Jordy Tshimanga and the Huskers take on Eastern Illinois.
Photo by Josh Wenger/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Battle Panthers in Opener

By NU Athletic Communications
GAME 1:
EASTERN ILLINOIS AT NEBRASKA

Date: Saturday, Nov. 11
Time: 7:31 p.m. 
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Tickets:Huskers.com/Tickets

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
2017-18 Record: 0-0, 0-0 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
  Record at Nebraska: 75-86 (6th year)
  Career Record: 358-306 (23rd year)

EASTERN ILLINOIS PANTHERS
2017-18 Record: 0-0, 0-0 OVC
Head coach: Jay Spoonhour
  Record at EIU: 67-87 (6th year)
  Career Record: 173-119 (10th year)

BROADCAST INFO
Television: None
Radio: Husker Sports Network, including 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln) and 880 AM (Lexington)
   Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka Color: Jake Muhleisen
Online Radio: Available online at Huskers.com, on the Huskers App and on TuneIn Radio and the TuneIn Radio App.
Internet Video: BTN Plus and Flohoops.com
   Announcers: Chase Thompson and Cameron Olson

The 122nd season of Nebraska basketball gets underway Saturday night, as the Huskers host Eastern Illinois in the season opener for both teams. Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 7:31 p.m., and tickets are available beginning at $7 by visiting Huskers.com/Tickets or calling 800-8-BIGRED. 

Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, on the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and on the TuneIn Radio app. 

Saturday's opener game will be streamed online on BTN Plus with Chase Thompson and Cameron Olson on the call. The game is available on BTN2Go and online and on Flohoops.com. A subscription is required for both BTN Plus and Flohoops.

The Huskers are looking to get the 2017-18 campaign off on the right foot and have high hopes with nine letterwinners returning as well as a promising group of newcomers for sixth-year coach Tim Miles.The returnees are led by guards Glynn Watson Jr. and Evan Taylor, who have been a steady influence. Watson, who averaged 13.0 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a sophomore, had 11 points and five assists in the exhibition game at Mississippi State, but missed Tuesday’s 18-point win over Northwood. Taylor, who averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in his first season at NU, has continued his improvement, averaging 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two exhibition games.

In Tuesday’s 80-62 win over Northwood, it was the Husker newcomers who took center stage. In all, 59 of the 80 points were by newcomers, as Watson, Isaiah Roby and Anton Gill all missed the contest with minor injuries. All three are expected to be in action tonight. Junior transfer James Palmer Jr. has been impressive early on, averaging 22.0 points per game on 60 percent shooting, including a 27-point outburst on Tuesday against Northwood. Palmer, a former top-100 recruit who began his collegiate career at Miami, also dished out four assists in Tuesday’s win. Freshman Thomas Allen moved into the lineup on Monday and added 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and four assists while Isaac Copeland totaled 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. 

Eastern Illinois comes into Saturday’s game after going 1-1 in exhibition play, highlighted by a 13-point win over Illinois in a charity exhibition. The Panthers, who return four starters, have been strong offensively, averaging 86.0 points per game in its two exhibition contests. 

OPENING NUMBER
20 - Only two Husker newcomers have scored 20 or more points in their Husker debut in the last 45 years (Joe McCray, 2004; Andre Almeida, 2010). James Palmer Jr. has averaged 22.0 points per game in NU's two exhibition games.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
6 -  Seasons that NU assistant coach Michael Lewis spent as an assistant at Eastern Illinois (2006-11). 

10 -  Glynn Watson Jr. is 10 steals away from becoming the 25th Husker to record 100 steals at Nebraska. Watson was third in the Big Ten in steals last year, averaging 1.6 per game. 

10 - Number of Husker opponents either ranked or receiving votes in the AP or Coaches preseason polls. In addition, the Huskers could play West Virginia (10/11) and Missouri (RV) in the AdvoCare Invitational.

15.0 - Assists per game by NU in the two exhibition wins. Last year, NU was 13th in the Big Ten at 11.4 apg.  Last season, 15.0 apg would have ranked fourth in the Big Ten.

16 -  Nebraska has won its last 16 season openers dating back to 2001. Under Miles, all five previous wins have been by double figures. 

41.0 -  Nebraska has averaged 41.0 points in the paint in its two exhibition games.


