Game #23 Illinois
Game Date Feb. 12, 2014
Tipoff Time 8:06 p.m. (CT)
Venue Pinnacle Bank Arena
2013-14 Record: 12-10, 4-6 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 27-28 (2nd year)
Career Record: 310-248 (19th year)
Illinois Fighting Illini
2013-14 Record: 14-10, 3-8 Big Ten
Head Coach: John Groce
Record at Illinois: 37-23 (2nd year)
Career Record: 121-79 (6th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
(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: Cory Provus
Expert Analysis: Shon Morris
Radio: 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
Expert Analysis: Jake Muhleisen
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius Ch. 108, XM Ch. 190
Huskers Return Home to Face Illinois
The Nebraska basketball team begins the home stretch of the Big Ten season Wednesday evening, as the Huskers play host to Illinois at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Tipoff is set for 8:06 p.m. (CT) and the game will be carried nationally on BTN (Ch. 610 on DirecTV, Chs. 439 and 9500 on Dish; Chs. 2, 1333 on Time Warner Cable) with Cory Provus and Shon Morris on the call. The game will also be available online and on mobile devices on BTN2Go
Wednesday’s game will also be carried across the state on the 27-station Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen calling all of the action, including flagship stations KLIN (1400 AM/94.5 FM) in Lincoln and KFAB (1110 AM) in Omaha (complete list of affiliates is on page five of the game notes). The game can also be heard on Huskers.com and is available on the Huskers’ app on iOS or android devices, as well as Sirius and XM Radio.
A limited number of returned tickets are available for Wednesday’s game starting at $10. They can be purchased by calling 1-800-8-BIGRED or (402) 472-3111 or at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Ticket Office beginning 90 minutes prior to tipoff, if available.
The Huskers (12-10, 4-6 B1G) look to build momentum for a potential postseason run following a 53-49 win at Northwestern Saturday afternoon. Nebraska, which has won four of its last six games following an 0-4 Big Ten start, has climbed to eighth place and is just one-half game out of sixth place entering this week’s action. The Huskers have been on the road for six of its first 10 games, and now begin a stretch of playing five of their final eight contests at Pinnacle Bank Arena, where they are 10-1 on the season.
Nebraska has been relying on its sophomore class, as Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford, Shavon Shields and Benny Parker combined for 46 of the Huskers’ 53 points against Northwestern. While Petteway has been one of the Big Ten’s top newcomers and ranks fourth in the conference at 17.5 points per game, Pitchford has developed into a consistent scoring option in recent games. The 6-foot-10 forward has been in double figures in each of the last four contests, including a career-high 15 points against the Wildcats.
Illinois (14-10, 3-8 Big Ten) looks for its second straight win following a 60-55 win at Penn State on Sunday. The Fighting Illini, who broke an eight-game losing streak, also features one of the Big Ten’s top newcomers in junior guard Rayvonte Rice, as he tops the squad with 16.5 points and a 6.0 rebounds per game.
By the Numbers
.846 - Nebraska’s winning percentage in games decided by five points or less under Tim Miles. The Huskers are 11-2 in such games over the last two seasons following Saturday’s four point win.
2 - Number of 30-point games by Terran Petteway this season (vs. UMass and Minnesota). He is the only Big Ten player with multiple 30-point games this season.
4 - Consecutive games in double figures for sophomore forward Walter Pitchford, which is his longest stretch of the season. Pitchford is averaging 12.3 points per game and shooting 58 percent in that stretch.
49 - Northwestern was the third opponent held to under 50 points this season. Over the last two years, NU has now held six foes under 50 points.
2004 - Nebraska looks for its fifth win in the last seven conference games on Wednesday. It would mark the first time since 2003-04 that has happened for the Huskers.
The Fighting Illini come to Lincoln with a 14-10 record and are 3-8 in the Big Ten following a 60-55 win at Penn State on Sunday. The Fighting Illini, which had lost its last eight games, switched up their lineup and got big games from freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill. Nunn finished with a game-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers, while Hill added 11 points.
