Huskers Head to California for Wooden Legacy
Game 4: vs Dayton
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network, including KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln, KXSP (590 AM) in Omaha and KRVN (880 AM) in Lexington.
The Nebraska basketball team hits the road for the first time this season, as the Huskers will travel to California for the Wooden Legacy this week.
The four-day, eight-team tournament features games on Thursday and Friday at Titan Gym in Fullerton with Sunday's action set for the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Huskers (3-0) open tournament play on Thanksgiving evening, taking on the Dayton Flyers (2-1) with a 7:30 p.m. tip on ESPNU and the WatchESPN app with Doug Sherman and Sean Farnham on the call. All 12 of the games in the Wooden Legacy will be available on an ESPN platform and on the WatchESPN app.
Fans can also listen to all of the action throughout the season on the IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call (complete list of affiliates is on page 5 of the game notes).
The Huskers come into Thursday's matchup with a three-game win streak after a 65-54 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Senior Tai Webster led all scorers with a career-high 23 points and six rebounds, while sophomore Jack McVeigh added a career-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers. The pair also went a combined 16-of-18 from the foul line, as Nebraska went 21-of-24 from the charity stripe as compared to 6-of-12 from Louisiana Tech.
Nebraska turned in a strong defensive effort, holding Louisiana Tech to 37 percent shooting and 54 points after the Bulldogs came into the contest averaging 81.1 ppg. The Huskers enter the Wooden Legacy fifth in the country in scoring defense, allowing 51.0 ppg.
Offensively, the Huskers have relied on a youthful group early on as seven of Nebraska's top nine scorers are freshmen or sophomores. Webster paces the attack with 17.7 ppg and also averages 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contests.
The Huskers, who are bidding for their first 4-0 start since the 2013-14 season, will be challenged by a Wooden Legacy field which is a combined 22-4 entering this week's games.
Dayton, who the Huskers open tournament play with on Thursday, is 2-1 on the season after losing 61-57 to nationally-ranked St. Mary's on Saturday. The Flyers were picked to win the Atlantic-10 Conference and went 25-8 last season.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
51.0 - Points per game allowed by the Huskers in 2016-17, a total which leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally. NU held Louisiana Tech to 54 points after the Bulldogs averaged 81.0 points in their first two games.
.852 - Nebraska's free throw percentage, which ranks second nationally. NU has shot 80 percent or better in all three games and four straight contests dating back to the 2016 Big Ten Tournament. Over the last eight games dating back to last season, NU is shooting .823 from the line (107-130).
.846 - Winning percentage of the eight teams in the Wooden Legacy. Six of the eight teams in the field are in the top-100 of the KenPom rankings as of Monday morning, including four in the top 50 (UCLA, Dayton, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech).
1.6 - Blocked shots per game for sophomore Michael Jacobson in 2016-17. Jacobson and Ed Morrow Jr. are both averaging at least one blocked shot per contest.
12.6 - Points per game as a starter for sophomore Jack McVeigh in his seven career starts. McVeigh averaged 11.0 ppg in four games last year while Shavon Shields was injured and is second on the team in scoring at 14.7 ppg this season.
Under the direction of Archie Miller, Dayton comes into Thursday's game with a 2-1 record after falling to No. 17 St. Mary's, 61-57, on Saturday. Miller is in his sixth season at Dayton and has taken the Flyers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2014. The Flyers, who were picked to win the A-10 and have four starters back from a team that won 25 games last year, opened with a 28-point win over Austin Peay before downing Alabama, 77-72, on the road on Tuesday. Dayton features two of the best guards in the country in seniors Charles Cooke (23.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), who is on the Jerry West Award Watch List and was a preseason All-Atlantic 10 pick, and Scoochie Smith (15.7 ppg, 4.3 apg), who was a second-team preseason All-Atlantic 10 pick. Dayton has battled injuries as two-year starter Kendall Pollard (10.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg) has not played this season because of a thigh injury and Josh Cunningham suffered an injury in the final seconds of the win over Alabama.
Thursday's game is the first meeting on the basketball court between the two schools. NU is 10-11 all-time against the Atlantic 10. The contest with the Flyers will mark NU's fourth game against an A-10 school in the last five years with the last three being decided by six points or less.