PREVIEWING EASTERN ILLINOIS
Eastern Illinois opens its 2017-18 regular season tonight after going 1-1 in its two exhibition games. The Panthers defeated Illinois, 80-67, on Nov. 3 before falling to Southern Indiana, 95-92, on Nov. 6. Against the Illini, EIU trailed by as much as 11 points in the first half before regrouping. The Panthers outscored Illinois, 42-25, in the second half as they shot 61 percent from the field, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range.  In the exhibition loss, the Panthers allowed 16 3-pointers while Southern Indiana shot 61 percent from the floor. Junior college transfer Jajuan Starks led EIU with 23 points and five rebounds to place four players in double figures on Monday. Jay Spoonhour enters his sixth season as the head coach at Eastern Illinois and 11th season overall. He is the son of former Husker assistant coach Charlie Spoonhour.  Last season, the Panthers compiled a 14-15 record, including a 6-10 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference, as they missed the conference tournament for the first time in four years. Eastern Illinois returns four starters from last year’s squad, including Montell Goodwin (14.3 ppg last season), Terrell Lewis (10.5 ppg), Ray Crossland (10.5 ppg and 6.1 rpg) and Muusa Dama (9.1 ppg and 9.6 rpg). Lewis has ranked in the Top 25 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of his first three seasons, and is already EIU’s all-time assists leader (463), while Dama led the OVC in both rebounding (9.6/game) and blocked shots (61) a year ago.This will be the sixth meeting between the Huskers and Panthers, with NU holding a 5-0 advantage in the series. The last meeting between the schools was an 85-71 triumph for the Huskers on Nov. 21, 2000, in Lincoln, Neb.

SATURDAY IS TOYS FOR TOTS COLLECTION DAY
As part of the Veterans Day/Military Salute this weekend, the U.S. Marines will be collecting toys for children at both basketball games Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Husker fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to the game, and cash donations for the cause will also be accepted. The Marines will be stationed near the entrances of Pinnacle Bank Arena to accept donations that will brighten the holiday season for needy children. The event is co-sponsored by Nebraska Athletics, UNL ROTC and the Marines. 

FOR OPENERS
Nebraska begins its 122nd season of basketball on Saturday evening. Here are some facts and figures about season openers for the Husker basketball program.

  • Nebraska is 82-39 (.677) all-time in season openers and has won 16 straight season openers dating back to an 87-83 setback at Oral Roberts to begin the 2000 season.
  • Nebraska is 25-2 in its past 27 season openers dating back to the 1990-91 campaign.
  • The last time Nebraska lost a season opener at home was 1980 when NU fell to Wyoming, 62-59, in overtime. The Huskers have won 27 straight season openers at home since that loss.
  • Under Tim Miles, the Huskers have won all five of their openers by an average of 24.4 points. The 46-point win over Mississippi Valley State in 2015 was the 12th-largest margin in school history.
  • Nebraska has scored 80 or more points in its last three season openers. The last time NU scored 80 or more in four consecutive season openers was a seven-year stretch under Danny Nee from the 1988-89 to 1994-95.

EXHIBITION RECAP: NEBRASKA 80, NORTHWOOD 62
James Palmer Jr. scored a game-high 27 points, while freshman Thomas Allen chipped in 18 as Nebraska used a strong second-half effort to cruise past Northwood, 80-62, in exhibition action on Tuesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.Palmer scored 17 of his points in the second half to lead three Huskers in double figures after NU took just a two-point lead into the locker room at halftime. The Huskers shot 55 percent from the field in the second half, while limiting Northwood to just 24 percent.Isaac Copeland was also in double figures, adding 12 tallies. Jordy Tshimanga led the Huskers with seven boards. Nebraska held a 44-24 advantage in points in the paint.After a closely-contested first half, Nebraska used a 17-6 spurt out of the break to take a 13-point lead at 52-39, keyed by seven points from Palmer and four from Allen. Nebraska held Northwood without a field goal for over five minutes midway through the second half, as the Huskers built a comfortable margin, leading by as many as 19 following a Jack McVeigh triple with just over four minutes to play.Nebraska started the opening stanza hot from the field, hitting on five of its first six shots, including a pair of 3-pointers from Allen. Northwood responded with a 7-0 run midway through the first half to take a 22-17 lead. The Timberwolves led by as many as six at 27-21 and held Nebraska scoreless for nearly six minutes before a Copeland bucket cut the lead to 27-24 with just over five minutes to play in the opening half. Copeland's bucket started an 8-0 spurt, as Palmer's 3-point play gave NU a 29-27 lead with 2:55 left in the half.Brad Schaub led the visitors with 10 points and eight rebounds. Northwood shot 30 percent from the field, including just 2-of-13 from 3-point range in the second half after hitting 6-of-13 in the opening 20 minutes.

