Huskers Host Wake Forest in Big Ten/ACC Challenge Wednesday Night
2011-12 Record: 4-1
Head coach: Doc Sadler
Record at Nebraska: 93-72 (6th year)
Record at Division I: 141-90 (8th year)
Career Record: 261-129 (14th year)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2011-12 Record: 4-2
Head coach: Jeff Bzdelik
Record at Wake Forest: 12-26 (2nd year)
Career Record: 123-131 (9th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 208, Dish Ch. 141, Ch. 235 on Time Warner Cable; Ch. 220 on Cox Cable)
Play-by-Play: Mitch Holthus
Color: Miles Simon
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network (including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln; KFAB 1110 AM in Omaha; KRVN 880 AM in Lexington)
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Color: Matt Davison
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Ch. 85 on SiriusXM Radio
Huskers Host Wake Forest in Big Ten/ACC Challenge Wednesday Night
Nebraska welcomes one of college basketball's traditional powers to the Devaney Center Wednesday night, as the Huskers host Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge presented by DICK's Sporting Goods. Tipoff at the Devaney Center is set for 8:15 p.m. and tickets for Wednesday's game are available for as little as $10 by visiting Huskers.com, calling 800-8-BIGRED or by visiting the Devaney Center Ticket Office beginning 90 minutes prior to tipoff.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Mitch Holthus and Miles Simon on the call. It is the fourth of a minimum of 27 games televised during the 2011-12 campaign. Wednesday's game will also be simulcast on ESPN3.com.
The Huskers game with Wake Forest 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 the web at Huskers.com and season audio packages are also available for purchase on the Huskers' App for your iPhone or iPod Touch.
Wednesday is a historic night, as the matchup with the Demon Deacons is the first time Nebraska has hosted an ACC member. The game is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the Big Ten looks to win the challenge for the third consecutive year. With Nebraska's addition to the league in 2011-12, it is the first time that all 12 members from both conferences will be in action.
While Nebraska's been traditionally strong on defense under Doc Sadler, the Huskers' offense has been the story in helping NU to a 4-1 start. Nebraska is averaging 72.8 points per game, its highest average in his six seasons at the helm. Newcomers Bo Spencer and Dylan Talley have provided a boost to the Huskers' offensive attack, as Spencer leads NU in scoring (16.0) and assists (4.2) per game, while Talley is second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game while also chipping in 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game off the bench.
While Wake Forest (4-2) is a new opponent for the Big Red, the Demon Deacons' style should look familiar as Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik was at Colorado for three seasons (2007-08 to 2009-10) before taking the Wake Forest job prior to last season.
Last Time Out
Bo Spencer's 18 points and eight assists led four Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska improved to 4-1 on the season with a 76-64 win over South Dakota State.
The senior was 7-of-14 from the floor and scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, as the Huskers held off several comeback attempts from the Jackrabbits and relied on its bench to deliver a decisive first-half run. Spencer's eight assists were a career high, as he also added six rebounds in 32 minutes.
Nebraska used strong bench play in the final minutes of the half, closing with an 11-4 spurt to break a 24-all deadlock and build a 38-28 halftime lead. Toney McCray and Dylan Talley combined for seven points in the spurt, including a 3-pointer by McCray to give NU a 29-25 lead before Talley's driving basket with 28 seconds left in the half gave the Huskers their largest lead of the opening 20 minutes.
McCray and Talley had 12 points apiece off the bench for the Huskers, while freshman David Rivers came off the bench for eight points and five rebounds in his most extensive action of the season. Nebraska's bench outscored SDSU, 32-18, as the Huskers rebounded from Wednesday's loss to Oregon.
Brandon Ubel was the fourth Husker to finish in double figures, as he totaled 12 points, including the Huskers' first seven points, and added a season-high eight rebounds.
SDSU, which fell to 4-3 and saw its three-game win streak snapped, pulled to within 35-30 after a Griffan Callahan put-back in the opening minutes of the second half before Nebraska regained control with a 7-0 spurt. After a pair of Talley free throws, Jorge Brian Diaz added a short jumper before Rivers closed the spurt with a three-point play, giving the Huskers a 12-point lead.
The Jackrabbits, which got a game-high 25 points from Callahan, including seven 3-pointers, and 19 points and eight assists from Nate Wolters, continued to hang around and were within 55-49 after two Wolters free throws with 6:50 left, but could not get close as Spencer ignited a spurt with a three-point play and then found Diaz for a short jumper to extend the lead back to double figures.
Scouting Wake Forest
Jeff Bzdelik and his Wake Forest Demon Deacons come to Lincoln with a 4-2 record following a 1-2 showing at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando over the weekend. Bzdelik, who spent the previous three years at Colorado before taking the Wake Forest job in 2010, welcomes back three starters from one of the nation's youngest teams in 2010-11. He went 3-3 against the Huskers and Doc Sadler in his three years in Boulder, including 1-2 at the Devaney Center.
