Huskers Return Home for Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday
2011-12 Record: 4-3
Head coach: Doc Sadler
Record at Nebraska: 93-74 (6th year)
Record at Division I: 141-92 (8th year)
Career Record: 261-131 (14th year)
FLORIDA GULF COAST EAGLES
2011-12 Record: 3-5
Head Coach: Andy Enfield
Record at Florida Gulf Coast: 3-5 (1st year)
Career Record: Same
HUSKERS ON TV/RADIO/INTERNET
Television: Big Ten Network (Tape Delay, Thurs. 1 p.m.)
Josh Peterson, Brandon Aksamit
Internet: Live on BTN.com (subscription required)
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network(including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln; KFAB 1110 AM in Omaha; KRVN 880 AM in Lexington)
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Color: Matt Davison
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Ch. 137 on Sirius
Huskers Return Home for Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday
The Nebraska basketball team looks to snap a two-game losing streak, as the Huskers welcome Florida Gulf Coast University to the Bob Devaney Sports Center this Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and tickets can be purchased for Wednesday's match up between the Huskers and Eagles by calling 800-8-BIGRED or visiting Huskers.com.
Wednesday's game against FGCU will be shown live on BTN.com (subscription required) with Josh Peterson and Brandon Aksamit on the call and will be replayed on the Big Ten Network Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. (central).
Wednesday's game will also be carried across Nebraska on the 30-station IMG Husker Sports Radio Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison on the call. The game can also be heard on Huskers.com and season audio packages are also available for purchase on the Huskers' App for your iPhone or iPod Touch.
The Huskers look to regroup following Sunday's 76-66 loss at then-No. 22 Creighton. The Huskers overcame a nine-point first half deficit to take a 42-37 lead midway through the second half, but were done in by Creighton's 11-0 run, highlighted by a pair of controversial technical fouls on the Huskers.
Nebraska, which comes into Wednesday's game with a 4-3 record, received another strong performance from senior Bo Spencer, who poured in a career-high 29 points and added five rebounds, three assists and three steals to pace three Huskers in double figures. Spencer's output at Creighton is the second-highest single-game effort in the Big Ten this season, as he now averages a team-high 17.4 points per game.
Florida Gulf Coast comes in with a 3-5 record on the season following a 72-63 win over East Tennessee State on Saturday. Under first-year coach Andy Enfield, the Eagles have been in every game, with four of their five losses coming by six points or less, including setbacks at Maryland and TCU.
This is a busy week for the Huskers with three games in a seven-day stretch before final exams commence on Monday. Nebraska wraps up the week with a game at TCU Saturday night.
Last Time Out
Despite a career-high 29 points from Bo Spencer, the Huskers fell at No. 22 Creighton, 76-66, Sunday afternoon at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
Spencer paced the Huskers with 29 points, hitting 10-of-16 shots from the floor and adding five rebounds, three assists and three steals in a losing effort, as Nebraska overcame nine-point first half deficit to give the Huskers a five-point second-half lead.
Nebraska was within 46-45 with 9:15 remaining before Creighton got five points on a possession, taking advantage of a controversial technical foul on Toney McCray before Nebraska Coach Doc Sadler was called for a technical foul moments later. Greg McDermott hit three foul shots for CU before Grant Gibbs, who was fouled on the original play, added two more to take the Bluejays to a 51-45 lead. On Creighton's next possession, McDermott's three-point play put the Bluejays up 54-45 capping an 11-0 spurt that turned the tide of a well-played game through the first 30 minutes.
McDermott led three Bluejays in double figures with 24 points and 12 rebounds, hitting 9-of-15 shots from the floor to help Creighton improve to 7-0 on the season.
Nebraska continued to battle behind Spencer and senior Toney McCray, who came off the bench for a season-high 15 points, pulling within 56-50 after a McCray free throw. The Huskers would get no closer, as Jahenns Manigat's 3-pointer from the corner quickly pushed the lead back to 59-50. The Huskers made one last run, trimming a 10-point lead to 63-56 after a Spencer 3-pointer with 4:57 remaining, but could get no closer as two free throws by Antoine Young and a Manigat basket pushed the lead back to double figures.
The Bluejays, who came into the game hitting 64 percent from the foul line, made their free throws when it mattered, going 16 of 19 from the line in the second half, as part of a 19-of-22 effort from the line. Young was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line as part of his 14-point effort.
After a cold offensive start, Spencer and Brandon Richardson kept the Huskers close, as a three-point play from Richardson and a 3-pointer from Spencer pulled Nebraska within 7-6. Nebraska trailed 9-8 after a McCray basket, but Creighton used a 9-2 run of its own, as Josh Jones scored all five of his first-half points to extend the lead to 18-10 after a three-point play.
