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Brandon Ubel is averaging 8.6 rebounds per game over Nebraska's last five contests.
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
          Release: 12/30/2011
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Huskers Host No. 16 MSU on New Year's Eve

Game 13: Michigan State
Game Date: Dec. 31, 2011

Tipoff Time: 2:06 p.m.
Venue: Bob Devaney Sport Center
Capacity: 13,595

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2011-12 Record: 8-4 (0-1 Big Ten)

Head coach: Doc Sadler
  Record at Nebraska: 97-75 (6th year)
  Record at Division I: 145-93 (8th year)
  Career Record: 265-133 (14th year)

Michigan State Spartans
2011-12 Record: 12-2 (1-0 Big Ten)

Head Coach: Tom Izzo
  
Record at Michigan State: 395-163 (17th year) 
  Career Record: same

Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: Big Ten Network
(
Play-by-play: Gus Johnson; Color: Keno Davis)
(Ch. 610 on DirecTV; Chs. 439, 9500 on DISH; Chs. 24 and 333-SH, 1333-HD on Time Warner Cable; Chs. 80 SD, 1080-HD on Cox Cable)

Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network
(Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka; Color: Andy Markowski)
(including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln; KFAB 1110  AM in Omaha; KRVN 880 AM in Lexington)
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius 92; XM 193

Huskers Host No. 16 Michigan State

The Nebraska men's basketball team continues its opening week of Big Ten Conference action, as the Huskers take on No. 16 Michigan State on New Year's Eve. Tipoff for the matchup between the Huskers and Spartans is set for 2:06 p.m.

Tickets for Saturday's game are on sale for $20 and $25 by visiting Huskers.com or by calling the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office at 800-8-BIGRED. In addition, tickets can also be purchased at the Devaney Center Ticket Office beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday's game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network with Gus Johnson and Keno Davis on the call. The game will also be available on BTN.com and BTN2Go on mobile devices..

The Nebraska-Michigan State game will also be carried across Nebraska on the 30-station IMG Husker Sports Radio Network with Kent Pavelka and Andy Markowski calling all of the action. 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.

This is the first time since the 2001-02 campaign that Nebraska has opened conference play with consecutive ranked opponents.  The Huskers will look to bounce back from a rough conference opener Tuesday night, as Nebraska was held to a season-low 40 points on 30.6 percent shooting in a 64-40 loss to No. 11 Wisconsin.

Senior Toney McCray led Nebraska with 16 points and nine rebounds against the Badgers and has taken advantage of additional playing time because of injuries to Jorge Brian Diaz and Dylan Talley. Since moving into the starting lineup three games ago, McCray is averaging 15.9 points on 56 percent shooting and eight rebounds per game, and his additional output has been vital in helping NU replacing the scoring of Diaz and Talley, who combine for 20 points per game.

Michigan State comes to town with a 12-2 record and riding a 12-game win streak following an 80-65 win over No. 13 Indiana Wednesday evening. In that game, Keith Appling had a career-high 25 points to knock the Hoosiers from the ranks of the unbeaten. Michigan State also features one of the Big Ten's best players in senior forward Draymond Green, a first-team All-Big Ten performer who leads the Spartans in scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg).

Husker Tip Off
•-This week's games against Wisconsin and Michigan State marks only the third time in school history - and first time in a decade - that Nebraska has began conference play with two ranked opponents. Prior to this season, Nebraska has never began conference play with three consecutive ranked opponents, but will do so this year, as the Huskers will face No. 2 Ohio State on Jan. 3.

Years

First Two Conference Opponents

2011-12

No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan State

2001-02

No. 17 Missouri, No. 1 Kansas

1989-90

No. 1 Kansas, No. 5 Missouri

  • -Nebraska's Bo Spencer is one of only two Big Ten players averaging at least 15 points and four assists per game entering this weekend's action. Spencer looks to bounce back from a season-low five-point effort against No. 11 Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Player

School

PPG

APG

Bo Spencer

Nebraska

15.1

4.3

Tim Frazier

Penn State

17.4

6.9

Last Time Out
Toney McCray scored a team-high 16 points, but the Nebraska basketball team dropped its Big Ten opener against No. 11 Wisconsin, 64-40.

McCray hit 6-of-15 shots from the floor, but was the only Husker in double figures, as Wisconsin held the Huskers to their lowest point total since the 2006-07 season and snapped NU's four-game win streak.

Ryan Evans led Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0 Big Ten) with a career-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, while All-American Jordan Taylor added 15 points and five assists, as Wisconsin shot 51 percent on the night, including 11-of-21 from 3-point range.

Nebraska got off to a great start, scoring the game's first seven points, while McCray scored eight early points to give NU a 10-5 lead.  The Huskers were unable to sustain the early momentum. Evans scored five straight points to tie the score, as the Badgers ran off 13 straight points to silence the crowd of 11,422. UW capped the 19-2 spurt with a Mike Bruesewitz layup to double up the Huskers at 24-12.