John Groce is in his second year at Illinois after he guided the Illini to a 23-13 record and the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Before taking the Illinois job, he led Ohio University to a 29-8 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2012. Groce also served as an assistant at Ohio State, Xavier and North Carolina State before taking over the Bobcat program.
Illinois, which returned a pair of starters from the 2013 squad, won 13 of its first 15 contests, including wins against UNLV, Missouri and Indiana, before struggling at times in Big Ten action. The Illini are led by junior guard Rayvonte Rice, who ranks among the Big Ten leaders in scoring at 16.5 points per game while grabbing 6.0 rebounds per game. He is one of three Illini in double figures as junior point guard Tracy Abrams averages 11.5 points and 3.2 assists per game, while senior Joseph Bertrand averages 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Junior center Nnanna Egwu is one of the top defensive centers in the Big Ten as he ranks third with 2.3 blocked shots per contests.
Nebraska-Illinois Series History
Illinois leads the all-time series, 10-3, over Nebraska in a series that dates back to 1921. The Illini have won three of the four matchups since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Prior to Nebraska joining the conference, the Huskers and Illini had played only once since 1976 - a 100-73 Husker victory in the 1990 San Juan Shootout.
Last year, the Illini swept Nebraska, winning 71-51 at the Devaney Center behind a 30-point night from D.J. Richardson. In the rematch in March in Champaign, Nebraska led 57-55 with six minutes left, but Illinois went on a 7-0 spurt to regain the lead for good. Ray Gallegos led Nebraska with a game-high 23 points, while Tracy Abrams led five Illini in double figures with 16 points. Nebraska’s last win in the series was an 80-57 win in Lincoln during the 2011-12 season. That is the Huskers’ only win in Lincoln in the series.
Last Time Out
Walter Pitchford and Terran Petteway combined 25 second-half points, as Nebraska overcame a six-point halftime deficit to knock off Northwestern, 53-49, Saturday afternoon at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Petteway led all scorers with 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out a season-high four assists, while Pitchford scored 13 of his career high 15 points in the second half, as Nebraska improved to 12-10 on the season and picked up its first road win of the season.
Nebraska, which shot 25 percent in the first half, shot a blistering 56 percent in the second half, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range, while holding the Wildcats to just 37 percent on the day.
Trailing 22-16 at the break, Nebraska opened the second half on a 14-5 spurt, as Pitchford scored eight points to help the Huskers build a 30-27 lead.
The Huskers took control later in the half, as Shields and Benny Parker combined for eight straight Husker points to take a 40-32 lead with 8:28 left. The Wildcats trailed 44-36, made one last run as two straight Drew Crawford 3-pointers and a basket from Tre Demps tied the score at 44 with 3:52 left.
On Northwestern’s next possession, Pitchford was fouled on a defensive rebound, and the sophomore made two straight free throws to put the Huskers up 46-44 with 3:10 left. On the Huskers’ next possession after a Wildcat miss, Pitchford came up clutch, as Petteway found the 6-foot-10 forward for a 3-pointer to give Nebraska a five-point lead.
The Wildcats pulled to within 49-46 on a pair of JerShon Cobb free throws with 1:53 left before Petteway delivered the dagger, a long 3-pointer from the wing as the shot clock expired to put the Huskers up 52-46, and helping to snap the Wildcats’ two-game win streak.
Cobb led Northwestern with 14 points and four assists while Drew Crawford was held to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
*-Nebraska looks to improve to 11-1 in its first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Huskers and Michigan are both a Big Ten-best 10-1 at home this season. Dating back to last season, the Huskers have won 12 of their last 13 home games.
*-The Huskers will be looking for their fifth conference win of the season, which would match Nebraska’s 2012-13 total.