Creighton eventually pushed the lead to nine points with 3:04 left, but the Huskers regrouped, as Spencer led Nebraska on an 8-0 run, pulling to within 30-29 with 47 seconds left in the half. The Bluejays got a late break, as Gibbs got a long offensive rebound on a 3-pointer and hit a short jumper to give the hosts a three-point lead.
Trailing 37-33, the Huskers ran off nine unanswered points, as baskets by Spencer and Jorge Brian Diaz tied the game at 37 before Caleb Walker's 3-pointer gave Nebraska its first lead at 40-37. The Huskers eventually pushed the lead to 42-37 after a pair of McCray free throws.
McDermott willed the Bluejays back, getting a pair of offensive putbacks to make it 42-41 before Gibbs' basket allowed Creighton to regain the lead. Nebraska regained the lead for the final time with 10:42 left after a Walker 3-point play before Gibbs answered with a three-point play of his own to make it 46-45.
Scouting Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf Coast comes to Lincoln with a 5-3 mark after downing East Tennessee State, 76-63 on Saturday night in its Atlantic Sun Conference opener. The Eagles are coached by first-year Head Coach Andy Enfield, who served at Florida State from 2006 to 2011. Not surprisingly, the Eagles are solid defensively, holding opponents to 39.5 percent shooting and out-rebounding teams by 3.0 rebounds per game. Florida Gulf Coast, which is a full Division I member, has been in every game, dropping one-point decisions at both SMU and TCU, a three-point game at Loyola (Md.) and a six-point setback at Maryland. Junior guard Sherwood Brown leads a balanced attack with 11.8 points per game, as the Eagles have three players in double figures and seven of their nine regulars chipping in at least six points per contest. One of four first-time opponents on the 2011-12 schedule, Nebraska is 3-0 all-time against current Atlantic Sun Conference members, and Wednesday's game is the first against a conference member since a win over South Carolina-Upstate to open the 2009-10 season.
Taking Advantage at the Stripe
One area where the Huskers have been proficient is at the free throw line, where Nebraska's 77.1 percent rate is 10th nationally and second in the Big Ten in free throw percentage. It is on track to be one of the best seasons in school history, as only three Husker teams have shot over 75 percent since 1948. The 1967-68 team was third nationally when they hit 76.5 percent from the line. Nebraska has shot 75 percent or better from the line in each of the last five contests, hitting 81.6 percent from the line in that stretch.
Spencer Makes Most of Senior Year
While Nebraska returns four starters from a team that won 19 games last season, the loss of point guard Lance Jeter was a significant one. An All-Big 12 performer, Jeter led the Huskers in both scoring and assists in 2010-11.
Luckily for the Huskers, they already had a veteran point guard on the roster, as senior Bo Spencer sat out last season after transferring from LSU. He has been solid early on, averaging a team-high 17.4 points along with 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Spencer, who was held to six points in the opener, has been in double figures in each of NU's last six games, including a trio of 20-point performances. He comes off the best offensive game of his career, pouring in 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and adding five rebounds in Sunday's loss at Creighton. It was the second-highest scoring day in the Big Ten this season, trailing only John Shurna's 37-point effort against LSU in the Charleston Classic.
At USC on Nov. 14, he had 22 points, including the tying basket in overtime and the go-ahead bucket in double overtime, and also tied a personal best with seven rebounds. Against Rhode Island on Nov. 20, he had a season-high 23 points while shooting 8-of-13 from the floor, four assists and three steals. Against South Dakota State on Nov. 26, Spencer had a career-high eight assists along with 18 points and six rebounds.
Before coming to Nebraska, he started two seasons for the Tigers, averaging 14.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game in 2009-10. Spencer showed the ability to get to the basket, putting up 11 games of at least 28 points, including a 28-point effort against Western Kentucky and back-to-back 25-point contests against Kentucky and Tennessee.
In his LSU career, he reached double figures in 45 of 93 career contests, including 21 games as a junior. Spencer was the starting point guard on LSU's Southeastern Conference championship squad in 2008-09, as the Tigers reached the second round before falling to eventual champion North Carolina.
Huskers Are Picking Up the Pace in 2011-12
While Nebraska's forte has been on the defensive end under Doc Sadler, the Huskers had been proficient on the offensive end before struggling against Wake Forest. Despite seeing their streak of three straight games of 75 or more points snapped, Nebraska is still averaging 69.0 points per game, a jump of nearly two points per game over the first seven games of 2010-11.
