huskers last season.
Sunday's matchup will be the sixth straight time Nebraska has taken on a ranked MSU team dating back to November of 1990.
- Nebraska won the first two meetings on consecutive days, posting a 43-26 win on Feb. 13, 1920 and a 39-20 win the following day.
- The teams played six times between 1998 and 1994, splitting the six contests. Nebraska's three wins in the span came by a total of 11 points.
- Nebraska's last win in the series was on Dec. 10, 1994, as the Huskers posted a 96-91 overtime win over the No. 15 Spartans. Nebraska rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 46 seconds of regulation to force overtime, as Tom Wald hit three free throws with one second left. Nebraska took control in overtime, scoring the first seven points and never trailed. Jaron Boone's 23 points led five Huskers in double figures, while Shawn Respert had 37 points in a losing effort for Michigan State.
- Nebraska is just 1-5 all-time in East Lansing with the lone victory coming in an 85-81 triumph on Dec. 18, 1993.
Draymond Green scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while the sixth-ranked Spartans used a 23-2 second-half run to put away a short-handed Nebraska squad, 62-34.
Michigan State held Nebraska to a season-low 29.2 percent from the floor and its lowest offensive total in Doc Sadler's six seasons. The Huskers were within 23-15 at the break when Bo Spencer suffered an ankle injury on the final possession of the half. Spencer, NU's leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, did not return in the second half, finishing with two points, as Michigan State outscored Nebraska, 39-19 after the break.
In the second half, the Huskers trailed 25-17 after a Brandon Ubel basket with 16:27 left, but Green scored 12 of his 20 points over the next six and half minutes, as Michigan State built a 48-19 lead and cruised to the win.
Ubel led Nebraska with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while no other Husker had more than six points. Brandon Richardson added six points and five assists.
Last Time Out
Nebraska battled No. 2 Michigan for nearly all of 40 minutes, but the Wolverines pulled away down the stretch for a 62-47 victory.
Ray Gallegos led all scorers with 19 points for the Huskers, including four 3-pointers, but All-American Trey Burke's 18 points led four Michigan players in double figures as the Wolverines remained unbeaten.
Nebraska (9-7, 0-3 Big Ten) held the Wolverines to a season-low 38.9 percent shooting in holding Michigan 20 points below its season average in another strong defensive effort. Michigan, which averaged 94.5 points in its first two Big Ten wins, was held to a season-low scoring output, but used strong rebounding to ward off a pesky Husker team. Michigan (16-0, 3-0 Big Ten) had a 47-30 advantage on the boards and held Nebraska to 33.9 percent shooting.
In addition to Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the victors.
Nebraska played one of its best halves of basketball defensively in the first 20 minutes, holding Michigan to 32.3 percent shooting in trailing 25-20 at the break. Freshman Shavon Shields led Nebraska with six points and five rebounds, as Nebraska stood toe-to-toe with the nation's second-ranked team.
Michigan ran off seven straight points to take an 18-12 lead after a Burke 3-pointer, but Nebraska responded, as a Talley 3-pointer started an 8-3 spurt that pulled Nebraska within 21-20 after a Shields layup with 4:09 left. Michigan got baskets from Hardaway and Robinson to push the lead back to five points at the break.
In the second half, Nebraska quickly fell behind 30-23, but the Huskers chipped away, as a 3-pointer from Gallegos and a basket from Talley put the Huskers within 31-28, but Michigan would respond moments later as a 3-pointer from Stauskas off a loose ball and a Burke basket pushed the lead back to eight, at 36-28.
Nebraska would continue to hang around on the hot shooting of Gallegos, who scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, and Dylan Talley, who added 12 points and five rebounds for the Huskers. Nebraska trimmed a nine-point deficit to 47-42 after a Gallegos' 3-pointer with 7:12 left, but would get no closer as baskets by Robinson and Mitch McGary put the Michigan lead back to double digits.
Quick Notes From the Michigan Game
- Nebraska held Michigan to a season-low 62 points, 20 points below their season average. Prior to Wednesday, only two teams had held Michigan to under 80 points (Pittsburgh and Binghamton both held Michigan to 67). In conference play, the Wolverines were averaging 94.5 ppg.