*-Nebraska is looking for its fourth conference win in the last five games, the first time that has happened since the 2008-09 season while it would also be NU’s fifth in the last seven games - a first for the Huskers since 2003-04.
*-The Huskers are seeking their second home win against Illinois in the last three years, as Nebraska topped the Fighting Illini in 2011-12.
*-With 17 points at Northwestern, Terran Petteway now sits eighth on Nebraska’s sophomore scoring list with 385 points this season. He should pass Brian Banks (386, 1976-77) on Wednesday and is 29 points away from matching Eric Piatkowski’s sophomore total (414, 1991-92)
*-Sophomore Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields are both closing in on 500 career points. Shields enters Wednesday’s game with 482 points, while Petteway has 473 points, which includes his season at Texas Tech.
*-Ray Gallegos could jump two spots on Nebraska’s career 3-point chart on Wednesday, as he enters the game with 145 in his career. He is within striking distance of eighth (Tyronn Lue, 145) and seventh (Cookie Belcher, 146) on NU’s all-time list. Gallegos is also closing in on a couple of other milestones, as he is three assists away from 100 in his career and 22 points from reaching 750 points. He would be the 56th player in school history to reach 750 career points.
*-Terran Petteway saw his streak of consecutive games in double figures snapped at 17 on Wednesday. It matched the longest streak by a Husker since 2000, as Aleks Maric also had a 17-game streak that spanned the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.
*-Shavon Shields led the Huskers in scoring at Michigan, marking the first time in Big Ten play that Petteway did not lead or share the team lead in scoring. Shields has been in double figures 13 times, including four of the past six games. He is shooting 40 percent (6-of-15) from 3-point range during that stretch.
*-Nebaska has trailed at halftime in each of its last two wins, including a 13-point deficit against Indiana on Jan. 30 and a six-point deficit against Northwestern on Saturday.
*-Tai Webster enters Wednesday’s game needing three steals to crack into the top-10 list for steals by a Husker freshman. Webster has 22 on the season, one behind Leslee Smith for the team lead. Cookie Miller is the last Husker freshman to lead NU in steals during the 2007-08 season.
*-Freshman Nathan Hawkins became the ninth Husker to reach double figures in a game this season with his 11 points at Michigan on Wednesday.
Quick Look at Nebraska
As second-year coach Tim Miles continues the rebuilding process at Nebraska, the Huskers’ roster is starting to take shape. Only two of the 12 players on scholarship have been at NU longer than two seasons (Ray Gallegos and David Rivers), while Gallegos is the only scholarship senior on the 2013-14 roster.
*-Nebraska enters the game at No. 69 in the RPI and a schedule rated as the 18th toughest nationally according to real time RPI.
*-Of Nebraska’s 10 losses, six are to teams ranked in either the AP or coaches poll this week (Iowa, Cincinnati, Michigan-2x, Ohio State and Creighton) and another is to a UMass team is receiving votes after being ranked for most of the season.
*-The Huskers started Big Ten play with a 1-5 record with four of their first six on the road, but had chances to win in the final minutes of three of those losses.
• vs. Michigan (Jan. 9) - Led 70-69 with 0:34 left (lost 71-70)
• at Purdue (Jan. 12) - Led 58-55 with 6:43 left (lost 70-64)
• at Penn State (Jan. 26) - Led 51-47 with 2:24 left (Lost 58-54)
*-Nebraska has relied on its youth, as its top three active scorers (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford are sophomores and of the nine players who played at least 10 minutes last night, only one is a senior. During Big Ten action, the Huskers have typically started one freshman (Tai Webster), three sophomores (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford) and one senior.
*-Miles is not afraid to play freshmen, as at least one freshman has started in 52 of the 54 games he has coached at Nebraska over the last two seasons.
This season, Nebraska is picked 12th in the preseason poll of writers with a roster which is 293rd (of 351 teams) in experience according to KenPom.com. Five of NU’s ninr primary rotation players are in their first year of competition at Nebraska, although three of the newcomers (Pitchford-Florida; Smith-SMU; Petteway-Texas Tech) have previous Division I experience.