Year Matchup, Result
2011-12 def. Rhode Island, 83-63
2013-14 lost to UMass, 96-90
2014-15 lost at Rhode Island, 66-62 (OT)
2015-16 def. Rhode Island, 70-67
HUSKERS AT THE WOODEN LEGACY
Nebraska makes its first-ever appearance in the Wooden Legacy this week. The Wooden Legacy is the fourth ESPN-run event that the Huskers have participated in since 2010 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 2010; Charleston Classic, 2013; Diamond Head Classic, 2014). Nebraska's best finish at any of the ESPN-run events is a fifth-place finish at the Diamond Head Classic in 2014. The trip west marks the first time since 1985 that Nebraska has played an in-season tournament in California.
The following is the complete 2016 Wooden Legacy schedule. All times listed are Central.
Thursday, November 24 at Titan Gym
Game 1 - Texas A&M vs. CSUN, 1 p.m., ESPN3
Game 2 - New Mexico vs. Virginia Tech, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 3 - Dayton vs. Nebraska, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Game 4 - Portland vs. UCLA, 10 p.m., ESPN2
Friday, November 25 at Titan Gym
Game 5 - Texas A&M/CSUN loser vs. New Mexico/Virginia Tech loser, 2 p.m., ESPNU
Game 6 - Texas A&M/CSUN winner vs. New Mexico/Virginia Tech winner, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 7 - Dayton/Nebraska loser vs. Portland/UCLA loser, 8:30 p.m., ESPN3
Game 8 - Dayton/Nebraska winner vs. Portland/UCLA winner, 11 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday, November 27 at Honda Center
Game 9 - 5th Place Game, 1 p.m., ESPNU
Game 10 - 3rd Place Game, 3 p.m., ESPNU
Game 11 - Championship, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 12 - 7th Place Game, 10 p.m., ESPNU
LAST TIME OUT
Behind career nights from Tai Webster and Jack McVeigh and a strong defensive effort, Nebraska remained unbeaten with a 65-54 win over Louisiana Tech Saturday evening.
Webster led all scorers with a career-high 23 points, including 17 in the first half, while McVeigh scored 16 of his career-high 21 points after halftime.
McVeigh keyed a 10-2 second-half surge with a pair of 3-pointers, turning a three-point Husker lead into a 52-41 advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining, as the sophomore went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Nebraska held Louisiana Tech to 37 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers. While the Huskers shot just 37 percent, they were opportunistic by getting to the foul line 24 times and going 21-of-24 from the stripe. Webster went 11-of-12 from the line, while McVeigh went 5-of-6 from the stripe.
Nebraska trailed 15-11 before taking the lead for good on a 9-0 run keyed by Webster and sophomore Ed Morrow Jr. The duo combined for nine straight Husker points as the hosts took a 20-15 lead after a pair of Webster free throws at the 6:02 mark of the first half.
Nebraska eventually led by as many as eight in the opening stanza before taking a 32-26 lead into the locker room after holding Louisiana Tech to 36 percent shooting and forcing 10 first-half turnovers.
Louisiana Tech chipped away, pulling to within 60-54 after Erik McCree’s basket with 57 seconds left, but would get no closer, as Nebraska went 5-of-6 from the line in the final minute to hold on.
YOUTH IS SERVED
With seven freshmen and sophomores in the Huskers' current 10-man rotation, it is not suprising that most of the scoring and minutes have come from the underclasmen. Through the first three games, 68 percent of NU's points and 69 percent of the Huskers' points have come from the freshmen and sophomore classes.
The Huskers may have more experience available beginning this week, as junior forward Nick Fuller is close to returning to action after spraining an ankle during the team's public scrimmage earlier this month.
HUSKERS HIT THE ROAD FOR FOUR GAMES
The trip to Anaheim is not only the Huskers' longest trip of the season at nearly 1,500 miles, but starts a nine-day stretch where the Huskers will be on both coasts Following Sunday's game, the Huskers will return to Lincoln before leaving for a matchup with Clemson (1,100 miles) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, Nov. 30. By the time the Huskers return to Lincoln for their next home game, they would have traveled nearly 5,200 miles since Nov. 22.
HUSKERS LOOK TO CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENTS
Nebraska will look to continue the offensive improvement the Huskers enjoyed in 2015-16. Last year, the Huskers improved their season scoring average by 11.2 points per game and finished seventh in the Big Ten in scoring offense.
Despite graduating its top two scorers from last year, the Huskers are 72.7 points per game and averaging more than a point per possession in its first three games.
- For the Husker offense, 70 points has been a magic number in recent years, as Nebraska is 38-8 (.826) in Miles' four-plus seasons at NU, including 2-0 this season.
- The Huskers are now 16-2 under Miles when scoring at least 80 points following an 83-point effort against Sacramento State in the opener. Last year, NU cracked the 80-point mark on nine occasions.
