Huskers Take on Bulldogs in NIT Opener
GAME 35: VS. BUTLER
Date: Wednesday, March 20
Time: 8:05 p.m. (CT)
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena
2018-19 Record: 18-16
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 115-113 (7th year)
Career Record: 398-333 (24th year)
2018-19 Record: 16-16
Head coach: LaVall Jordan
Record at Butler: 37-30 (2nd year)
Career Record: 48-54 (3rd year)
Play-by-play: Jordan Bernfield
Analysis: Kevin Lehman
Internet: ESPN app and WatchESPN
Radio: Husker Sports Network, including 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln) and 880 AM (Lexington)
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Analysis: Jake Muhleisen
Online Radio: Available online at Huskers.com and on the Huskers App.
Wednesday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Jordan Bernfield and Kevin Lehman on the call. The matchup will also be available on the ESPN app and WatchESPN app with cable authentication.
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 and on the Huskers app. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff on many of the Husker Sports Network affiliates.
Wednesday marks the first time the Huskers have posted a postseason event in Pinnacle Bank Arena's six-year history, as well as the first time since 2008 that Nebraska has hosted an NIT contest.
The Huskers (18-16) look to continue the momentum built over the last two weeks, including a three-game run in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. The Huskers pushed No. 19 Wisconsin to the limit before falling, 66-62, in the quarterfinals on Friday. Nebraska overcame a 13-point first half deficit to take the lead midway through the second half, and had a chance to tie or take the lead on consecutive possessions inside two minutes, but could not complete the comeback and advance to the semifinals. Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. led three Huskers in double figures with 23-points, marking his fourth 20-point effort in the Huskers' last seven contests. Fellow senior James Palmer Jr. was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team after averaging 24.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.3 steals in three games in Chicago.
Butler (16-16) tied for eighth in the Big East with a 7-11 mark and features guard Kamar Baldwin, who was a second-team All-Big East selection this season. Baldwin averaged 17.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs have been off since falling to Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament on March 13.
The winner of Wednesday's game will play either top-seeded TCU or No. 8 Sam Houston State in the second round this weekend.
20 - Nebraska played a total of 20 games against teams which made the NCAA (17) or NIT (three) tournaments. NU went 7-13 against those teams, including a 3-0 record against NIT teams (Creighton, Clemson, Indiana).
NUMBERS TO KNOW
29 - Number of 20-point games for Husker players in 2018-19. James Palmer Jr. has 17 while Glynn Watson Jr. (five), Isaiah Roby (four), and Isaac Copeland Jr. (three) also enjoyed 20-point games this season.
+48 - Johnny Trueblood's plus/minus over the last four games, which spans 104 minutes of action. Prior to the Iowa game in the regular-season finale, Trueblood had played just 32 minutes all season and 61 minutes in his collegiate career.
77 - Number of 3-pointers for Glynn Watson Jr., which is seventh on NU's single-season list. He is one away from sixth place (Cary Cochran, 2000-01, Tyronn Lue 1997-98).
270 - Number of free throws James Palmer Jr. has shot this year, a total that ranks fourth nationally as of March 18. Palmer set NU conference tournament records in both free throws made (14) and attempted (22) against Rutgers.
666 - Points for James Palmer Jr., which ranks third on NU's single-season chart. Only Tyronn Lue (678, 1997-98) and Dave Hoppen (704, 1984-85) have scored more points in a season than Palmer.
Under the direction of second-year coach LaVall Jordan, Butler comes into the postseason with a 17-16 record and finished tied for eighth in the Big East. Jordan, a former player and assistant coach at Butler, returned to the school after a one-year stint as the head coach of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to that, he had served as an assistant at both Michigan (2010-16) and Iowa (2007-10). As a player, he was a three-year starter at the school, helping the Bulldogs to the postseason in four straight years, including the school's first NCAA win in 39 years in 2001.
This season, the Bulldogs opened the year by going 9-4 in non-conference action, including wins over NCAA qualifiers Florida, Ole Miss and UC Irvine. In Big East play, Butler overcame a 1-3 start and was 5-6 after its first 11 conference games before closing Big East action with five losses in the last seven games, including overtime setbacks at St. John's and against Providence.