- Nebraska has now held two of its three Big Ten opponents to season lows after holding Wisconsin to 47 points on Jan. 3.
- Nebraska has now held five teams to their lowest offensive totals of the season, including nationally ranked Creighton and Michigan.
- Ray Gallegos reached double figures the sixth straight game with a game-high 19 points. It is the longest stretch of consecutive games in double figures for Gallegos (previous high was five earlier this season). His 16 3-point attempts are a career high and school record, breaking the mark of 15 against Ohio State on Jan. 2.
- Gallegos' four 3-pointers at Michigan marked the seventh time this season that he has had at least four 3-pointers in a game.
- Gallegos played all 40 minutes against Michigan and has now played 129:56 consecutive minutes dating back to Dec. 29. Gallegos has played every minute of Big Ten action so far.
- Brandon Ubel grabbed 10 or more rebounds for the fourth time this season and the fifth time in his career, as he finished with 10 caroms against Michigan. He is averaging 9.0 rebounds per game over the last two games.
- Nebraska committed a season-low six turnovers against the Wolverines, the fewest by a Husker team since a school-record three turnovers against Baylor on Feb. 10, 2010. It marked the second straight game and seventh time this season that Nebraska has committed 10 or less turnovers.
- Dylan Talley matched his career high with five assists, set two times last season (vs. South Dakota, at Minnesota).
- Nebraska fell to 1-7 this season when shooting less than 40 percent.
- Nebraska fell to 2-6 this year when less than three players reach double figures, as Talley and Gallegos were the only Huskers to reach double figures.
Big Ten Loaded in RPI
The Big Ten has a reputation for being one of the best conferences in college basketball and 2012-13 is no exception. Six teams are ranked in this week's national polls and nine of the 12 teams are in the top 100 of the NCAA's RPI released on Monday. The Huskers are in a stretch where they take on four straight top-100 RPI teams to open Big Ten action.
Learning to Win the Close Ones
For most of the season, the Huskers have been good at winning the close games, going 3-0 in games decided by five points or less, but were unable to close out Wisconsin on Sunday. The Huskers led 38-37 with 6:16 left, but made just one of their final nine shots from the floor in the six-point loss to the Badgers. 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 averaging 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 has three players averaging at least 12.5 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 7-1, but just 2-6 when less than three players reach double digits following Wednesday's loss to Michigan. Nebraska used a seven-man rotation against Wisconsin when Andre Almeida missed the game because of a sprained ankle and also on Wednesday, when Mike Peltz did not play against Michigan.
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 Sunday's game at Michigan State 10th, 10th and ninth, 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 has struggled to find points in Big Ten play, averaging 44.0 ppg in Big Ten play and has been to the foul line just 20 times in three Big Ten 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 seventh in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 60.5 points per game. NU has held 13 of its first 16 foes under their 2012-13 scoring averages, while five teams have been held to season lows, including Creighton and Michigan, which both rank among the top-15 nationally in scoring offense.
In Big Ten play, Nebraska is third in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 59.7 points per game. Nebraska held Wisconsin nearly 25 points below its season average on Sunday and Michigan to 62 points after the Wolverines averaged 94.5 points per game in their first two Big Ten games.
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 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 will miss Sunday's game with an elbow injury suffered in the final minutes of the game at Michigan on Wednesday night.
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 12 of the Huskers' first 16 contests despite averaging less than nine attempts per contest.
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 Sunday 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 in Wednesday's loss to No. 2 Michigan, the fourth time this year he has grabbed double figures in rebounds.
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 80.1 percent. Last year, Ubel shot 82.5 percent from the foul line. Ubel is shooting 94 percent (25-of-27) from the line over Nebraska's last eight contests 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 Sunday's game at Michigan averaging a team-high 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He is 14th in the league in scoring and third in minutes played with 35.1 per game.
Talley has been in double figures in 13 of Nebraska's first 16 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 any game in 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 handled much of the point guard duties at Michigan as Benny Parker battled foul trouble, and finished with 12 points and a career-high five assists.
His biggest contribution this year may have come in one of three only games he was held out of double figures this season. 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 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 tied for the team lead in scoring at 13.4 points per game and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 2.5 3-pointers per game. He has been in double figures 11 times after accomplishing the feat just three times in his first two years at Nebraska. Among Big Ten players, he is sixth among all players in 20-point games this year - an impressive feat for a player whose career high entering the season was 15 points.