Diaz Becoming Consistent Inside Force
Junior center Jorge Brian Diaz has been a steady presence for the Huskers throughout his three-year career. The 6-foot-11 center is one of three NU players in double figures, averaging 11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Offensively, he has been in double figures in five of NU's seven games and is second on the squad with 13 offensive rebounds. In his career, Diaz has 36 games in double figures and now ranks 60th on Nebraska's career scoring list with 708.
Defensively, he is second in the Big Ten in blocked shots and has more blocked shots then he did in the first 12 games a year ago. Diaz now has 94 career blocked shots, moving into ninth on Nebraska's career list and second among active Big Ten players. He is only six blocks away from reach No. 100 of his career.
Diaz enjoyed one of the best offensive games of his career against Oregon on Nov. 23, finishing with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, six rebounds and three blocks. He had eight of his points in a 22-7 run to help the Huskers erase a 15-point deficit before succumbing in the final minute. It was his third career 20-point effort and first since his freshman year.
Diaz has been consistent on offense, scoring at least eight points in all seven games, including five double-figure efforts. He nearly recorded a double-double against No. 22 Creighton on Dec. 4 with 10 points and seven rebounds while also blocking a pair of shots.
He turned in a strong effort at USC on Nov. 14 when he nearly recorded a double double with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in a career-high 43 minutes. He also played a major role in holding USC's Dewayne Dedmon to four points on 1-of-6 shooting. Against South Dakota in the season opener, he finished with 11 points and a career-high five blocked shots, which equaled the highest single-game blocked shot total in the last six years.
Throughout his career, Diaz has been a scoring threat, as the 6-foot-11 junior is only the third Husker returnee to average in double figures under Sadler, joining Aleks Maric and Ryan Anderson in 2007-08. He is now 292 points away from the 1,000 point mark and could become just the 15th Husker to reach the 1,000-point plateau in three seasons.
Talley Provides Instant Offense
When Doc Sadler talked about the addition of Dylan Talley, the thing he constantly mentioned was his ability to score. Talley has lived up to the billing in Nebraska's first seven games, coming off the bench to average 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in just 23.3 minutes of action. Talley has been slowed by a thigh bruise in the last two games, scoring just four points after averaging 12.4 points in Nebraska's first five contests. He leads the Big Ten in free throw percentage at 93.3, and was among the league's top bench scorers until he was held scoreless in 20 minutes against Creighton on Sunday, as he battled a thigh injury.
The 6-foot-5 guard reached double figures in three straight games earlier this season, including a season-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists and three steals against Oregon on Nov. 23. Talley had 12 points and three rebounds against South Dakota State on Nov. 24, and totaled 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers and five rebounds in 18 minutes of action against Rhode Island on Nov. 20.
Talley's adjustment may have been helped by the Division I experience he had when playing at Binghamton (N.Y.) University in 2009-10. That season, he was the America East Rookie of the Year and averaged 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Last year, he was an honorable-mention All-American at Blinn College, ranking sixth in the NJCAA in scoring at 23.0 points per game while also chipping in 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Walker Showing Extended Range
The work that senior Caleb Walker put in to improve his shooting has paid off early in the 2011-12 season. After shooting 35.7 percent from long range in his first season at Nebraska, the 6-foot-4 wing has hit 10 of 21 from long range in the Huskers' first seven games, as he ranks fourth in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (47.6 percent). Walker has made the most of his shots, as the senior is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.7 points per game.
He had the best offensive game of his career against Rhode Island on Nov. 20, scoring a career-high 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor. Walker was also 3-of-4 from 3-point range, the second game this year where he has hit at least a trio of 3-pointers. Against South Dakota in the season opener, he paced Nebraska with a then-career best 16 points on 5-of-5 shooting and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Walker went 3-for-3 from 3-point range, as he set career highs in points and three-pointers in the season opener.
Walker, who played both football and basketball as a freshman in junior college, is one of Nebraska's most athletic players and led Nebraska in rebounding last year. So far this season, he is averaging 4.7 rebounds per game to rank second on the team.
Toney, Toney, Toney
After a slow start, Toney McCray is beginning to heat up. The 6-foot-6 senior missed a significant part of the summer after surgery on his feet before a toe injury the week of the exhibition game put him out of action for nearly a week, forcing him to play catch up.