The Huskers chipped away at the lead, pulling to within 29-23 after a McCray dunk and was within 33-26 at the half after a McCray layup and basket beat the first-half horn.

Nebraska pulled to within 33-28 after a pair of McCray free throws with 19:39 remaining, but the Badgers responded with a 9-0 run of their own, starting with a clutch Taylor 3-pointer to beat the shot clock. The Badgers eventually pushed the lead 42-28 lead after Josh Gassner's 3-pointer with 15:21 remaining.

The Huskers eventually pulled to within 42-33 after a Bo Spencer 3-pointer and Brandon Ubel bucket, but could get no closer, as an Evans jumper and a Brust 3-pointer started a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach, as Nebraska (8-4, 0-1 Big Ten) shot 21 percent in the second half and 30.6 on the night.

Brandon Ubel also totaled eight points and nine rebounds in a losing effort.

Scouting Michigan State
After an 0-2 start, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans have been on a roll and come to Lincoln with a 12-2 mark. Izzo, who has guided the Spartans to six Final Fours, is the dean of Big Ten coaches, as he is in his 17th season. Michigan State has reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 14 seasons and Izzo is sixth all-time among Big Ten coaches in conference wins.

MSU opened the season with neutral site losses to then No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke before its current win streak. MSU, which was picked to finish third in the preseason poll, may have one of the league's best road non-conference wins of the year, a 74-67 win at Gonzaga on Dec. 10, and opened Big Ten action with an impressive 80-65 win over No. 13 Indiana. The Spartans are shooting nearly 48 percent from the field while holding opponents to just 38 percent, while controlling the boards by a league-best 10.2 rebounds per game.

MSU is led by senior forward Draymond Green who has been one of the Big Ten's top performers during the first two months of the season. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward leads MSU in scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg) while also averaging 3.6 assists per game. He already has a pair of triple-doubles this season and had a season-high 34 points at Gonzaga. 

Sophomore Keith Appling and senior Brandon Wood provide firepower from the outside, as both players average in double figures. Appling, one of two returning starters for MSU, is averaging 10.5 points and 3.6 assists per game and had a career-high 25 points against Indiana on Wednesday night. Wood was a first-team All-Horizon League selection at Valparaiso last season, averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. This year, he is averaging 10.5 points while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.

Nebraska-Michigan State Series
Michigan State leads the all-time series, 8-6, that dates back to February of 1920, but today's meeting will be the first between the two programs since 1994. Nebraska has won the last two matchups with the Spartans, including a 96-91 overtime win over No. 15 Michigan State on Dec. 10, 1994. 

In that game, Nebraska rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 46 seconds of regulation to force overtime, as Tom Wald hit three free throws with one second left. Nebraska took control in overtime, scoring the first seven points and never trailed.  Jaron Boone's 23 points led five Huskers in double figures, while Shawn Respert had 37 points in a losing effort for Michigan State, including 15-of-16 from the foul line.

Traditionally, the home team has dominated the series, as Nebraska has won five of the seven meetings in Lincoln, but has won only once in East Lansing, an 85-81 win in 1993. MSU has won both neutral site matchups - one in Hawaii and one in Atlanta.

This Day in Nebraska Basketball History
Nebraska has played eight times on New Year's Eve, posting a 4-4 all-time record on the date. The Huskers' last game on Dec. 31, was a 74-60 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl Classic in 2005. NU is 4-0 at the Devaney Center on New Year's Eve.

Huskers Against Ranked Teams
Nebraska is 0-1 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this season following Tuesday's loss to No. 11 Wisconsin. The Huskers are in the midst of playing of a stretch where they play six ranked teams in their first eight Big Ten contests (two games against No. 2 Ohio State and No. 11 Wisconsin, as well as one each against No. 13 Indiana and No. 16 Michigan State).  The Huskers went 3-3 against ranked teams last year, including a win over No. 3 Texas, and have eight wins over ranked AP teams in Doc Sadler's tenure at Nebraska. The win over the Longhorns was the highest ranked team Nebraska knocked off since 1994.

Spencer Makes the Point for the Huskers
While Nebraska returned 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 a solid performer, averaging 15.1 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.

Spencer has reached double figures nine times, including four 20-point performances and is one of only two players in the Big Ten currently averaging more than 15 points and four assists per game.

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 then-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 then-career-high eight assists along with 18 points and six rebounds. He enjoyed  a strong nine against Central Michigan on Dec. 20, when he dished out a career-high nine assists and tied for team-high honors with 15 points.

Before coming to Nebraska, he started two seasons for the LSU 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 20 points, including a season-high 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 times 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.

Spencer Year by Year Totals

Year

PPG

APG

Asst-to-Turnover Ratio

RPG

Freshman

3.4

1.4

1.59-to-1

1.2

Sophomore

11.4

2.6

1.38-to-1

2.9

Junior

14.5

2.7

0.80-to-1

2.5

Senior

15.1

4.3

1.53-to-1

3.6

Big Ten Leaders - 20-Point Games

No.

