2011-12 Record: 6-3
Head coach: Doc Sadler
Record at Nebraska: 95-74 (6th year)
Record at Division I: 143-92 (8th year)
Career Record: 263-131 (14th year)
Alcorn State Braves
2011-12 Record: 1-7
Head Coach: Luther Riley
Record at Alcorn State: 1-7 (1st year)
Career Record: same
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: Statewide on NET-1 (Ch. 12)
Play-by-play: Larry Punteney
Color: Andy Markowski
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: Sirius Ch. 138
Huskers Return Home to Face Alcorn State
The Nebraska men's basketball team returns from final exams Saturday night, as the Huskers take on Alcorn State at the Devaney Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and tickets for the matchup are on sale for as little as $5 by visiting Huskers.com or by calling 800-8-BIGRED.
Members of the TeamMates Mentoring program will also be recognized at Saturday's game. Mentors and mentees can receive up to three free general admission tickets through the TeamMates program.
Saturday's game is the first of two games televised statewide on Nebraska Educational Television (NET) with Larry Punteney and Andy Markowski on the call. The game will also be available to out-of-state viewers on BTN.com (subscription required).
Saturday night'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. Saturday's game is also available on Sirius Ch. 138 on satellite radio.
The Huskers are 6-3 on the season and will look to match their longest win streak of the season with a win Saturday night. Nebraska comes off a strong second-half performance against TCU, when the Huskers overcame a 37-30 halftime deficit by outscoring TCU, 39-20, after halftime. Bo Spencer led Nebraska with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while Caleb Walker and Brandon Ubel combined for 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Ubel comes off his best week of the season, averaging 8.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 9.5 rebounds per game in the Huskers' two wins last week. Ubel had eight rebounds in Saturday's win, including an offensive rebound and putback which gave the Huskers the lead for good in the second half.
Nebraska's defense has keyed the Huskers' recent surge, as Nebraska is allowing 53.5 points per game on 38 percent shooting during its two-game win streak. In the previous four games, the Huskers allowed 69.5 points per game on 44 percent shooting by its opponents.
Alcorn State (1-7) snapped a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a 106-101 double overtime victory over Pont University. The Braves, under first-year coach Luther Riley, have played a challenging schedule, taking on West Virginia, Texas A&M and Tulane over the first month of the season.
Husker Tip Off
Minutes that freshman Josiah Moore has played the last two games. The guard from Norcross, Ga., played just four minutes in Nebraska's first seven contests. Against TCU, he had two rebounds and an assist in nine minutes, as his basket was part of an 11-0 spurt to pull NU even.
Number of double-digit comebacks Nebraska has had under Doc Sadler, as the Huskers trailed by 10 points in the final seconds of the first half of Saturday's 69-57 win at TCU. Nebraska trailed 37-27 before Bo Spencer's 65-footer beat the halftime buzzer.
Last Time Out
Behind a game-high 22 points from Bo Spencer, Nebraska rallied from a 10-point first half deficit to post a 69-57 win at TCU.
The Huskers trailed 37-27 in the waning seconds of the first half before Spencer drained a 65-footer to beat the halftime buzzer gave the Huskers the jolt of energy they needed to put together their best half of the season.
Nebraska out-scored TCU, 39-20 after the break, shooting 56 percent in the second half while holding TCU to just 24 percent in the final 20 minutes to pick up its second road conference win of the season. Spencer hit 7-of-12 shots from the field including four 3-pointers en route to his fourth 20-point effort of the season.
Nebraska used an 11-0 run early in the second half to turn the tide against the Horned Frogs. Trailing 39-30, Jorge Brian Diaz's basket got the Huskers going before a 3-pointer from Spencer and a steal and layup from Brandon Richardson pulled the Huskers within 39-37. Diaz tied the score at 39 before freshman Josiah Moore's backdoor layup on the next possession gave the Huskers their first lead since midway through the first half at 41-39.
The Huskers took the lead for good with 10:26 remaining, as Brandon Ubel's putback broke a 45-all deadlock before Richardson's layup gave the Huskers a 49-45 lead.
The game would remain a one-possession game before Spencer took over in the final five minutes. Leading 58-55, the senior hit a long jumper falling down to beat the shot clock buzzer before Spencer hit another long jumper on Nebraska's next possession to extend the lead to 62-55. The Huskers then put the game away at the free throw line, hitting seven of eight from the foul line in the final two minutes to preserve the win.
While Spencer was the only Husker in double figures, Nebraska also got a strong performance from Caleb Walker, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds and Jorge Brian Diaz who had nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.
Scouting Alcorn State
Alcorn State comes to town with a 1-7 record following a win over NAIA Pont University on Tuesday night. The Braves are coached by first-year coach Luther Riley, who won four state titles in 11 seasons at Provine (Miss.) High School and had previously served as a graduate assistant at Alcorn State. The Braves are coming off a 4-24 season, including a 4-14 mark in SWAC action, and have played a grueling non-conference schedule. The Braves lost a 12-point decision at Texas A&M and also have losses to West Virginia, a Tulane team which is 11-1 on the season, Kent State and South Alabama, all on the road. To compound that, the Braves are also without their leading scorer, Marquiz Baker, who was second in the SWAC in scoring (15.9 ppg) last season. Baker suffered a broken foot in November and will not play on Saturday. Junior guard Twann Oakley has been the team's top performer, averaging 11.5 points and 2.0 assists.