WATSON RETURNS TO ANCHOR HUSKER BACKCOURT
Glynn Watson Jr. gives Miles one of the top returning guards in the Big Ten in 2017-18. The 6-foot junior averaged 13.0 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game in 2016-17. He is ninth among all Big Ten returnees in scoring and third in steals. Watson’s 13.0 points per game is the second-highest returning average by a Husker guard in the last decade, trailing only All-Big Ten performer Terran Petteway’s 18.1 ppg entering the 2014-15 season. 

  • Watson had 21 double-figure performances as a sophomore, including a career-high 34 point game against Iowa. His 34-point effort tied for 10th on NU's single-game scoring list. 
  • He had three games with five steals (vs. Dayton, Clemson and at Indiana) and finished third all-time among Husker sophomores with 50 steals. Only Cookie Belcher (75) and Erick Strickland (60) had more during their sophomore season.
  • Watson has always been in the clutch, as he shot 40 percent from 3-point range, 85 percent from the foul line and had a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last four minutes and OT last season. 
  • With 696 points entering the season, Watson is just 50 points away from 60th place on Nebraska's career scoring list.Watson’s sophomore year numbers compare favorably to his older brother Demetri McCamey’s when he played at the University of Illinois. Husker coaches are looking for a similar jump from Watson this season, as McCamey earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior for the Fighting Illini in 2010. 

COPELAND MAKES 50TH START, FIRST AS A HUSKER
While Watson is a two-year starter for the Huskers, junior transfer Isaac Copeland is the Husker with the most starting experience. Copeland started 49 games in two-plus seasons at Georgetown, helping the Hoyas to the 2015 NCAA Tournament. In his last full season, Copeland started 33 games, averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He played in seven games last season, averaging 5.4 points per game before he was sidelined with an injury.Copeland is one of two Huskers who sat out after transferring last season. James Palmer Jr. will also make his Husker debut on Saturday. Palmer played at the University of Miami for two seasons, averaging 3.4 points in the Hurricanes' Sweet 16 team in 2016. Palmer and Copeland will look to join a list of all-conference performers in their first season under Miles, joining Andy Ogide (CSU, 2009), Terran Petteway (NU, 2014) and Andrew White III (NU, 2016). 

TRANSFERS BRING WINNING PEDIGREES
One common trait among Nebraska’s four Division I transfers is postseason experience. Isaac Copeland, Anton Gill, James Palmer Jr., and Duby Okeke have all been parts of NCAA Tournament teams at their respective schools. Gill played on Louisville’s Elite Eight team in 2015, while Palmer helped Miami to an NCAA Sweet 16 berth in 2016. 

GILL AND COPELAND: LIKE FATHERS, LIKE SONS
Nebraska senior guard Anton Gill and junior forward Isaac Copeland will be together on the court for the first time in college this winter, but it won’t be the first time the pair had played together. Both Gill and Copeland played on the Garner Road AAU program and were teammates at Ravenscroft High School, leading the school to a 31-4 record and the 2012 North Carolina 3A State Championship. Anton’s father, Anton Sr., and Isaac’s father, Ike, played together at East Carolina for two seasons (1992-93) and the duo helped East Carolina to a 1993 Colonial Athletic Association tournament title, winning the tournament title as the No. 7 seed.

MCVEIGH PROVIDES A SHOT OF JACK

While the Huskers return just two starters, the Huskers also return their sixth man in junior Jack McVeigh. The 6-foot-8 forward Cabarita Beach, Australia, averaged 7.5 points per game, but has averaged 8.9 points per game on 41 percent shooting over the final 15 contests, becoming one of the Big Ten's best sixth men in the process. 

  • McVeigh posted five double-figure scoring efforts in Big Ten play, including four off the bench. He keyed NU's comeback at Ohio State, scoring all 11 of his points in the second half in the Huskers' 58-57 win. 
  • McVeigh tied for team-high honors with 15 points, including a half-court shot to beat the first-half buzzer, and added three assists against Penn State.
  • His best performance of the season came in the Huskers' win over No. 20 Purdue on Jan. 29, where he tied his career high with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, and added two blocked shots. 
  • At Rutgers on Jan. 21, McVeigh nearly led the Huskers to victory, hitting four 3-pointers in the second half, including three in a two-minute span to erase a deficit and put the Huskers up 64-59. 
  • McVeigh attended the Australian Institute of Sport, a program which has produced numerous NBA players, as well as former Husker Olympian Aleks Maric. 

