Game #9 at Creighton
Game Date Dec. 8, 2013
Tipoff Time 5:07 p.m. (CT)
Venue CenturyLink Center
2013-14 Record: 6-2, 0-0 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 21-20 (2nd year)
Career Record: 304-240 (19th year)
2013-14 Record: 6-2, 0-0 Big East
Head Coach: Greg McDermott
Record at Creighton: 86-32 (4th year)
Career Record: 365-227 (20th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: Fox Sports 1
DirecTV (Ch. 219); DISH Network (Ch. 150); Time Warner Cable (Ch. 75); Cox Cable (Ch. 232)
Play-by-play: Cory Provus
Expert Analysis: Bill Raftery
Online Video: None
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: Matt Davison
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius Ch. 85, XM Ch. 85
Huskers Travel to Creighton Sunday Afternoon
The Nebraska basketball team makes the 56.5 mile drive up I-80 on Sunday afternoon, as the Huskers trek to Omaha to face the Creighton Bluejays.
Tipoff for the annual matchup between the two programs is at 5:07 p.m. (CT) on Fox Sports 1 with Cory Provus and Bill Raftery on the call. On DirecTV, the game will be shown on Ch. 219, while DISH Network has the game on Ch. 150. Fans should check with their local cable provider to see if the game is on their local cable packages, as Fox Sports 1 is not on all basic cable packages throughout the state of Nebraska.
Sunday’s matchup with the Bluejays will be carried across the state on the 27-station Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison 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 for free on Huskers.com and is available on the Huskers’ app on iOS or android devices, as well as Sirius and XM Radio.
The Huskers are 6-2 on the season and head into their first road test of the season riding a three-game win streak after a 60-49 win over Miami Wednesday evening in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Nebraska continued its string of solid efforts on the defensive end, holding Miami to 32 percent shooting and has held its last three opponents to just 57.3 points per game on 37 percent shooting.
Nebraska also received strong performances from forwards Walter Pitchford (13 points and five rebounds) and Leslee Smith (seven points and 10 rebounds), who combined to limit Miami’s two starting forwards to a combined 1-of-8 shooting. Pitchford has now been in double figures in three of the Huskers’ last four games, while Smith has pulled down nine or more rebounds in four of Nebraska’s last five contests.
The Huskers have relied on its new faces this season, as five of the team’s top six scorers are in their first season of competition at Nebraska. On Wednesday, NU started a lineup which featured one freshman and three sophomores.
If the Huskers are looking to snap a two-game losing streak to the Bluejays, Nebraska will need another strong defensive effort on Sunday, as Creighton is averaging 83.4 points per game. The Bluejays feature two-time All-American Doug McDermott, who averages 24.4 points per game and an experienced lineup around the four-year starter, including fifth-year senior Ethan Wragge and sixth-year senior Grant Gibbs.
By the Numbers
3 - Number of Huskers on the 2013-14 Husker roster who have played at CenturyLink Center during their college careers (David Rivers-2011; Ray Gallegos-2009; Walter Pitchford 2011 with Florida in the NCAA Tournament Second and Third Rounds in Omaha).
5- Nebraska has had five different players (Shavon Shields, Walter Pitchford, Ray Gallegos, Terran Petteway, and Deverell Biggs) lead the Huskers in scoring over the first eight contests.
16.7- Points per game in road games for Ray Gallegos during the 2012-13 season. He had five of his six career 20-point games on the road, including a career-high 30 points at Minnesota on Jan. 29, 2013.
2,192 - Days (as of Sunday) since Nebraska’s last game against a Big East team, a 63-51 win over Rutgers on Dec. 9, 2007.
The Bluejays are 6-2 on the season following a 17-point win at Long Beach State earlier this week. Creighton was ranked until last week, when the Bluejays dropped a pair of neutral site games at the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, Calif. Creighton’s most impressive early season wins are victories at St. Joseph’s (83-79) and Arizona State (88-60). The Bluejays feature one of the best offenses in the country, led by two-time All-American Doug McDermott. The 6-foot-8 senior averages 24.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, leading the Bluejays in both categories. He is one of four seniors in a very experienced lineup, as Ethan Wagge joins McDermott in double figures by averaging 12.1 points per game, while Austin Chatman averages 8.6 points and 4.5 assists per game.
Greg McDermott is in his fourth year at CU after coaching at Iowa State, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State and Wayne State. McDermott and Miles have squared off several times before during their days at the Division II level and have met twice while leading Division I programs, a 67-54 Iowa State win over North Dakota State in 2006-07 and last year’s matchup between Nebraska and Creighton.