The Bulldogs are led by junior guard Kamar Baldwin, a two-time All-Big East selection who averages 17.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Senior transfer Paul Jorgensen was the Big East sixth man of the year as he averages 11.7 ppg, but has started the last three games for the Bulldogs. Butler's lineup features three guards and are not afraid to shoot the 3-pointer, averaging 8.8 per outing.
Series History: Nebraska leads the all-time series, 2-1, but the teams have played just once since 1940, a 67-56 Husker win on Dec. 29, 1986.The teams split a pair of meetings in 1929 and 1931. Nebraska is 34-41 (.453) against the current Big East members, but 2-0 this season with wins over Seton Hall (80-57) and Creighton (94-75).
NEBRASKA POSTSEASON HISTORY
The 2019 NIT marks Nebraska’s 27th postseason appearance in school history (seven NCAAs, 19 NITs) and second straight NIT appearance. It is the first time since 2007-08 and 2008-09 that Nebraska has made consecutive postseason appearances.
- Nebraska is 23-17 in 18 previous NIT appearances, winning the 1996 championship in Madison Square Garden. NU also reached Madison Square Garden in 1983 (semifinals) and 1987 (3rd place).
- Tim Miles is making his third appearance in the NIT, as he also reached the NIT at Colorado State in the 2010-11 campaign.
- The Huskers have five players who played in last year's NIT, including James Palmer Jr. (13 points), Isaiah Roby (10 points, eight rebounds), Isaac Copeland Jr. (12 points), Glynn Watson Jr. (eight points, three steals).
EXPERIMENTAL RULES FOR 2019 NIT
For the fourth time in five years, the 2019 National Invitation Tournament will feature experimental rules intended to give the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee, the Division I Men's Basketball Oversight Committee and the Division I Men's Basketball Competition Committee data as well as feedback to assist in making decisions regarding rules changes. The NCAA playing rules process operates on a two-year cycle, with the next approval of rules changes coming this May, effective potentially for the 2019-20 season.
The 2019 NIT features four rules modifications. The first three experimental rules also were used during the 2018 NIT:
- The 3-point line will be extended by approximately 1 foot, 8 inches to the same distance used by FIBA for international competition (22 feet, 1.75 inches).
- The free throw lane will be widened from 12 feet to 16 feet, consistent with the width used by the NBA.
- The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the full 30 seconds.
- Team fouls will reset at the 10-minute mark of each half for the purpose of determining free throws and one-and-one free throws will be eliminated. Teams will shoot two bonus free throws after the fifth team foul of each 10-minute segment.
Additionally, teams will be awarded two bonus free throws after the second team foul committed under two minutes remaining in each half if that foul occurs before the fifth team foul of the segment. In each overtime period, team fouls will reset, and teams will shoot two free throws beginning with the fourth team foul or the second team foul committed under two minutes remaining if that comes before the fourth team foul of the overtime period.
LAST TIME OUT
The Nebraska men’s basketball team rallied from a 13-point deficit to lead No. 19 Wisconsin with less than 10 minutes to play, but the Huskers fell just short down the stretch in a 66-62 loss to the Badgers Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Huskers trailed by 13 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, but closed the half on an 8-0 run to pull within five at the break. The Huskers fought all the way back to grab a 46-45 lead midway through the second half. Wisconsin regained the lead, but Nebraska trailed by just two with less than a minute to play before the Badgers made a clutch 3-pointer and hit 6-of-7 free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Nebraska (18-16) played only six players in the game, with James Palmer Jr., Isaiah Roby and Glynn Watson Jr. playing all 40 minutes. Watson scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Palmer added 15 points and four steals and Roby chipped in 13 points and four blocks. That trio combined for 51 of Nebraska’s 62 points, but all six Huskers who played scored, with Thorir Thorbjarnarson contributing five points, Johnny Trueblood scoring four points and Tanner Borchardt making his only shot to finish with two points.
Wisconsin was led by four players in double figures. Khalil Iverson and Nate Reuevers each scored 14 points, while Brad Davison and Aleem Ford had 11 points each.
- Husker assistant coach Michael Lewis spent five seasons at Butler as an assistant coach (2010-11 to 2015-16), helping the Bulldogs make four postseason appearances, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
- Butler Athletics Director Barry Collier spent six seasons as the head coach of the Husker basketball program after initially leaving Butler in the spring of 2000. Collier went 89-91 in his tenure, including NIT appearances in 2004 and 2006.