Wake Forest is averaging 75.2 points per game while averaging just over 12 turnovers per game. The Demon Deacons won their first three games before going 1-2 in Orlando, including a four-point loss to eventual champion Dayton in the first round.
Junior point guard C.J. Harris leads the Demon Deacons by averaging 19.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 assists per game. Harris is also shooting 48 percent from 3-point range, as Wake Forest shoots 36.4 percent from long range. Sophomore forward Travis McKie has been a force on the inside and averages 19.2 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game. As a freshman, McKie paced the Demon Deacons in both scoring (12.9 ppg.) and rebounding (7.6 rpg.) en route to the ACC All-Freshman Team. He was the 10th player in ACC history to lead his team in both scoring and rebounding in 2010-11.
Wednesday's meeting is the first between the two schools and the Huskers' first game against an ACC school since the 2006-07 campaign. Nebraska is 4-5 all-time against the current ACC members.
Big Ten/ACC Challenge Info
The 2011-12 season marks the 13th season that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge has taken place. The ACC won the first 10 editions of the event before the Big Ten broke through with a 6-5 victory in 2009 before posting a 6-5 victory last season. The winner of the event receives the Commissioner's Cup. In the event of a 6-6 tie this year, the Commissioner's Cup will remain with the conference that won the previous year.
Since 2000, the ACC (10) and the Big Ten (nine) have combined for 19 Final Four appearances and six national titles: North Carolina (2009 and 2005), Maryland (2002), Duke (2001 and 2010) and Michigan State (2000). The ACC leads in NCAA Tournament victories and Final Four appearances while the Big Ten is first in Tournament appearances.
Up for A Challenge
While this is Nebraska's first appearance in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Nebraska has performed well in conference challenge events under Doc Sadler. The Huskers went 3-1 during the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, equaling the best performance by a Big 12 school in the event during the event's four-year tenure.
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 16.0 points along with 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game
Spencer, who was held to six points in the opener, has been in double figures in each of NU's last four games, including a pair of 20-point performances. At USC, 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, he keyed Nebraska's strong first half, scoring 12 of his team-high 23 points in the first half and also added four assists and three steals against the Rams while shooting 8-of-13 from the floor. Against South Dakota State last Saturday, Spencer had a career-high eight assists along with 18 points and six rebounds.
Before coming to Nebraska, he started two seasons for the Tigers, averaging 14.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game in 2009-10. Spencer showed the ability to get to the basket, putting up 11 games of at least 28 points, including a 28-point effort against Western Kentucky and back-to-back 25-point contests against Kentucky and Tennessee. In his LSU career, he reached double figures in 45 of 93 career contests, including 21 games as a junior. Spencer was the starting point guard on LSU's Southeastern Conference championship squad in 2008-09, as the Tigers reached the second round before falling to eventual champion North Carolina.
Huskers Are Picking Up the Pace
While Nebraska's forte has been on the defensive end under Doc Sadler, the Huskers have been proficient on the offensive end early this season. The Huskers are averaging 72.8 points per game through the first five games, including three straight games of at least 75 points. It is only the third time in Sadler's six seasons that Nebraska scored at least 75 points in three straight games. Nebraska is one of nine Big Ten teams averaging more than 70 points per game entering the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Diaz Becoming Consistent Inside Force
Junior center Jorge Brian Diaz has been a steady presence for the Huskers throughout his three-year career. The 6-foot-11 center is one of three NU players in double figures, averaging 11.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. He is second in the Big Ten in blocked shots and has more blocked shots this season than his first 10 games of 2010-11. Diaz now has 91 career blocked shots, moving into ninth on Nebraska's career list and second among active Big Ten players.
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 22-7 run to help the Huskers erase a 15-point deficit before succumbing in the final minute. It was his third career 20-point effort and first since his freshman year.
Diaz has been consistent on offense, scoring at least eight points in all five games, including three double-figure efforts. 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, he finished with 11 points and a career-high five blocked shots, which equaled the highest single-game blocked shot total in 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. Diaz has 34 career double-figure scoring efforts in his career and is 314 points away from 1,000 for his career and could become just the 15th Husker to reach the 1,000-point plateau in three seasons.
Talley Provides Instant Offense
When Doc Sadler talked about the addition of Dylan Talley, the thing he constantly mentioned was his ability to score. Talley has lived up to the billing in Nebraska's first four games, coming off the bench to average 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in just 22.8 minutes of action.
Despite coming off the bench in all five games, he is among the Big Ten leaders in several categories, including 17th in the league in scoring and rebounding, 14th in assists and 8th in 3-pointers made. Talley also tops all Big Ten players at the free throw line, going 14-for-15 from the charity stripe and is 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio.