INTERNATIONAL DUO ENJOYS BUSY SUMMER
Junior Jack McVeigh (Australia) and freshman Thorir Thorbjarnarson (Iceland) spent part of the summer representing their national teams. McVeigh helped Australia to a 6-2 record and a ninth-place finish at the World University Games in Taipei City, Taiwan. He played in all eight games, averaging 9.4 points per game on 59 percent shooting, including 42 percent from 3-point range, along with 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. McVeigh finished fourth on the team in both scoring and assists and tied for third in steals while posting a 5.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. His Australia team was the only team to defeat gold medalist Lithuania.Thorbjarnarson made his national team debut in 2017, representing his nation in the Small States of Europe event, as he helped Iceland to a third-place finish. He also played for the U-20 national team at the FIBA European Championships in Greece, averaging 7.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

MILES LETS THE KIDS PLAY
Tim Miles has not been afraid to rely on youth during his tenure at Nebraska. If history is any indication, freshmen Thomas Allen, Nana Akenten and Thorir Thorbjarnarson will have chances to earn significant playing time early in their careers. 

  • In the last two seasons, NU has started at least one freshman in 31 of 36 Big Ten games (86 percent). Last year, Jordy Tshimanga made nine starts in conference play, while Isaiah Roby started four Big Ten tilts.
  • Over the past five seasons, Nebraska has started at least one freshman in 64 percent of its games. 
  • First-year players at NU have flourished under Miles, as newcomers have accounted for at least 50 percent of NU’s scoring in two of the past four seasons.

JORDY AND DUBY IN THE MIDDLE
Nebraska will rely on a different look inside with the departure of two of its top three inside players. Sophomore Jordy Tshimanga and graduate transfer Duby Okeke will handle a majority of the minutes on the interior this season. Tshimanga, who averaged 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, started nine of NU's final 11 games as a true freshman and emerged as a pleasant surprise Averaged 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in his last 11 games and reached double figures three times, 

  • Put together his best offensive effort of the season vs. Michigan State on Feb. 2, totaling 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and nine rebounds in 24 minutes, setting season bests in points, rebounds and minutes. Totaled 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in 17 minutes in the win over Penn State.
  • Grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds, including five offensive boards, in just 14 minutes vs. No. 7 Wisconsin.
  • Enjoyed a strong performance at No. 3 Kansas on Dec. 10, where he established then-season bests in points (10), rebounds (eight) and blocked shots (two) in 19 minutes of work. Okeke is a defensive presence who spent the past four years at Winthrop before graduating in May. The 6-foot-8 center played in 94 games at Winthrop and made 24 starts last season as the Eagles reached the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 3.2 points on 61 percent shooting and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.  
  • Okeke is sixth nationally among returning players in blocked shots with 165. He finished his career as Winthrop's single season (72; 2015-16) and career leader in that category. 
  • He ranked 20th nationally and led the Big South in blocked shots in 2015-16 and was fourth in blocked shots in 2016-17.  Okeke has 26 games with at least three blocked shots. 

HUSKERS ARE A BIG DRAW AT PINNACLE BANK ARENA
Nebraska basketball has become one of the toughest tickets in the Big Ten since the program moved into Pinnacle Bank Arena, a $179 million dollar facility in downtown Lincoln, prior to the 2013-14 season.

  • Nebraska finished 11th nationally in attendance in 2016-17, averaging 15,427 fans per game. It marked the fourth straight year that NU has finished in the top 15 nationally in basketball attendance.
  • Nebraska is one of only nine programs in the country to average 15,000 fans per game in each of the past four seasons, a list which also includes Kentucky, Syracuse, Louisville, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas and Creighton.
  • In 2014-15, the Huskers broke their own single-season record for average attendance for the second straight year, averaging 15,569 fans per game. Nebraska finished the 2014-15 season ranked 10th nationally in attendance, the highest Nebraska has finished in national attendance since the NCAA began its rankings in 1977-78.
  • Nebraska has enjoyed success in Pinnacle Bank Arena, posting a 43-23 (.652) record in the building.
  • The Big Ten led the nation in attendance for the 41st consecutive year in 2016-17 with an average of 12,235 fans per game. Eight Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25 in attendance in 2016-17.