Series History vs. Creighton
Nebraska and Creighton are meeting for the 47th time in series history on Sunday, with the Cornhuskers holding a 25-21 advantage that dates back to the 1922-23 season. It is the longest non-conference series on the Huskers’ schedule. Creighton’s win last year in Lincoln snapped a seven-year streak of the home team winning the matchup. Creighton leads 15-9 all-time in Omaha and the Huskers are looking for their first win in the CenturyLink Center since the 2004 NIT. Nebraska is now 32-34 against the newly constructed Big East Conference.
Last Year vs. Creighton
Nebraska’s cold-shooting night proved costly, as the Huskers dropped a 64-42 decision to No. 16 Creighton at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. A sellout crowd of 13,368 – the Huskers’ first non-conference sellout since 2006 - saw the Huskers held to a season-low 32.1 percent from the floor, including 25 percent in the first half, as the Bluejays jumped out to a 28-17 halftime lead and were in control for much of the night.
All-American Doug McDermott led all scorers with 27 points for the Bluejays, while Gregory Echenique had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Creighton, which snapped the Huskers’ two-game win streak and picked up its first win in Lincoln since 2004. Seniors Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel led the Huskers (6-2) with 14 and 10 points respectively, while Ubel grabbed eight boards in a losing effort. Nebraska held Creighton to 64 points, nearly 20 points below its season average at the time, but NU missed 13 of its first 18 shots and never got on track offensively.
Last Time Out
Sophomores Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford combined for 27 points, while Nebraska turned arguably its best defensive effort of the season in a 60-49 win over Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Petteway scored all 14 points in the second half, while Pitchford keyed a decisive second-half run after Miami trimmed a 16-point Nebraska lead to 36-31. Nebraska, which improved to 6-2 on the season, held the Hurricanes to just 32 percent shooting on the night and forced 13 turnovers against the Hurricanes, who saw their two-game win streak snapped.
Nebraska led 36-20 with 12:05 left before the Hurricanes went on an 11-0 spurt, as a pair of 3-pointers from Rion Brown and 3-pointer from Davon Reed cut the Husker lead to 36-31. Miami had a chance to trim the lead further on its next trip, but Manu Lecomte missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Nebraska took advantage. Pitchford’s 3-pointer ended a nearly five minute scoreless span for the Big Red. On Miami’s next possession, Pitchford drew a charge and the 6-foot-10 sophomore hit a pair of free throws, pushing the lead to 41-31.
That marked Miami’s best chance to come back, as the Huskers weathered a second half which saw Miami hit 6-of-13 from beyond the arc. Nebraska kept the lead with solid foul shooting, going 15-of-19 in the final 20 minutes to hold Miami at bay.
Keeping the Cup
Nebraska’s win over Miami on Wednesday allowed the Big Ten to keep the Commissioner’s Cup - the prize given to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge winner - for the fifth straight season. The Big Ten and ACC tied at six wins apiece with the home team winning 10 of the 12 matchups. The ACC leads the all-time Big Ten/ACC Challenge series 10-3-2, but the Big Ten has gone 3-0-2 over the last five seasons.
Nebraska is now 5-2 in conference challenge games, dating back to its time in the Big 12 Conference.
Husker Defense Shuts Down Miami
Nebraska’s defense played a focal point in the win over Miami on Wednesday. Not only did the Huskers hold Miami to its third-lowest point total in Jim Larrañaga’s three seasons at Miami, but the 13 points allowed marked the Hurricanes’ lowest total since joining the ACC prior to the 2004-05 season. It was the fewest points the Huskers allowed in a half since holding Jackson State to nine points on Dec. 19, 2009.
Quick Look at Nebraska
As second-year coach Tim Miles continues his 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.
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.
This season, Nebraska is again picked 12th in the preseason poll of writers with a roster which is 271st (of 351 teams) in experience according to KenPom. Five of NU’s nine 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. Through the first eight games, 80 percent of starts have been made by freshmen or sophomores.
Finding Offensive Pace
Despite having five new faces in Nebraska’s primary nine-man rotation, the Huskers have been a much more prolific offensive team in the early stages of 2013-14. The Huskers are averaging 11 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 73.0 points per game marks only the fourth time since 2000 that Nebraska has averaged more than 70 points per game through the first eight contests and the first time since 2006-07.
•-Nebraska’s average after seven games is the highest since the 2000-01 squad averaged 74.0 points per game in its opening stretch.
•-Nebraska has scored 80 or more points in consecutive games against South Carolina State and UMass, the first time that has happened since January of 2009 (vs. Maryland Eastern Shore and Florida A&M).
•-Nebraska has already put five players in double figures twice in the first eight games and four players in two other games.
