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Huskers Take on No. 6 Ohio State
Brandon Richardson is averaging 3.7 assists per game over NU's last six contests.
Photo Courtesy John Peterson
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
01/02/2012
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Nebraska Cornhuskers
2011-12 Record: 8-5 (0-2 Big Ten)
Head coach: Doc Sadler

Record at Nebraska: 97-76 (6th year)
Record at Division I: 145-94 (8th year)
Career Record: 265-133 (14th year)

Ohio State Buckeyes
2011-12 Record: 13-2 (1-1 Big Ten)

Head Coach: Thad Matta
Record at Ohio State: 203-59 (8th year)

Career Record: 305-90 (12th year)

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Huskers Take on No. 6 Ohio State
The Nebraska men's basketball team returns to action Tuesday night, as the Huskers take on No. 6/7 (AP/Coaches) Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. Tip off for the tilt between the Huskers and Buckeyes at Value City Arena is set for 5:36 p.m. (central).

Tuesday's game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network with Dave Revsine and Jim Jackson on the call. The game will also be available on BTN.com and the BTN2Go App on select mobile devices.

The Nebraska-Ohio 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.

Nebraska continues the early-season gauntlet though the Big Ten Conference, as Tuesday's contest with the Buckeyes will be the Huskers' third straight game against a ranked opponent to start conference play. 

It is the first time in school history that Nebraska has began conference play with three straight games against ranked teams and also the third time since the 2004-05 season that any Big Ten team has opened up conference action with three straight foes ranked in the AP Top 25. Following Tuesday's game at Ohio State, the Huskers will have played the top three teams in the league's preseason poll.

Nebraska comes into Tuesday's game with an 8-5 record (0-2 Big Ten) following a 68-55 loss to No. 16 Michigan State on Saturday. Bo Spencer came off the bench for a team-high 15 points, as the senior guard leads the Huskers in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg). Spencer has been at his best away from Lincoln, averaging 24.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in Nebraska's three road games this season.

While the Huskers are in their first season of Big Ten basketball, Ohio State (13-2, 1-1 Big Ten) is in its 100th season in the conference and looks to bounce back following a 74-70 loss at No. 13 Indiana. The Buckeyes, who dropped from second to sixth in Monday's AP poll, feature one of the front-runners for national player of the year in Jared Sullinger. The 6-foot-9 forward averages 16.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game to pace three Buckeyes who average at least 15 points per game. OSU has been exceptionally tough at home, as the Buckeyes have won 34 straight at Value City Arena dating back to 2010.

Husker Tip Off
•-Bo Spencer is looking to join an exclusive group at Nebraska, as he is bidding to become just the fifth Husker since the 1973-74 season to average more than 15 points and four assists per game. The last Husker to accomplish the feat was Cookie Belcher in the 2000-01 campaign.

Year

Player (Year)

Ppg.

Apg.

2011-12

Bo Spencer

15.1

4.2

2000-01

Cookie Belcher

16.4

4.4

1997-98

Tyronn Lue

21.2

4.8

1996-97

Tyronn Lue

18.8

4.3

1994-95

Erick Strickland

16.3

4.3

*-Nebraska will become the third Big Ten team since the 2004-05 season to open up with three ranked opponents (AP poll) when the Huskers take on No. 6 Ohio State on Tuesday. Indiana will be the fourth team to join the list later this week when they take on Michigan.

Last Time Out
Toney McCray and Bo Spencer combined for 29 points, but Keith Appling scored eight of his 14 points in a decisive second-half run, as No. 16 Michigan State pulled out a 68-55 win Saturday afternoon.

McCray and Spencer led the Huskers' comeback, as Nebraska chipped away at a 15-point lead to pull within 53-50 after a Spencer 3-pointer with 8:43 remaining

Appling then took over, scoring six straight points, as the sophomore hit a driving jumper and a layup on consecutive possessions before his two free throws with 4:39 left gave the Spartans  a 59-50 lead.

 Nebraska would make one last run, as a 3-pointer from McCray, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds before fouling out, and two Spencer free throws made it a four-point game with 3:57 left.

That would be as close as Nebraska would get, as Appling found Austin Thornton for a 3-pointer before the sophomore guard hit two free throws with 1:07 left to put the Spartans up 64-54. Appling finished with 14 points and four assists for MSU, which has won 13 straight games.

The Spartans went 19-of-21 from the foul line, including a perfect 12-for-12 in the second half and enjoyed a 38-24 advantage on the glass.

Spencer came off the bench to lead Nebraska with 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, as Nebraska, playing without two of its top three scorers because of injuries, shot 36 percent from the field, including 7-of-25 from 3-point range.