Miles, who was given a seven-year contract when he was hired in 2012, led the Huskers to a 15-18 record last year, as 14 of NU’s 18 losses came against NCAA Tournament teams despite having only eight recruited scholarship players available. Nebraska played one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2012-13, facing 10 ranked teams while the strength of schedule was 13th nationally. The Huskers finished 10th in the Big Ten in 2012-13 after being picked to finish last by 23 of the 24 beat writers in the league.
Finding Offensive Pace
Despite having several new faces in the rotation, the Huskers have been a much more prolific offensive team in 2013-14. The Huskers are averaging nearly 10 points more per game than at this point last year, including a season-high 90 points against UMass on Nov. 21 - NU’s highest single-game total since the 2009-10 season.
*-Nebraska’s team scoring average of 67.1 points per game is on track to be the highest at Nebraska since the 2004-05 season, when Nebraska averaged 68.0 points per game.
*-Last year, NU was 12th in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 58.3 points per game. So far this season, Nebraska has been held under 60 points just six times in 22 games.
*-The Huskers’ tempo has vastly increased, as Nebraska was over 300th in adjusted tempo in each of the last three seasons and is now 175th coming into Wednesday’s game with Illinois.
*-Nebraska’s 82 points against Minnesota on Jan. 26 marked the most points by the Huskers in a conference game since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12.
*-Nebraska scored 80 or more points in consecutive games against South Carolina State and UMass, the first time that has happened since the 2008-09 season.
*-Nebraska has had nine players reach double figures at least once this season. The Huskers had two games where five players reached double figures and seven others with four double-figure scorers.
*-Nebraska has already scored 75 or more points five times this season after just reaching that plateau twice in 33 games during the 2012-13 season.
*-In two seasons under Miles, Nebraska is 21-8 when scoring over 60 points.
Record-Breaking Season Ticket Sales
The move to Pinnacle Bank Arena has been a boon to Nebraska basketball, as the Husker program has shattered season-ticket records. On May 3, all of the season tickets allotted for 2013-14 had been accounted for, as season-ticket sales were up nearly 95 percent from 2012-13. It marked the third straight season that tickets sales were up.
*-Nebraska is on track to shatter the school’s single-season attendance record of 13,357 per game set in 1992-93. Nebraska enters February averaging 15,239 fans per game in 2012-13, including the seven largest crowds in school history.
*-The previous school record for season ticket sales was 12,000 set in 1992-93. The Huskers sold over 14,000 season tickets for its first season in the building.
*-During non-conference action, attendance was up 56 percent from the 2012-13 season.
*-Over the last five seasons, only four schools have increased their attendance by more than 3,000 fans per game in a single season with the largest increase by BYU in 2010-11 (4,685 per game increase). Nebraska is currently averaging 4,887 more fans per game than in 2012-13.
*-The Huskers have rewarded the fans by going 10-1 in the first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Nebraska finished non-conference play unbeaten for the first time since 2010-11, and knocked off their first ranked foe since 2012 with the win over No. 15 Ohio State on Jan. 20.
The Son Also Rises
Nebraska sophomore Shavon Shields is on his way to creating an impressive resume in his own right. While his father, Will, is one of the greatest linemen in college and NFL history and a three-time NFL Hall of Fame finalist, the younger Shields has played an integral role over the last two years on the court for the Huskers.
As a freshman, Shavon overcame an early season elbow injury and averaged 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 29 games. Shields started to shine during the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, averaging 16.5 points on 61 percent shooting in games against Purdue and Ohio State.
*- Shields, who was hampered by a knee bruise suffered in practice early in Big Ten play, comes into Wednesday’s game averaging 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, as he ranks second on the team in scoring and rebounding and third in assists. All three categories are up from his freshman year.