- In 2015-16, Nebraska averaged 72.2 points per game, the highest total since the 1996-97 team averaged 72.9 points per game. It marked the first time since 2003-04 that Nebraska averaged over 70 points per game.
- Nebraska’s scoring average in 2015-16 was 11.7 points higher than the previous season, the largest single-season jump since WWII. It is the first time that NU’s scoring average jumped more than 10 ppg from the previous season.
TAI's SCORING JUMP
As the lone senior on the roster, Tai Webster has been the focal point for the Husker offense in 2016-17. The 6-foot-4 guard is seventh in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.7 ppg and also averages 5.3 rebounds per game.
- He is the only Husker to score double figures in each of NU's three contests and has been in double figures in five of his last six games dating back to the 2016 Big Ten Tournament (the other game was a nine-point effort in the win over Wisconsin).
- He eclipsed 20 points in two of NU's first three games, including a career-high 23 points in Saturday's win over Louisiana Tech. In that game, Webster scored 17 first-half points and went 11-of-12 from the line. It marked the third and fourth times he has scored over 20 points in his career and the first two times at home. Webster led the Huskers in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals against Louisiana Tech.
- Prior to this season, Webster has never scored more than 13 points in any career home game, as his top-10 scoring efforts had been away from home. In fact, he has set career highs twice in neutral-site games (14 vs. Georgia in Charleston as a freshman and 21 vs. Cincinnati in Brooklyn last year).
As a junior, Webster put together one of the largest one-season scoring jumps by a Husker in recent years during the 2015-16 season. He improved his scoring average from 3.9 ppg to 10.1 ppg from his sophomore to junior campaigns, marking the largest one-season jump by a Husker in nine seasons.
Webster reached double figures 16 times in 2015-16 after accomplishing the feat just seven times in his first two seasons and closed the year by averaging 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game at the Big Ten Tournament.
TRAVELS WITH TAI: SUMMER EDITION
Senior guard Tai Webster spent the summer helping New Zealand qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. In the FIBA Qualifying Tournament in Manila, he averaged 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, ranking in the top six in all three categories. Webster also had a pair of double-doubles, matching current New York Knicks forward Maurice Ndour for the most in the tournament. Webster spent all of June and the first week of July with the New Zealand program, as the team trained in Japan, China, Latvia and Lithuania.
WATSON RETURNS TO HANDLE POINT
Glynn Watson Jr. is back to handle the point guard position after making a significant impact as a freshman. The 6-0 guard from Bellwood, Ill., averaged 8.6 points as a freshman while playing in all 34 games, including 16 starts, as he split time with Benny Parker in the Husker backcourt.
Watson comes into Thursday's game with Dayton averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 assists per game along with a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Watson is second on the team in scoring and leads NU in assists (3.3) and steals (1.3). He is among the conference leaders in steals (eighth) and assist-to-turnover ratio (ninth)
- He opened the season with a career-high 23 points along with six assists and five rebounds in NU's win over Sacramento State on Nov. 13.
- Prior to Watson's effort in the opener, Shavon Shields was the last Husker with a 20-point, six-assist effort as he had 21 points and seven assists against Delaware State on Nov. 19, 2015. The last Husker guard to do that was Jamel White against Western Kentucky during the 2006-07 season.
- Watson now has 16 double-figure scoring games in his career, as his 23-point effort eclipsed his previous high of 17 points against both Illinois and Rhode Island in 2015-16.
- Watson was one of five Husker freshmen to finish his initial campaign on NU's top-10 list for both freshmen points and assists, joining Eric Piatkowski (1991), Tyronn Lue (1996), Cookie Belcher (1997) and Jake Muhleisen (2002).
- His 2.44-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2015-16 was the best by a Husker guard in nearly a decade and the fourth-best over the last 30 years.
- Finished fourth among Big Ten freshmen in both assists and steals per game in 2015-16.
JACK MCVEIGH FOR TREY
Sophomore Jack McVeigh has been one of the biggest surprises for the Huskers in the early going. The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Cabarita Beach, Australia, has become a consistent scorer, averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game.
- McVeigh is 16th in the Big Ten in scoring at 14.7 points per game and ranks among the conference leaders in 3-pointers per game (3.3/gm, third), 3-point shooting percentage (.526, eighth) and rebounding (6.0, 19th).
- He posted his first career 20-point effort in Nebraska's win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday, scoring 16 of his 21 points in the second half against the Bulldogs. He went 6-of-11 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and added five rebounds and a pair of steals.