Gallegos is averaging a team-high 16.0 points per game over the Huskers' last six games, and has led the Huskers in scoring in all three Big Ten games, including a 19-point night at No. 2 Michigan on Wednesday. Gallegos has been in double figures in each of the last six games, the longest stretch in his career.
Last month, 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 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 36.5 minutes per game and has logged every minute of conference play. He is the first Husker player since 2000 to play every minute of three consecutive games (OSU, UW, UM). Gallegos' minutes per game is 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 then 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.
Andre Provides Giant Inside Presence
The Huskers were without the services of Andre Almeida against Wisconsin, but returned to the court in Wednesday's loss at No. 2 Michigan. Almeida has been a solid performer in the middle, as the 6-foot-11 senior averages 6.6 points on 57 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Almeida, who sprained his right ankle in the first half of the Ohio State game on Jan. 2, is 10th in blocked shots (1.3 per game).
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 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.
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 averaging over 32 minutes per night.
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, Nebraska is fifth in the Big Ten with 11.2 turnovers per game - two fewer per game than last season - and has committed 10 turnovers or less seven times this season. NU had a season-low six turnovers at Michigan, the fourth time in the last five games the Huskers committed 10 turnovers or less. NU's six turnovers at Michigan was the team's lowest single-game total since the 2009-10 campaign.
Parker Makes A Point
One of two freshment in the Husker starting lineup, Benny Parker became only the 10th freshman to start a season opener since 1995. Parker has been steady, averaging 3.6 points and 2.6 assists per game. Parker has a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio and has committed one turnover or less in eight of NU's first 16 games.
The Kansas City, Kan., native has shown his toughness over the last month, battling foot and knee injuries and not missing any game action. Parker had one turnover while playing a career-high 31 minutes in the loss to Wisconsin on Sunday. 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 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 after walking on in October but will miss the remainder of the season following knee surgery. 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 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as the Huskers' sixth man in 2012-13.
Rivers has surpassed his entire freshman year totals in every offensive category and had averaged 20.8 minutes per game this year. He is in the midst of the best stretch of his career, averaging 7.5 points per game on 58 percent shooting and 4.0 rebounds over the Huskers' last six games.
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. Against No. 2 Michigan, Rivers had four points and four rebounds in a career-best 32 minutes of work.
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 to the Husker bench.
After playing once in NU's first six games, Shields has averaged 25.1 minutes per game over the Huskers' last 10 games, averaging 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-6 freshman has been a force on the glass in recent games, averaging a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game over Nebraska's last six games. Shields pulled down a personal-best nine rebounds at No. 8 Ohio State on Jan. 2 and tied for team-high honors with eight rebounds in his first career start on Sunday against Wisconsin. Shields had six points and six rebounds in Wednesday's loss at No. 2 Michigan. In Big Ten action, Shields is second among Big Ten freshmen in rebounding at 7.7 per game.
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.
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 contests before averaging 12.3 points per game in the last nine games.
Huskers Lose Peltz for The Season
Nebraska Coach Tim Miles announced Friday afternoon that junior guard Mike Peltz will undergo season-ending knee surgery. The 6-foot-2 junior guard from Alliance, Neb., has played in 14 of the Huskers' first 16 contests, averaging 2.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 points per game in over 15 minutes of action per contest, as he saw time at point guard, as well as at the forward spot.
Peltz 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.
Peltz will have a patella tendon debridement on his left knee, and the typical rehab schedule for the surgery is three to four months, allowing him to be at 100 percent for offseason workouts.
- Nebraska is a perfect 4-0 when it shoots above 50 percent from the field, but has struggled in its seven losses, being held under 40 percent in each setback.
- The Huskers have held 15 of 16 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 seven opponents to under 40 percent shooting.
- Balance has been key for the Huskers, as Nebraska is 7-1 when three players reach double figures and just 2-6 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.
- Nebraska held Wisconsin to 47 points on Jan. 3, the fewest points allowed by Nebraska in conference action since giving up 46 in a win over Oklahoma on Jan. 30, 2010.