*- After a week off during Nebraska’s first conference bye to get healthy, Shields has been been solid, averaging 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game over the last six contests. The stretch began against No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 20 when he scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Shields had 11 points and set career bests in both assists (four) and steals (four) against Indiana and led NU with 13 points in Wednesday’s loss to No. 10 Michigan.
*- Shields has the team's longest starting streak at 41 games dating back to last season.
*- He has been in double figures 13 times, and has grabbed at least six rebounds 12 times, including a season-high 10 rebounds against Penn State on Jan. 23.
*- Shields has paced the Huskers in scoring five times and has a pair of 20-point games this season. Both of his 20-point nights came against 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Florida Gulf Coast and Creighton).
*- He was named Big Ten Player of the Week and Lute Olson National Player of the Week for his effort against Sweet 16 qualifier Florida Gulf Coast in the season opener. In that game he scored a game-high 28 points - one off his career high - hitting 8-of-13 shots from the field and a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. The 6-foot-7 forward also led NU in rebounds (six) and assists (three).
*- Last summer, Shields played for the Denmark U-20 National Team, leading the country to the 2013 Nordic Cup Championship. He averaged 13.3 points per game in wins over Sweden, Finland and Estonia, capping the tournament with a 17-point, 12-rebound effort in a 101-94 double overtime win over Estonia.
*-Off the court, Shields is a microbiology major who wants to become a doctor following his basketball career and was named first-team Academic All-District VII on Jan. 31, as he carries a 3.77 GPA in mircobiology.
Petteway on Track for Historic Season
Sophomore Terrran Petteway has enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons by a Husker in recent years. The 6-foot-6 wing from Galveston, Texas enters enters the week ranked fourth in the conference in scoring at 17.5 ppg, while also averaging 5.3 caroms per outing. Petteway, who sat out last year after transferring from Texas Tech, has been among the Big Ten’s surprises during the 2013-14 season.
*-Petteway is on track to enjoy one of the highest scoring sophomore seasons in school history. At 17.5 points per game, it would be the highest by a Husker sophomore since Tyronn Lue averaged 18.8 points per game in 1996-97. In fact, only three players have averaged more than 16 points per game as a sophomore - Dave Hoppen (19.9), Lue and Jerry Fort (18.0).
*-He is challenging to become the first Husker since Tyronn Lue in 1997-98 and only the fourth Husker in the last 40 years to rank among the conference’s top three scorers (Andre Smith and Dave Hoppen are the others).
*-Petteway has raised his scoring average nearly 15 points from his true freshman year at Texas Tech, as his career high entering this season was a 13-point effort against DePaul.
*-He put together the finest game of his career in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 26 with a career-high 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting and six rebounds. Petteway hit four 3-pointers in the win and went 11-of-14 from the foul line.
*-Petteway is the only player in the Big Ten over the last two seasons with multiple 30-point games. The last person with three 30-point games in a season was John Shurna of Northwestern in 2011-12. Only nine Big Ten players have had multiple 30-point games in a season since 2010
*-He has seven games of at least 20 points this season, including four of the seven away from Pinnacle Bank Arena.
*-Reached double figures in 20 of 22 games after just having one double-figure effort prior to this season and has tied or led Nebraska in scoring in 10 straight games before the streak was snapped against Michigan on Wednesday.
*-Petteway had a streak of three straight 20-point games (27 vs. Citadel; 22 at Cincinnati; 20 at Iowa) - the first time that has happened at Nebraska since Aleks Maric had four consecutive 20-point games in 2006-07.
*-Nearly put together a double-double in the loss at Purdue with 19 points, nine rebounds and two steals, along with two blocked shots.
*-Recorded his first career double-double at Iowa on Dec. 31, leading all scorers with 20 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
*-Ranks sixth in the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 82.6 percent after shooting just 46 percent from the line during his lone season at Texas Tech.