- McVeigh spent most of the offseason getting quicker to handle defenders on the wing. The impact has also played a role in his improved rebounding, as he has grabbed five or more rebounds in all three contests.
McVeigh, who averaged 4.8 points per game as a freshmen, showed glimpses of his ability when he went into the starting lineup after Shavon Shields missed four games with a concussion last February. McVeigh averaged 11.0 points per game and shot 48 percent from 3-point range during those four contests.
- McVeigh attended the Australian Institute of Sport, a program which has produced numerous NBA players, as well as former Husker Olympian Aleks Maric.
HUSKERS LOOK TO RELY MORE ON INSIDE GAME
One of the biggest gains the Huskers look to make this season is on the interior, where sophomores Michael Jacobson and Ed Morrow Jr. both return after playing extensively last season while NU added Jordy Tshimanga in the offseason.
Morrow, who is healthy after being hampered by foot problems for most of 2015-16, is up to 234 pounds, which is 20 pounds heavier than when he arrived on campus. Last year, he averaged 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Morrow shot 64 percent from the field and was second on the team in both offensive rebounds (46) and blocked shots (21) despite playing less than 14 minutes per game.
This season, Morrow is starting at forward and averaging 9.7 points on 54 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in 20.3 minutes of work. Morrow enjoyed a career game against Sacramento State, finishing with a career-high 13 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. He hit 7-of-13 shots from the floor in topping his previous best of 11 set last year against Southeastern Louisiana.
He had nine points and six rebounds in Saturday's win over Louisiana Tech.
- Morrow has shot 50 percent or better in his last nine games dating back to March 1, 2016, and is shooting 60.4 percent in that stretch.
- He could face a former high school teammate in Thursday's opener, as he was teammates with Dayton's Kendall Pollard at Simeon Career Academy. The pair helped the school to back-to-back state titles during Morrow's freshman and sophomore seasons.
Jacobson started at center for the Huskers' final 25 games becoming the first Husker freshman to start every conference game since Cookie Belcher in 1996-97. Jacobson, who has grown to 6-9, 239 pounds, averaged 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds while leading the team in blocked shots (28). He played some of his best basketball down the stretch, averaging 6.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game over his final 12 contests.
Jacobson is the only Husker starter not averaging double figures in 2016-17, as he is at 4.7 ppg on 55 percent shooting, but also averages 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per contest. Jacobson is eighth in the Big Ten in that category. Jacobson scored a season-high 10 points in the win over Mary on Nov. 15, but had six rebounds against both Sacramento State (Nov. 13) and Louisiana Tech (Nov. 19).
Tshimanga gives the Huskers additional size in the post, as he checks in at 6-foot-11, 275-pounds. As a high school senior, he averaged 18.3 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game at The MacDuffie School. Tshimanga has caused an impact defensively, averaging 4.0 rebounds per game in just 11 minutes per contest. He had season bests in both points (eight) and rebounds (eight) in the win over Mary on Nov. 15.
FRESHMEN FIND SPOTS IN ROTATION
Over the years, Nebraska coach Tim Miles has not been afraid to throw freshmen into the fire, and this year is no different as Jordy Tshimanga, Jeriah Horne and Isaiah Roby have all garnered extensive playing time during non-conference play. All three recruits were ranked by Rivals among the top-150 players in the class of 2016.
- Horne has come off the bench and is averaging 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, including eight points and five rebounds against Mary and four points in eight minutes in Saturday's win over Louisiana Tech. A three-time all-state pick, he totaled over 2,000 career points at the Barstow School, including a 39-point, 14-rebound effort last year against Washington signee Michael Porter Jr. in the Missouri Class 3 State title game. Horne was the co-recepient of the DiRenna Award as the top player in the KC area, joining a list which includes Alec Burks and Wayne Simien among others.
- Roby was sidelined most of the summer by a stress reaction in his pelvis, as he missed nearly three months of training before returning in late October. The 6-foot-8 wing is averaging 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game and has the length (7-foot-1 wingspan) to be a factor defensively. Roby was an all-state selection after averaging 19.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.9 blocks as a senior.
Miles has shown throughout the last four seasons that he is willing to play freshmen extensively.
- In Tim Miles' four-plus seasons at NU, the Huskers have started at least one freshmen in 69 percent of its games.
- In 2015-16, the Husker freshmen accounted for 39 percent of NU's minutes and 35 percent of NU's scoring in Big Ten action. In fact, a freshmen led NU in points, rebounds or assists in 10 of the Huskers' final 11 contests.