- The Huskers have been battle tested in 2018-19, playing 25 of its 33 Division I games against opponents in Quad 1 or Quad 2 entering the postseason. NU entered the postseason with a NET ranking of 49, one of eight Big Ten teams in the top 50 on Selection Sunday. NU significantly upgraded its non-conference schedule while playing 20 Big Ten games plus the conference tournament. Last season, the Huskers were a five seed in the NIT.
Selection Sunday 2018 vs. 2019
Quad 1 Record
Quad 2 Record
Record vs. 3/4
- Nebraska set a single-season school record with 11 ranked opponents during the season, breaking the mark which had been set four other times, most recently in 2015-16. Of the top five seasons against ranked opponents, three have come in the last seven seasons.
- 12 of Nebraska's 16 losses have been to teams who have been ranked in the top-15 at some point in the season (Texas Tech, Maryland-2x, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin-2x, Purdue-2x and Michigan).
- According to Kenpom, Nebraska's strength of schedule is fifth nationally as of March 17, as six of the 10 toughest schedules (and 11 of the top 20) are by Big Ten teams. That is part of the reason why the Big Ten got 10 teams into postseason play (eight NCAA and two NIT).
- Since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12, this year will mark the fifth time in eight years that Nebraska has had a top-20 schedule according to the Kenpom rankings.
- Nebraska is 38th nationally in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom through March 17. Only the 2003-04 team (25th) has had a more efficient offense in the Kenpom's rankings since the site began tracking data in 2000-01.
- James Palmer Jr. is the only Big Ten player and one of seven power conference players nationally averaging 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game entering postseason play.
- The last Big Ten player to do it was former Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine of Michigan State in 2015-16.
- Palmer Jr. also has a team-high 17 games of at least 20 points this season. That ranks fourth in the Big Ten in 2018-19. The school record for 20-point games in a season is 21 by Dave Hoppen in 1984-85.
- Palmer Jr. has four 30-point games at Nebraska a total that ranks fifth in school history. Only four players in school history have had more 30-point games at NU (Dave Hoppen - 7; Tyronn Lue - 7; Aleks Maric - 6 and Jerry Fort - 5).
- Palmer Jr. has been to the foul line 270 times this season, a total which ranks seventh in the Big Ten over the last 25 years. It is the most since Eric Gordon of Indiana got to the line 277 times in 2007-08.
- Glynn Watson Jr. has been playing some of his best basketball down the stretch, averaging 19.4 ppg on 44 percent shooting over the last seven games dating back to Feb. 23. Watson is also shooting 44 percent from 3-point range (26-of-59) in that stretch.
- Nebraska is 16-7 when averaging at least one point per possession this season, but 2-9 when held under one point per possession.
- Watson Jr. is one of only six players in school history with at least 1,400 points and 300 assists, joining Eric Piatkowski, Jaron Boone, Erick Strickland, Tyronn Lue and Cookie Belcher.
- Watson Jr. is one of six players currently on NU's top-10 list in both assists and steals, joining Brian Carr (1984-87), Cookie Belcher (1997-2001), Tyronn Lue (1996-98), Erick Strickland (1993-96) and Clifford Scales (1998-91). Watson is currently in eighth place on NU's assist list (372) and fifth on NU's steals list (176).
- Isaiah Roby is currently the only Big Ten player who ranks in the top 10 in both steals (1.3, eighth) and blocked shots (1.8, third). If he continues through the postseason, he will be just the fifth Big Ten player in the last 25 years to average at least 1.3 steals and blocks per game.
- Roby is the second Husker to record 50 blocked shots and 50 assists in consecutive seasons, joining Venson Hamilton (1997-98, 1998-99). In all, only four Huskers - Roby, Hamilton, Aleks Maric and Rich King - have had 50 blocks and 50 assists in a season.
- Former walk-on Tanner Borchardt has stepped into a crucial role for the Huskers following Isaac Copeland's injury. Borchardt is averaging 6.1 rebounds per game over the Huskers' last 15 contests and is averaging 27.5 minutes per game. Prior to Copeland's injury, Borchardt averaged just 2.9 rebounds per game in 12.3 minutes per contest and had never played more than 20 minutes in a game in his college career.