He is second among all Big Ten reserves in scoring, and Talley is one of three conference players to rank among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and assists, joining Michigan State's Draymond Green and Tim Frazier of Penn State.
The 6-foot-5 guard has reached double figures in the last three contests, including a season-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists and three steals against Oregon on Nov. 23. Last Saturday, Talley had 12 points and three rebounds against South Dakota State and totaled 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers and five rebounds in 18 minutes of action against Rhode Island on Nov. 20. He enjoyed a strong Husker debut against South Dakota, coming off the bench with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Talley's adjustment may have been helped by the Division I experience he had when playing at Binghamton (N.Y.) University in 2009-10. That season, he was the America East Rookie of the Year and averaged 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Last year, he was an honorable-mention All-American at Blinn College, ranking sixth in the NJCAA in scoring at 23.0 points per game while also chipping in 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Walker is Huskers' Wingman
One of the biggest beneficiaries to the Huskers' higher tempo has been senior Caleb Walker. The 6-foot-4 wing player from Hutchinson, Kan., is averaging 8.4 points per game and has been efficient early on.
Walker has taken just 23 shots in five games, is shooting 65.2 percent from the floor, including 8-of-13 from 3-point range. Walker comes into Wednesday's game ranked third in the Big Ten in shooting percentage and second in 3-point percentage (61.7). He is one of two players in the league hitting over 60 percent from 3-point range. Walker showed toughness against South Dakota State, playing 12 minutes after being sick most of Friday night and Saturday morning.
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 16 points on 5-of-5 shooting and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Walker went 3-for-3 from 3-point range, as he set career highs in points and three-pointers in the season opener.
Walker, who played both football and basketball as a freshman in junior college, is one of Nebraska's most athletic players and led Nebraska in rebounding last year. So far this season, he is averaging 5.0 rebounds per game to rank fourth on the team.
Richardson Shows Improved Shooting Touch
For senior Brandon Richardson, one of his primary focuses in the offseason was to improve his shooting touch and the senior's hard work is paying dividends early in the season. He comes into Saturday's game averaging 7.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting. More impressively, is his 7-of-14 from 3-point range after shooting 25 percent from beyond the arc as a junior. The 6-foot senior came up big in his return home to Los Angeles on Nov. 14, totaling 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the Huskers' overtime win. He matched his career best with four 3-pointers and dished out a pair of assists, including the game-tying basket in double overtime.
Against Rhode Island, he keyed a Husker defense which held Jamal Wilson to 14 points after averaging 31 points in the Rams first two games and set career highs in both assists (eight) and steals (four) in 25 minutes. Richardson had six assists in the first half, in helping Nebraska build a 20-point lead. Richardson ranks among the conference leaders in assists (3.4, 10th), steals (2.0, 4th) and 3-point shooting (.500, fifth) heading into Wednesday's game with Wake Forest.
Throughout his career, Richardson has been clutch from the free throw line, as he ranks third in school history with an 82.6 career percentage from the charity stripe and is one of only four players in program history to shoot over 80 percent for a career. Last year, he was second in Big 12 action in league play, hitting 87.8 of his free throws, including a stretch of 25 consecutive from the line. Throughout his career, he has been his best in late-game situations, going 69-of-74 from the foul line in the final five minutes of games, a remarkable 93.2 percentage.
Ubel Doing the Dirty work Inside
After a slow start offensively, junior Brandon Ubel has been a force inside for the Huskers in the last week. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in two games after scoring just seven points in his first three contests. He had a career-high 15-point effort against Oregon and 12 points and eight rebounds in the win over South Dakota State on Saturday. While his offense has picked up, Ubel has been a consistent rebounder, averaging a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game to rank 10th in the conference, well up from his 3.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Ubel's effort last week was 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.
He started the stretch with a near double-double against Missouri, scoring 11 points and matching his career high with nine rebounds. In the Big 12 Tournament opener against Oklahoma State, he had 11 points, including seven straight to help NU erase a 14-point deficit, and six rebounds. He started at center against Wichita State and had nine points and six rebounds in the NIT opener.
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 73-20 record (.787 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 51-2 record at the Devaney Center, including a 26-game home win streak before it was snapped by Oregon on Nov. 23.
Nebraska Coach Doc Sadler
Doc Sadler is in his sixth season on the Husker sideline after leading Nebraska to an NIT appearance in 2010-11. Sadler has guided the Huskers to postseason appearances in three of the last four seasons, and his 89 wins in his first five seasons was the most by any Husker coach in his first five years at Nebraska. He is now in fourth place on Nebraska's career wins list with 93. Sadler has guided teams to postseason berths in five of his seven years as a Division I head coach, as both of his UTEP squads reached postseason play before taking over the Nebraska program in August of 2006.