Nebraska-Alcorn State Series
Saturday's matchup will be the third meeting between Nebraska and Alcorn State, as the Huskers posted a 77-53 win during the 2007-08 season before winning 78-57 in last year's matchup. In that game, four Huskers scored in double figures, including a team-high 16 points from Lance Jeter. The senior guard hit 5-of-9 shots from the floor and added a career-high seven steals which is one shy off the school record. Jeter scored seven of his points in a 7-0 second-half spurt that gave Nebraska some breathing room after Alcorn State cut a 28-point lead to 63-48 with 5:20 remaining. Sophomores Jorge Brian Diaz (15) and Brandon Ubel (14) combined for 29 points in season-best efforts, while junior Andre Almeida added 10 points off the bench. Nebraska shot 55 percent (17-of-31) in the first half to take a 40-17 halftime lead. Nebraska led 56-28 before ASU guard Marquiz Baker caught fire to score 17 of his game-high 32 points in the final 13 minutes. Baker helped the Braves to pull within 63-48, before Jeter single-handedly stopped the run as he scored seven points in a 43-second span, capped by a steal and layup to put NU up 70-48 with 4:27 left.
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 16.7 points along with 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Spencer has reached double figures in seven of his last eight games, including four 20-point performances. He had his best offensive game of the year at Creighton on Dec. 4, pouring in 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and adding five rebounds. Spencer led Nebraska to a win at TCU on Dec. 10, hitting 7-of-12 shots, including four 3-pointers in NU's 69-57 win.
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.
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 two Huskers in double figures, averaging 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. His average after nine games is ahead of his career bests in points, rebounds and blocked shots.
Offensively, he has been in double figures in five of NU's nine games and is second on the squad with 14 offensive rebounds. In his career, Diaz has 36 career games in double figures and now ranks 56th on Nebraska's career scoring list with 725 points.
Defensively, he is second in the Big Ten in blocked shots and his 23 blocked shots are more than two Big Ten team's entire totals entering Thursday's action, while his per game total would be above three conference squads. Diaz, who has 102 career blocked shots became the ninth Husker to record 100 blocks with this three blocks at TCU.
He tied his career high with five blocks in the one-point win over Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, joining Illinois' Meyers Leonard as the only Big Ten players with two games with at least five blocked shots this season.
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 steady on offense, scoring at least eight points in all nine 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 275 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, coming off the bench to average 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in just 21.9 minutes of action. Talley, who had been limited by a thigh bruise suffered against South Dakota State, came up big for the Huskers against Florida Gulf Coast, scoring 14 points, including the game-winning basket with 10.4 seconds remaining. He bruised the thigh before the TCU game and played just eight minutes in Saturday's win.
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.
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 five 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 11.4 points per game on 58 percent shooting in NU's last five games. McCray is also hitting 42 percent from 3-point range during the stretch. McCray set a season high 15 points and five rebounds at No. 22 Creighton on Dec. 4, his third straight game where he bested a season high. He had 12 points in Nebraska's games against South Dakota and Wake Forest and had nine points in Wednesday's win over Florida Gulf Coast. McCray had eight points on 3-of-5 shooting against TCU on Saturday and is now 10th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 52.8 percent.
McCray may have made his biggest contributions from the foul line in the win at USC on Nov. 14. A career 61 percent shooter from the line entering his senior year, 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.
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 11 of 24 from long range in the Huskers' first nine games, as he ranks eighth in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (45.8 percent). Walker has made the most of his shots, as the senior is fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.2 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. He turned in a solid effort against TCU, scoring nine points and grabbing a season-high eight rebounds to help the Huskers to their second road win of the season.
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 3.9 rebounds per game to rank fourth on the team.
Ubel Doing the Dirty Work Inside
After a slow start offensively, junior Brandon Ubel has raised his level of play in the last three weeks. The 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 7.8 points per game on 53 percent shooting in his last six 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. He had one of the best performances of his career against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7 when he had a career-high 11 rebounds and 10 points for his first career double-double. At TCU, he led Nebraska with eight rebounds and added six points, including a key offensive rebound and putback to give Nebraska the lead for good.
While his offense has picked up, Ubel has been a consistent rebounder, averaging a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game to rank eighth in the conference, well up from his 3.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore. 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.
Richardson is Huskers' Glue Guy
While senior Brandon Richardson doesn't lead the Huskers in any offensive category, his versatility is his greatest asset. The fifth-year senior averages 5.8 points and 2.8 assists per game while shooting a career-best 36.8 percent from 3-point range. The shooting improvement is significant for Richardson, who hit just 25 percent from long range in 2010-11. Richardson also averages 1.7 steals per game to rank eighth in the Big Ten 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 on Nov. 20, 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 83.0 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 61-of-76 from the foul line in the final five minutes of games, a remarkable 93.4 percentage.