Player, School

Games

1.

William Buford, Ohio State

6

 

Tim Frazier, Penn State

6

3.

John Shurna, Northwestern

5

4.

Bo Spencer, Nebraska

4

 

Robbie Hummel, Purdue

4

Bo Looks to Bounce Back
After being held to a season-low five points in Tuesday's loss, Bo Spencer looks to bounce back against Michigan State on Saturday. If history is any indication, it will happen, as the senior has posted 20+ point performances following both of his single-digit efforts in 2011-12. He was held to six points in the opener against South Dakota before erupting for 22 points and seven rebounds at USC, and had 22 points, including a season-high four 3-pointers, at TCU after being held to six points against Florida Gulf Coast. Spencer has been held to single figures in consecutive games one time dating back to his final season at LSU.

Huskers Look for Improved Health
If the Huskers had one New Year's resolution, it would be for improved health as the season progresses forward. Injuries have depleted the Husker frontcourt, where Andre Almeida (5.3 ppg on 56 percent shooting; 3.3 rpg; 1.3 bpg in 2010-11) has not played this season because of a knee injury, while starting center Jorge Brian Diaz (10.9 ppg; 4.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg) has missed Nebraska's last three games because of a foot injury. In addition, junior guard Dylan Talley (9.1 ppg; 3.6 rpg) has not played in NU's last three games because of a thigh bruise. The injuries to Diaz and Talley have weakened the bench, as NU has gotten just 11 points from its bench in the last three contests after averaging 21 points per game in its first eight games. The Huskers did get some good news on the health front earlier this week, as freshman Corey Hilliard returned to action on Tuesday after missing Nebraska's last seven games.

McCray Enjoyed Starting Role
After a slow start, Toney McCray has regained his 2010-11 form. The 6-foot-6 senior missed a significant part of the summer after surgery on his feet, and a toe injury the week of the exhibition game put him out of action for nearly a week, forcing him to play catch up during the first month of the season.

McCray is making up for lost time in recent weeks, averaging 12.9 points per game on 57 percent shooting over the last eight contests after averaging 3.8 points per game on 38 percent shooting in Nebraska's first four games. He is now third on the team in scoring at 9.8 points per game and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (54.0 percent), while also shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.

McCray moved into the starting lineup in the Huskers' last three games after an injury to Jorge Brian Diaz and has averaged 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in that span. McCray began with a 20-point, seven-rebound effort against Alcorn State on Dec. 17, and comes off a 16-point, nine-rebound effort in Tuesday's loss to No. 11 Wisconsin. McCray has also set season bests in rebounds in each of the Huskers' last three contests.

Earlier this season, McCray had three straight games where he tied or set season highs, including 15 points and five rebounds at No. 22 Creighton on Dec. 4. He also had 12 points in Nebraska's games against South Dakota and Wake Forest.

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. McCray is up to 76 percent this season from the line.

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 9.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last five contests, well above his season and career averages. He now ranks seventh in the Big Ten in rebounding at 6.6 per game, including a league-leading 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.  Ubel's performance on the glass has helped Nebraska out-rebound eight of its first 12 opponents this season.

The stretch began against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7 when he had a career-high 11 rebounds and 10 points for his first career double-double. He has put together three double-figure scoring efforts in the last five games, including 13 points and eight rebounds in the win over Alcorn State and 11 points and seven rebounds against Central Michigan. Ubel was the first Husker since Aleks Maric in 2007-08 to have eight or more rebounds in three consecutive games. He opened Big Ten play with a game-high nine rebounds and eight points in the loss to the Badgers, equaling his highest rebound total in a conference game (also nine vs. Missouri on 3/1/11).

Ubel's recent efforts are 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.

Taking Advantage at the Stripe
One area where the Huskers have been proficient is at the free throw line, where Nebraska's 76.3 percent rate leads the Big Ten and is 12th nationally in the latest NCAA stats.

It is on track to be one of the best seasons in school history, as only two Husker teams have shot over 75 percent since 1948, led by 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 eight of the last 10 contests, hitting an impressive 78.3 percent from the line in that stretch.

Four Huskers are shooting over 80 percent from the line this season, including senior guard Brandon Richardson, who is 17-of-19 from the strip for a career-high 89.5 percent. Other Huskers above 80 percent include Bo Spencer (86.5 percent), Dylan Talley (82.4 percent) and Brandon Ubel (80.0 percent).

NU's best season under Doc Sadler was 71.3 percent in 2006-07.

The Huskers have been at their best in the clutch, hitting 81 percent (47-of-58) from the line in the last five minutes of games this season.

One thing Sadler has stressed is getting to the free throw line more often, as Nebraska has averaged 18.5 attempts in its eight wins, but just 13.8 attempts in its four losses.

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