*-Comes off a strong road performance at Northwestern on Feb. 5 when he led Nebraska in scoring (17), rebounds (eight) and assists (four) in NU’s 53-49 win.
*-Led the Huskers at the Charleston Classic in November, averaging 22 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in three games.
*-Put together his first 30-point game of the season in a 96-91 loss to UMass at the Charleston Classic, and is now only one of 13 players in school history with multiple 30-point games at Nebraska.
Pitchford Provides Scoring Punch
Another one of Nebraska’s transfers, sophomore Walter Pitchford has developed into a consistent scoring option for the Huskers. The 6-foot-10 forward began his career at Florida, where he was a reserve on the Gators’ Elite Eight squad in 2011-12. This year, he has taken advantage of the new surroundings and has been productive, averaging 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game One of the Huskers’ best athletes with a 40-inch vertical leap, Pitchford is also one of the Huskers’ top 3-point shooters at 39 percent on the season.
*-Reached double figures in scoring 11 times, including a career-high 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the four-point win over Northwestern. In that game, he scored 13 second-half points, including five straight points after the Wildcats cut an eight-point lead to 44-all in the final four minutes.
*-Has strung together four straight games in double figures, the best stretch of his Husker career, dating back to the win over Minnesota on Jan. 26. In those games, he is averaging 12.3 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. The stretch includes a 13-point outing against Minnesota where he went 5-of-7 from the field.
*-Put together the best game of his career at Iowa on Dec. 31, finishing with 13 points and a season-high 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Pitchford also had eight offensive rebounds and helped NU cut a 20-point deficit to five in the second half.
*- Finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting against Michigan on Jan. 9.
*- Posted his first career double-double against Arkansas State on Dec. 14 with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
*- Played a key role in the Huskers’ win over Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4 with 13 points and five rebounds.
*-Totaled an incredible 339:23 without a turnover dating back to his time at Florida before his first turnover on Jan. 9. The streak lasted 22 games dating back to his freshman year at Florida, as he was the last regular rotation player in the country without a turnover.
Gallegos Looks to Prove Less is More
While senior guard Ray Gallegos was Nebraska’s top returning scorer heading into the season, the Huskers’ increased depth has made him a more efficient player in 2013-14.
While Gallegos is known for being a long-range shooter who can hit shots in bunches, he has been a more well-rounded player in 2013-14. He is fourth on the team in scoring at 7.8 points per game while averaging 1.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Last year, Gallegos averaged a Big Ten-high 37.5 minutes per game, including nearly 39 minutes per game in conferene play.
*-Is enjoying his best shooting season both overall (.387, previous best was .366 as a freshman) and from 3-point range (.374, previous best was .349 in 2009-10).
*-Leads the Huskers with a career-high 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season and has twice as many steals as turnovers on the year.
*- Ranks seventh in the Big Ten with 2.0 3-pointers per game, including a trio of 3-pointers in the win over Indiana on Jan. 31. He also has four 3-pointers in the first matchup with Michigan on Jan. 9.
*- Has already set career high in assists on two occasions, including five assists against The Citadel on Dec. 21 and Minnesota on Jan. 23.
*- Enjoyed one of his best games of the season at Cincinnati on Dec. 28 with a season-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, while dishing out three assists.
*- the Huskers with 40 3-pointers this season and now sits in ninth place on Nebraska’s career 3-point chart with 144. He is one 3-pointers away from eighth place on NU’s career chart (Tyronn Lue, 145, 1996-98). Gallegos also ranks 60th on NU’s all-time scoring list with 725 points and would pass Brian Conklin (729, 2001-04) with his first basket against Illinois.
*-Opened the 2013-14 season by hitting six of 10 3-pointers in a win over South Carolina State on Nov. 17, the fifth time he has hit on at least six 3-pointers in a game.
As a junior, he connected on 83 3-pointers, a total which ranked second on Nebraska’s single-season list. It is more impressive when you consider that Gallegos made only 21 3-pointers during his first two seasons at Nebraska before redshirting in 2011-12.