NOTING THE 2017-18 SCHEDULE
The Huskers will embark on another challenging schedule beginning with Saturday's season opener against Eastern Illinois. The 31-game regular-season schedule includes 13 teams that reached in the NCAA or NIT tournaments in 2017.

  • The Huskers will be tested in 2017-18, as at least five opponents are ranked in the AP or Coaches preseason top-25. NU faces No. 4/3 Kansas in non-conference action and could face No. 11/10 West Virginia at the AdvoCare Invitational. Four Big Ten teams are ranked, including No. 2 Michigan State, No. 15 Minnesota, No. 19/20 Northwestern and No. 20/21 Purdue. Three other Big Ten teams are receiving votes (Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan), while non-conference foes UCF and Creighton are receiving votes. In addition, NU could face Missouri, which is receiving votes, in the AdvoCare Invitational. 
  • Nebraska’s game against Kansas on Dec. 16 is the first Big 12 foe to visit Lincoln since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011-12 and the first to play at Pinnacle Bank Arena. NU could also face a former Big 8/12 rival at the AdvoCare Invitational, as Missouri is part of the eight-team field.  The Huskers will face a minimum of four first-time opponents during the 2017-18 season (St. John’s, UCF, Boston College and Stetson). In addition, Nebraska could meet Marist in the second round of the AdvoCare Invitational. 
  • In 2017-18, the Huskers’ five “double-play” opponents are Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsin. NU’s “single-play” home opponents are Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Michigan, while Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue are the Huskers’ “single-play” road games in Big Ten play.

BIG TEN MOVES TO 20 CONFERENCE GAMES IN 2018-19
The Big Ten Conference Administrators Council approved a change to the format of future men’s basketball schedule at its annual meeting in October of 2017. Beginning with the 2018-19 season, the men’s basketball schedule will increase to 20 conference games.Under the new men’s format, teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home, three away) in a given season. The three in-state rivalries – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue and Michigan/Michigan State – will be played twice annually, while the new schedule will also include a regional component to increase the frequency of games among teams in similar areas. Over the course of a six-year cycle (12 playing opportunities), in-state rivals will play each other 12 times, regional opponents will play 10 times, and all other teams will play nine times.

2017-18 RULES CHANGES
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel announced several slight rule changes ahead of the 2017-18 men's basketball season, most notably extending the coach's box to 38 feet. The coach's box in previous years was 28 feet, but NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee members believe this will allow coaches to improve communication with their teams, especially when the teams are at the opposite end of the court.The panel also approved a rule permitting a reset of the shot clock to 20 seconds when the ball is inbounded in the frontcourt after a foul by the defense. If more than 20 seconds remains on the shot clock, the shot clock will not be reset. This season, fans will also notice that throw-in spots will occur from more consistent spots in the frontcourt when the offensive team retains possession after a non-shooting foul or other stoppages in the game. The location of all throw-ins in the frontcourt will be determined by an imaginary line drawn from the corner of the court to the intersection of the lane line and the free-throw line. If the stoppage of play is inside this area, the throw-in will occur on the end line 3 feet outside the lane line. If the stoppage occurs outside this area, the throw-in will be at the nearer sideline at the 28-foot mark. Deflections will continue to be put back in play at the nearest out-of-bounds spot. Throw-ins in the back court will continue to be at the nearest spot.

ADDITIONAL RULE CHANGES

  • Referees can use the instant replay rule in the last two minutes of the second half or last two minutes of overtime to see if a secondary defender was in or outside the restricted-area arc but only when a call has been made. If the player is in the restricted area, a block will be called on the defender. If the secondary defender is in legal guarding position and outside the restricted area, a player-control foul will be called. The Big Ten and Mid-American conferences experimented with this rule last season.
  • A mandatory minimum of 0.3 second will be taken off the game clock when the ball is legally touched, and an official immediately blows his whistle. A legal screen was redefined to require that the inside of the screener's feet be no wider than his shoulders.
  • The cylinder rule was adjusted to allow more freedom of movement for the offense. If a defensive player straddles an offensive player's leg in a way that prohibits him from making a normal basketball move — which now includes pivoting — contact that creates a common foul will be called on the defensive player.

UP NEXT: HUSKERS HOST NORTH TEXAS MONDAY
The Huskers wrap up the two-game homestand on Monday night, as NU takes on North Texas. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on BTN and BTN2Go. Tickets are available by visiting Huskers.com/Tickets or calling 800-8-BIGRED.

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