•-Nebraska has already scored 75 or more points three times after just reaching that plateau twice in 33 games last season, as the Huskers were 12th in the Big Ten in scoring offense, averaging 58.3 points per game.
•-According to KenPom, Nebraska ranks 41st in free throw percentage rate this season after ranking 331st nationally in the category in 2012-13. Two of Miles’ final three Colorado State teams ranked in the top 40 in that category.
Setting a Benchmark
As the Huskers have looked at different lineup combinations, one consistent thing during the first month of the season has been improved bench play.
Nebraska is averaging 27.0 points per game from its bench entering Sunday’s game with Creighton, a number which has been greatly helped by the return of Ray Gallegos and the addition of Deverell Biggs. Both players missed the first two regular-season games, but have been productive in reserve roles.
Biggs is third on the team in scoring at 10.7 ppg and is shooting 42 percent from the floor and 56 percent from 3-point range. He had one of his best efforts of the season against Northern Illinois on Nov. 30, scoring a game-high 18 points and grabbing four rebounds. Gallegos, who started every game in 2012-13, has provided long-range shooting and is averaging 8.0 points per game, including a team-high 14 3-pointers. Gallegos returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday against Miami.
The unsung hero of the Huskers’ bench has been junior college transfer Leslee Smith, who gives the Huskers a physical player off the bench. He is averaging 8.5 points per game while ranking fourth in the Big Ten in shooting percentage (.610), while pulling down a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game to rank 10th in the league.
•-Last year, Nebraska has three players averaging over 30 minutes per game, including Ray Gallegos and Dylan Talley, who both ranked among the top five in the Big Ten in minutes per game. This year, no Husker is averaging more than 30 minutes per game, while nine Huskers average at least 15 minutes per game.
•-Against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 8, sophomore Benny Parker had a career-high nine points and two steals in 27 minutes. He single-handedly sparked the Huskers in a 10-0 second half run with seven points and both steals.
•-In NU’s win over Western Illinois on Nov. 12, Smith had 10 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals in 20 minutes. Smith scored six of his points in a 23-7 first-half run, turning a one-point lead into a 17-point advantage.
•-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.
•-In the loss against UMass, forwards Leslee Smith and David Rivers stepped up, as the duo combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds. Smith recorded his first double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and three blocked shots, while Rivers added 10 points, three rebounds and a career-best four steals.
•-Against UAB, Biggs led the bench with 11 points in 17 minutes, while Gallegos, who was not expected to play after suffering a knee injury against UMass, added nine points, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
•-In the win over Georgia, freshman Tai Webster added 14 points, including 13 in the second half, and three assists while Gallegos added 11 points, including three 3-pointers. Smith led NU with 11 boards and chipped in eight points, as the Husker bench combined for 38 points against the Bulldogs.
•-Against Northern Illinois, Deverell Biggs came off the bench to score a season-high 18 points and grab four rebounds, while Leslee Smith had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and nine rebounds.
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, the younger Shields is carving out his own impressive career on the court.
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 was one of the few freshmen whose numbers improved during Big Ten play in 2012-13, as he upped his scoring and rebounding averages to 9.2 and 6.0 to rank among the Big Ten freshmen leaders. During the Huskers’ Big Ten Tournament run, the 6-foot-7, 219-pounder became one of the Huskers’ go-to players, averaging 16.5 points on 61 percent shooting in games against Purdue and Ohio State.
One of three captains this season, Shields picked up right where he left off and comes into this weekend averaging 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He is 22nd in the Big Ten in scoring and is first or second on the Husker squad in scoring, rebounding and assists.
Shields enjoyed his best game of the year against Sweet 16 qualifier Florida Gulf Coast, scoring a game-high 28 points - one off his career high - on 8-of-13 shooting 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) en route to earning Big Ten Player of the Week and the Lute Olson Award National Player of the Week. Shields’ 28-point night marked the most points by a Husker in a season opener since 2006.
Shields saw his streak of seven straight games in double figures snapped against Georgia on Nov. 24, but still made a major contribution with six rebounds, two assists and a career-high three blocked shots in the 73-65 win. In Wednesday’s win over Miami, Shields had nine points, a season-high seven rebounds and two assists.
How Shavon spent His Summer
Shavon Shields spent part of the summer with 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. Shields had nine points in the opener against Sweden and 14 points in the victory over host Finland.
Transfers Make Immediate Impact for Big Red
While the Huskers were short-handed last year with just eight recruited scholarship players available for action, Nebraska knew that help was on the way in the form of transfers Walter Pitchford, Terran Petteway and Deverell Biggs. The trio led a scout team which regularly pushed the Husker starters in practice and set the stage for the 2013-14 season.