*- Led the Big Ten in 3-pointers per game (2.5 per game) during the 2012-13 season. He became the first Husker basketball player to lead the Big Ten in any statistical category.
*-Connected on a career-high seven 3-pointers at Iowa on March 9, 2013, a total which is one shy of Nebraska’s single-game record.
Webster Makes a Point, Plays the Point
Tai Webster has found a home in the Huskers’ backcourt, averaging 5.1 points, 2.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game heading into Wednesday’s game with Illinois. While he is averaging just 3.4 points per game in Big Ten play, Webster has found other ways to help the Huskers win, as he is first on the team in steals (11) and second in assists (18) while shooting 70 percent from the line in Big Ten action.
Webster had five points and four assists in 29 minutes in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 26 and had four points, two assists and two steals against Indiana on Jan. 30. He dished out four assists and matched his personal best with four steals at No. 22 Iowa on Dec. 31 and put together his best game in Big Ten play against No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 20 with nine points, including 5-of-6 from the foul line, and two rebounds.
The 6-foot-4 freshman enjoyed the best game of his career on Nov. 24 against Georgia, scoring 14 points and dishing out three assists in NU’s 73-65 win. Webster scored 13 of his points in the second half and went 7-of-9 from the foul line. It was his second double-figure effort of the Charleston Classic, as he totaled 12 points and two assists in NU’s loss to UMass. He has dished out a season-high five assists on three occasions, most recently against Arkansas State on Dec. 14.
With his start against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 8, Webster became just the ninth true freshman to start a season opener in the last 18 years. Webster totaled nine points, two rebounds and an assist in helping the Huskers to a 79-55 win. He reached double figures for the first time in his young career against South Carolina State on Nov. 17, totaling 13 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Although he is a freshman who does not turn 19 until after this season, Webster was considered one of the top international guards in this year’s senior class. He played for New Zealand’s national team in qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, averaging 13.5 points per game in 52.5 percent shooting in three games. He also played in New Zealand’s National Basketball League, averaging 18.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last spring despite being the youngest player in the league. Webster is among the five Big Ten freshmen to watch by ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, joining Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn, Michigan’s Zak Irvin and Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes.
Value the Basketball
Under Tim Miles, one major emphasis is taking care of the basketball, and the Huskers were among the nation’s best in that category in 2012-13. Nebraska finished 10th nationally with 10.7 turnovers per game - nearly three fewer than 2011-12. NU’s turnovers per game were the fewest in school history, bettering the 11.30 per game in 1984-85. Nebraska committed 10 turnovers or less 15 times in 2012-13, including a school-record two turnovers against Purdue on Jan. 16.
This season, the Huskers have also been among the national leaders in that category, ranking 76th nationally with 11.4 turnovers per game. Nebraska is fifth in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +1.6 per contest. The Huskers also do a good job of getting the ball from opponents, ranking fourth in the Big Ten with 7.3 per game.
Setting a Benchmark
For Nebraska, one of the biggest improvements has been the development of its bench this season. Nebraska is averaging over 20 points per game from its bench, compared to just over seven last season. With the dismissal of Deverell Biggs, the Huskers will have to replace nearly 10 points per game from its bench.
Despite the loss of Biggs, the Huskers feature one of the Big Ten’s best sixth men in Leslee Smith. The 6-foot-8 junior forward has been the Huskers’ most consistent performer according to Tim Miles, as he gives NU a physical post presence. Smith is averaging 6.7 points on 57 percent shooting and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game to rank 15th in the Big Ten. Smith is one of only two players from the British Virgin Islands playing Division I basketball.
*-Leads the Huskers with three double-doubles, most recently an 11-point, 10-rebound effort at No. 3 Ohio State on Jan. 4.
*-Has five games with at least 10 rebounds, as he is sixth in the Big Ten in that category. He is the only player on the list who is not a starter. He also leads all Big Ten reserves in rebounding entering this week’s action.