Taking Advantage at the Stripe
One area where the Huskers have been proficient is at the free throw line, where Nebraska's 76.5 percent rate leads the Big Ten and is 14th nationally in the latest NCAA stats released Monday.
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 a school-record 76.5 percent from the line.
Nebraska has shot 75 percent or better from the line in six of the last seven contests, hitting an impressive 79.4 percent from the line in that stretch. Against TCU, Nebraska went 15-of-18 from the charity stripe, the fourth time in the last six games NU has been at 80 percent or better. The Huskers have been at their best in the clutch, hitting 85 percent (33-of-39) from the line in the last five minutes of games this season.
Cutting Down the Turnovers
One area where Nebraska had great strides in recent weeks 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 12.7 turnovers per game over the last seven contests, although Nebraska had 18 turnovers against Florida Gulf Coast. Prior to that game, the Huskers had committed a season low in turnovers in two of its last three games, including just eight against Wake Forest on Nov. 30. Nebraska had 11 turnovers in the win over TCU on Dec. 10.
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 95. 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.
60 Is the Magic Number for Defense
Nebraska's success has been predicated on clamping down on the opposition. Last year, the Huskers held 17 of 32 opponents under 60 points, compiling a 15-2 mark in those games. Counting the four games this season, Nebraska has held 74 opponents to 60 points or less in Doc Sadler's tenure at Nebraska, compiling a 65-9 record in those games following the win at TCU on Dec. 10.
Winning on the Road
In Doc Sadler's first five seasons, the Huskers were 2-8 in non-conference road games, but have turned it around in 2010-11. Nebraska went 2-1 in road games during non-conference play, posting a 64-61 double-overtime win at USC on Nov. 14, before ending non-conference action with a 69-57 win at TCU on Dec. 10. It marked the first time since the 1998-99 season that Nebraska has won a pair of non-conference road games. The 12-point margin at TCU matched the Huskers' largest non-conference road win since a 77-60 win at Minnesota on Dec. 29, 2003.
Nebraska's win at USC on Nov. 14 was a long time coming, as it was the program's first overtime road win since an 87-82 win at Colorado on Feb. 17, 2001. Prior to the USC win, the Huskers had won one overtime road game in that span. The win at USC, which featured comebacks in the final minutes of both regulation and overtime, was the second time since 1995 that Nebraska won its road opener.
New Conference, old Foes
Nebraska's addition to the Big Ten Conference provides Husker fans a new set of rivals to get acquainted with this season. While Nebraska has squared off with every Big Ten member in its history, it has been a while since NU has played any of its new conference members. Nebraska's last contest with a Big Ten team was a 58-47 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 8, 2004. In fact, current Big Ten members have only played at the Devaney Center 17 times since the facility opened in 1976 with the Gophers (seven times) and Michigan State (three times) accounting for more than half of the total. This season, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois all make their first-ever trips to the Devaney Center, leaving Northwestern as the only Big Ten team to never play the Huskers at the Devaney Center.
Noting the 2011-12 Schedule
With a new conference, including 18 Big Ten games, the Huskers will face a challenging road in 2011-12. Here are a couple of nuggets on the upcoming season slate.
- Nebraska will play 13 of its 29 games this season against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11. In Big Ten action, seven squads qualified for the Big Dance, including No. 1 seed Ohio State, as the conference was second in the RPI. The Huskers will open their first season of Big Ten Conference action with six straight games against NCAA Tournament teams.
- Nebraska's three true road games in non-conference play (at USC, at Creighton, at TCU) equal the Huskers' highest total since making four road trips in the 1997-98 season. Last year, Nebraska did not play a non-conference road game.
- Nebraska's schedule features a new conference in the Big Ten with 18 conference games, compared to only 16 games in Big 12 action. The Huskers' single-play opponents for the 2011-12 season are Indiana and Michigan at home and Northwestern and Purdue on the road. The Huskers will face the remaining seven teams (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota) home and home.
- Every Nebraska game this year will be available on television or the internet, including 22 games broadcast nationally on the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) or on the Big Ten Network. Nebraska will also have its non-conference road games against TCU (The Mountain), Creighton (KMTV) and USC (Prime Ticket) televised, while the Huskers' games against Alcorn State and Central Michigan will be televised statewide on NET.
General Admission Seats on Sale For Winter Break Games
The Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office announced on Dec. 12 that general-admission seating for the Huskers' four games over winter break, including Big Ten games against nationally ranked Wisconsin and Michigan State, are now on sale. These are first-come, first-served seating in sections A4 (floor bleacher seating), B4-B5 and C5-C7 for each game.
Tickets are priced at $10 for non-conference games against Alcorn State (Dec. 17) and Central Michigan (Dec. 20) while the games against Wisconsin (Dec. 27) and Michigan State (Dec. 31) are available for $25 apiece. These student section prices are the same as the upper level plastic chair-back seats for each of those contests.
For more information or to purchase tickets for any of the upcoming games, visit Huskers.com or contact the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office by calling 800-8-BIGRED during regular business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.).
Student Red Zone season-ticket holders will also be able to sit in the Red Zone Section for the four winter break games, as seating in the area will be on a first-come, first-served basis.