- Nebraska has been reduced to eight healthy players, as Amir Harris (knee) and Thomas Allen (ankle) missed the Big Ten Tournament because of injuries. Their status for postseason play has not been determined.
PALMER EARNS ALL-BIG TEN TOURNAMENT HONOR
University of Nebraska guard James Palmer Jr. was one of five players named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team on March 17. Palmer led the Huskers to the quarterfinals, averaging 24.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game, as he played all 120 minutes of NU’s three contests. He is the first Husker named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team since Shavon Shields in 2016.
Palmer tied a career high with 34 points in the first-round win over Rutgers, including a school-record 27 points in the second half alone. His 34 points was one off the Big Ten Tournament record, as Nebraska rallied from an eight-point deficit. The senior guard carried the Huskers to a win over No. 21 Maryland with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, five rebounds and three assists before finishing with 15 points and four steals in the loss against No. 19 Wisconsin.
TWO HUSKERS HONORED BY BIG TEN
James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby were honored by the Big Ten Conference, as the annual awards were announced on March 11. Palmer earned All-Big Ten honors for the second straight season, as he was a third-team selection by both the league coaches and media, while Roby was Nebraska’s nominee for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. Palmer is the third Husker under Coach Tim Miles to be a two-time All-Big Ten performer, joining Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. In conference play, he was fourth in the conference in scoring at 18.6 points per game while also ranking fourth in steals (1.6 spg) and sixth in assists (3.4 apg),
Roby was chosen for his work in the community in the Huskers’ Life Skills program. He has helped with Make-a-Wish as well as helped with a coat drive for Everett elementary school in Lincoln. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior, and each school submits one nominee.
HUSKERS LIMIT TURNOVERS AT RECORD RATE
Nebraska has done an exceptional job of limiting turnovers this season. The Huskers are on pace to shatter the school record for fewest turnovers per game. Nebraska is currently seventh nationally in that category with an average of 9.7 per game.
- Three of the top seven teams in terms of turnovers per game are in the Big Ten, as NU is joined by Michigan (first) and Wisconsin (sixth). Only 10 teams commit less than 10 turnovers per game nationally.
- Since Dec. 3, NU is averaging 9.1 turnovers per game, and has not had more than 12 in a game in that stretch.
- NU has committed 10 or fewer turnovers in 111 of the last 14 games, including a season low of five against No. 24 Maryland on Feb. 6 and against No. 15 Purdue on Feb. 23.
- Four of the five lowest turnover per game totals have come in Tim Miles' seven seasons at Nebraska.
HUSKER OFFENSIVE NOTES
Despite the offensive struggles since Isaac Copeland's season-ending injury, NU comes into the Big Ten Tournament game averaging 71.6 points per game, which is just shy of last season's average.
- The Huskers have scored at least 70 points 17 times, including eight games of at least 80 points.
- Over the last four years (2015-16 to present), Nebraska has averaged 87th nationally in the Kenpom offensive efficiency after being 185th during Tim Miles' first three seasons (2012-13 to 2014-15).
- Over the last 11 games, NU is shooting 42 percent from the field, including 34 percent from 3-point range and averaging 67.9 ppg. NU has scored 70 or more points four times in that stretch, while the 93 points against Iowa which was NU's highest total since scoring 94 points against Creighton on Dec. 8. In a six-game stretch from Jan. 17-Feb. 6, NU shot just 33 percent and averaged 58.8 points per game.
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE
For Nebraska, the biggest thing over the last two seasons has been improvements on the defensive end.
Last season, NU went from 13th to sixth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense and from 14th to second in 3-point percentage defense. That has continued during the 2018-19 season.
- NU ranks 53rd nationally in scoring defense (66.4) and 65th in field goal percentage (.417) as of March 18.
- Nebraska's opponents are shooting .415 from the field, which ranks among the best numbers since the 3-point line was established in 1987-88.
- Only five opponents have shot over 50 percent against Nebraska in the last 58 games dating back to last season. In 2018-19, NU has held 29 of its 34 opponents under 50 percent shooting.
- NU has held its last 34 opponents at home to under 50 percent dating back to the start of the 2017-18 season.
- Under Miles, the Huskers are 51-5 (.911) when holding foes under 60 points, including 17-0 the past three years.
- Under Miles, the Huskers are 60-19 (.759) when holding opponents under 40 percent shooting, including 23-5 (.823) over the past three seasons.
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