*-Leads the Huskers in both blocked shots (16) and steals (24) while averaging less than 20 minutes per game. Smith is bidding to become the first Husker to lead Nebraska in both steals and blocked shots in the same season.
Sophomore Benny Parker has been in the lineup all 22 games this year and has 2.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as NU’s backup point guard. Parker provided a big spark in the win over Northwestern with five points - all in the second half - two steals and an assist in 16 minutes of action. He had a season-high nine points in the opener against Florida Gulf Coast and added four points and a pair of assists in 10 minutes off the bench against Minnesota on Jan. 26.
Junior David Rivers is NU’s other primary post player, as he averages 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. Rivers, who started during conference play last season, had a season-high 10 points against UMass on Nov. 21.
The other player who has gained playing time in the wake of Biggs’ dismissal is Nathan Hawkins, who has appeared in the last three games after not playing since Jan. 4. Hawkins, who missed the first eight games of the season because of a foot injury, averages 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. He played 10 mniutes against Indiana on Jan. 30, as his 3-pointer broke tied the score at 46. He came off the bench against No. 10 Michigan on Feb. 5, and had 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, in 20 minutes of work.
*-Nebraska has received 16 double-figure games from its bench, including seven from Deverell Biggs and five from Leslee Smith.
*-Against South Carolina State, Nebraska’s bench combined for 51 of the 83 points, making the fifth time in the last decade NU has received at least 50 points from its bench.
*-Nebraska had three bench players reach double figures in the win over Georgia (Tai Webster-14; Ray Gallegos-11; Leslee Smith-10).
Ending a Streak
Nebraska ended a 15-game losing streak to ranked teams with the win over No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 20. The streak dated back nearly two seasons, and also marked the first win over Ohio State since joining the Big Ten Conference prior to the 2011-12 season. The six-point win snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Buckeyes, and marked Nebraska’s first win over OSU since 1985.
The Huskers’ New Home
Opened on Aug. 29, 2013, the 15,000-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena is the new home of the Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball programs. Pinnacle Bank Arena is part of a $344 million project in the Haymarket District which also includes a 200-room hotel, 100,000 square feet of retail space, another 100,000 square feet of office space and 100 residential units.
The $179 million dollar arena is easily accessible in downtown Lincoln as nearly 5,100 parking stalls will be within walking distance of the facility by the fall of 2014. Pinnacle Bank Arena includes an expansive student section with 1,000 seats on the 100 Level, including behind the team benches. Pinnacle Bank Arena also includes 36 suites, 20 loge boxes and 11 permanent concession stands around the arena.
Containing 470,400 square feet, the Pinnacle Bank Arena seats over 15,000 fans when configured for Husker basketball games. It is divided into two bowls (upper and lower) and three levels (100, 200, 300) with Premium Seating Suites and Loge Boxes located between Level 100 and Level 200. There are over 160 concession points of sale and two private Club Lounges, one located on the Main Concourse (Level 100) and one on the Premium Level Concourse.
2014 Legends Weekend Set for Feb. 28-March 1
Nebraska basketball Coach Tim Miles is welcoming all former Huskers back for the 2014 Legends Weekend. The two-day event is from Feb. 28 to March 1 and is open to all former Husker basketball players, coaches and team managers.
The second-annual event includes a private reception on Friday evening, tours of Nebraska’s facilities, including the Hendricks Training Complex and Pinnacle Bank Arena, a chance to watch the Huskers’ game-day shoot-around, as well as tickets to Nebraska’s game against Northwestern on Saturday, March 1. All of the former players in attendance will be recognized during a special halftime ceremony and receive a special gift.
To sign up for Legends Weekend and for a special group rate, contact Teddy Owens in the Nebraska Basketball Office at towens@Huskers.com or by phone at (918) 906-4229 by Feb. 12.