Pitchford, who played 13 games at Florida in helping the Gators to the Elite Eight in 2011-12, gives the Huskers an athletic big man with extended shooting range. The 6-foot-10 center is averaging 9.0 points per game on 48 percent shooting, including 13-of-28 shooting from 3-point range. Pitchford, who also is averaging 4.3 rebounds per game, is sixth in the conference in 3-point percentage. He led NU with 14 points in the win over Western Illinois on Nov. 12, including eight straight points in a first-half run, and has been in double figures in each of the last two games. He had 10 points and six rebounds against UAB and 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the win over Georgia. Pitchford was a force on the defensive end, blocking three shots and pulling down eight rebounds in limiting Northern Illinois to 36.7 percent shooting on Nov. 30. Against Miami, Pitchford had 13 points and five rebounds in NU’s 60-49 win.
Petteway, who began his career at Texas Tech, has been one of the Huskers’ most valuable performers. He is 11th in the Big Ten in scoring at 15.8 ppg and is third in rebounding at 4.9 rebounds per game. He led NU at the Charleston Classic last month, averaging 22 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Against UMass on Nov. 21, Petteway topped the Huskers with 30 points, as he became the 25th player in school history to have a 30-point game. His performance is the second-highest total by a Big Ten player this season. Petteway had 17 points in the opener against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 8, and nearly had a double-double in NU’s win over Western Illinois on Nov. 12, with 13 points and nine rebounds. Petteway led NU in scoring for the fourth time in five games on Wednesday against Miami with 14 points - all coming in the second half - and three blocked shots.
Biggs made his Husker debut in the win over South Carolina State, scoring 17 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out a pair of assists in 23 minutes off the bench. He has come off the bench, averaging 10.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Biggs had a game-high 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting in NU’s win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 30, including four free throws in the final eight seconds to clinch the win. Biggs earned first-team NJCAA All-America honors at Seward Community College in 2011-12.
Petteway Puts Up 30 vs. UMass
Nebraska sophomore Terran Petteway enjoyed the finest offensive performance of his career in the Huskers’ loss against UMass on Nov. 21. Petteway hit 8-of-20 shots from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers, and converted 11 of 12 shots from the foul line, scoring 30 points in 29 minutes of work.
Petteway became the 25th player in school history to have a 30-point game at Nebraska. Of the 25 players, only 12 have multiple 30-point games in their Husker career. He joins Ray Gallegos, who had a 30-point effort last season at Minnesota, as active Huskers with career 30-point games.
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. Despite losing its top three point guards from 2011-12 and having a backup point guard (Mike Peltz) suffer a season-ending injury in January, Nebraska finished fourth in the Big Ten and 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. Nebraska set a school record with two turnovers against Purdue on Jan. 16, breaking the mark of three set on three previous occasions. In all, five of the top 11 teams in the country resided in the Big Ten, including Michigan and Wisconsin which ranked first and fourth, respectively, in that category.
This season, the Huskers have been among the national leaders in that category, ranking eighth nationally with 9.5 turnovers per game. The Huskers have only reached double figures in turnovers three times in eight games. Nebraska also ranks third in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +4.4 per contest.
Webster Makes a Point, Plays the Point
Tai Webster has found a home in the Huskers’ backcourt, averaging 8.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game entering Sunday’s game against Creighton. Webster has been a much better distributor in recent games, setting or tying career highs in assists in each of the last three games. He had career highs with five assists against Miami and has a 1.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over the last three games.
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.
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, 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.
Double-Figure Returneees Rare Recently
Nebraska regained the services of its top scorer on Nov. 17, as senior Ray Gallegos returned from a two-game suspension against South Carolina State. Gallegos, who averaged 12.5 points per game in 2012-13, returned with a flourish, scoring 18 points in NU’s 83-57 victory. He suffered a knee strain against UMass, but bounced back in the final two games in Charleston, hitting 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Gallegos’ per-game average is the most for a Husker returner since Aleks Maric in 2007-08. In fact, Nebraska has returned only four double-figure scorers since the 2006-07 season.
Gallegos Dials in From Long Distance
Senior guard Ray Gallegos gives the Huskers a long-range shooter who can get on a roll from long distance. He comes into Sunday’s game ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 2.4 3-pointers per game, as he leads the Huskers with 14 3-pointers despite missing the first two games. Gallegos enjoyed his most well-rounded game of the year in Wednesday’s win over Miami with eight points and season highs in rebounds (five) and assists (three).
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.
•-He opened 2013-14 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.
•-Gallegos now has 118 3-pointers in his career and now ranks 10th on NU’s career list. He is 10 shy of Paul Velander (128, 2006-09) for ninth place on the Husker career chart.
•-Gallegos 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.
•-Gallegos 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.