In his last three games, McCray has shown the skills that made him such a valuable performer for the Huskers. After averaging 3.8 points on 38 percent shooting in Nebraska's first four games, McCray has averaged 13.0 points per game on 55 percent shooting in NU's last three games. McCray is also hitting 44 percent from 3-point range. McCray set a season high 15 points and five rebounds in Sunday's loss to No. 22 Creighton, his third straight game where he bested a season high. He had 12 points in Nebraska's games against South Dakota and Wake Forest.
McCray is now shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range, but may have made his biggest contributions from the foul line in the win at USC. A career 61 percent shooter from the line, McCray hit four clutch free throws at USC - two in the final minute of regulation and a pair with 2.8 seconds remaining in overtime - for his only points of the night - in NU's 65-61 double overtime win.
Richardson Shows Well Rounded Game
While senior Brandon Richardson doesn't lead the Huskers in any offensive category, his versatility is his greatest asset. The fifth-year senior averages 6.3 points and 2.8 assists per game while ranking eighth in 3-point percentage (43.8 pct.). The shooting improvement is significant for Richardson, who hit just 25 percent from long range in 2010-11. Richardson also averages 1.9 steals per game to rank seventh in the Big 12 in that category.
The 6-foot senior came up big in his return home to Los Angeles on Nov. 14, totaling 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the Huskers' overtime win. He matched his career best with four 3-pointers and dished out a pair of assists, including the game-tying basket in double overtime.
Against Rhode Island, he keyed a Husker defense which held Jamal Wilson to 14 points after averaging 31 points in the Rams first two games and set career highs in both assists (eight) and steals (four) in 25 minutes. Richardson had six assists in the first half, in helping Nebraska build a 20-point lead.
Throughout his career, Richardson has been clutch from the free throw line, as he ranks third in school history with an 82.8 career percentage from the charity stripe and is one of only four players in program history to shoot over 80 percent for a career. Last year, he was second in Big 12 action in league play, hitting 87.8 of his free throws, including a stretch of 25 consecutive from the line. Throughout his career, he has been his best in late-game situations, going 69-of-74 from the foul line in the final five minutes of games, a remarkable 93.2 percentage.
Ubel Doing the Dirty work Inside
After a slow start offensively, junior Brandon Ubel has raised his level of play in the last two weeks. The 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 7.8 points per game on 55 percent shooting in his last four games after totaling just seven points in his first three contests. He began the stretch with a career-high 15 point performance against Oregon on Nov. 23 and added 12 points and eight rebounds in the win over South Dakota State on Nov. 26. While his offense has picked up, Ubel has been a consistent rebounder, averaging a team-high 5.1 rebounds per game to rank 14th in the conference, well up from his 3.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Ubel looks to bounce back after being held scoreless in Sunday's loss at Creighton. Against Wake Forest, he set a career high with five assists and tied season bests in both blocked shots (two) and steals (two).
Ubel's recent efforts were reminiscent of last year when he closed the year playing his best basketball, averaging 10.0 points on 58 percent shooting and 6.3 rebounds over the Huskers final four games - all against postseason teams. Those numbers were well above his 2010-11 season averages of 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest.
Cutting Down the Turnovers
One area where Nebraska has made great strides is in holding on to the basketball. After averaging 18.5 turnovers in its first two games, the Huskers have been much better with the basketball, averaging 12.0 turnovers per game over the last five contests. Nebraska has committed a season low in turnovers in two of its last three games, including just eight against Wake Forest on Nov. 30. NU also has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in that span.
Home Sweet Home
Nebraska has been strong on its home court over the years, and have enjoyed an impressive home run under Coach Doc Sadler. In the past five-plus seasons under Sadler, Nebraska has dominated to the tune of a 73-21 record (.776 winning percentage). Last year, Nebraska tied a program record with 17 home wins, going 17-2 in the friendly confines of the Devaney Center. Facing non-conference opponents, the Huskers have been nearly unbeatable at home under Sadler. During his tenure, the team has earned a 51-3 record at the Devaney Center. The Huskers had their 26-game home win streak in non-conference games snapped by Oregon on Nov. 23 and then dropped a 55-53 decision to Wake Forest on Nov. 30.
Nebraska Coach Doc Sadler
Doc Sadler is in his sixth season on the Husker sideline after leading Nebraska to an NIT appearance in 2010-11. Sadler has guided the Huskers to postseason appearances in three of the last four seasons, and his 89 wins in his first five seasons was the most by any Husker coach in his first five years at Nebraska. He is now in fourth place on Nebraska's career wins list with 93. Sadler has guided teams to postseason berths in five of his seven years as a Division I head coach, as both of his UTEP squads reached postseason play before taking over the Nebraska program in August of 2006.