Scouting Ohio State
Under Thad Matta, Ohio State comes into Tuesday's game with a 13-2 mark and a No. 6/7 ranking (AP/Coaches) in the polls released Jan. 2. Matta, who served as an assistant to former Nebraska Coach Barry Collier at Butler, is in his eighth season at OSU and has guided the Buckeyes to five NCAA appearances, including an NCAA runner-up finish in 2007 and back-to-back NCAA Sweet 16 showings in 2010 and 2011.

The Buckeyes won their first eight games - including wins over No. 3 Duke and No. 7 Florida - before losing 78-67 at No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 10, as All-American Jared Sullinger did not play because of a back injury. OSU then won its next five games before falling at No. 13 Indiana, 74-70, Saturday night.

Offensively, the Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten in both scoring offense (78.6 ppg) and field goal percentage (.492) as Ohio State features three of the Big Ten's top 10 scorers in Sullinger (16.2 ppg), William Bufurd (16.1 ppg) and Deshaun Thomas (15.1 ppg). Sullinger, the media's choice as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and a front-runner for national player of the year, is shooting 59 percent on the season and tops the Big Ten with 9.5 rebounds per game. Bufurd, a four-year starter, is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, while also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Sophomore point guard Aaron Craft guides the attack as he is second in the Big Ten in assists (5.3 apg) and first in steals (2.7 spg) while also chipping in 8.3 points per game. The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 40 percent shooting, including 32 percent from 3-point range, and are second to Michigan State in rebounding, grabbing 7.8 more rebounds per game then their opponents.

Nebraska-Ohio State Series
Ohio State leads the all-time series, 4-2 in a series that dates back to 1936, but Tuesday's meeting will be the first between the teams since the 1989 NIT. Nebraska won two of the first three meetings, but Ohio State has a three-game winning streak, as the Buckeyes won 72-63 at the Devaney Center on Dec. 5, 1987 and then won both meetings during the 1988-89 campaign. OSU won the regular-season matchup 103-76 on Dec. 12, 1988, as Tony White (21) and Jay Burson (20) combined for 41 points for the Buckeyes. Pete Manning led Nebraska with 17 points to pace three Huskers in double figures. The two teams would meet in the second round of the NIT that same season, as Grady Mateen's 20 points led five Buckeyes in double figures. Eric Johnson paced NU with 23 points, while Dapreis Owens, a native of Mansfield, Ohio had finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Huskers Against Ranked Teams
The Huskers will get their third crack at a ranked team Tuesday night, as they take on the sixth-ranked Buckeyes. Following losses to No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 16 Michigan State, Nebraska is now 58-216 all-time against ranked teams, including a 20-113 mark against teams ranked in the top 10 and an 12-65 mark against top-five squads.

The Huskers are 8-23 against ranked teams in Doc Sadler's six seasons at Nebraska and have won at least one game against a ranked foe in four of his first five years.

  • -Nebraska is wrapping up a stretch of three straight games against ranked opponents, the first time the Huskers have faced three straight ranked foes since a school-record five-game stretch during the 2009-10 season (Feb. 2-17).
  • -The Huskers went 3-3 against ranked teams last year, including a win over No. 3 Texas, which was the highest ranked foe NU had toppled since 1994.
  • -Nebraska's last road win over a top-10 team on the road was a 74-69 win over No. 7 Iowa State on Feb. 22, 1997.
  • -The Huskers will have several more chances against ranked teams this month, as Nebraska opens Big Ten play with six ranked teams in its first eight Big Ten contests (two games against No. 7 Ohio State and No. 18 Wisconsin, as well as one each against No. 12 Indiana and No. 10 Michigan State).

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 3.5 rebounds per game.

Spencer has reached double figures 10 times, including four 20-point performances and joins Penn State's Tim Frazier as the only two Big Ten players averaging more than 15 points and four assists per game. He is also on track to be the first Husker since Cookie Belcher in 2000-01 to average 15 points and four assists per contest.

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 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 night against Central Michigan on Dec. 20, when he dished out a career-high nine assists and tied for team-high honors with 15 points. Spencer came off the bench in Saturday's loss to No. 16 Michigan State, leading the Huskers with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.

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

4.2

1.46-to-1

3.5

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's Boost from the Bench
While Bo Spencer has made 75 career starts in his collegiate career, seven of his 55 career double-figure efforts have come in a reserve role. His 15-point effort against No. 16 Michigan State on Saturday was his highest total in a reserve role, topping his 14-point nights against Arizona State at the 2007 Maui Invitational and against UL-Lafayette on Dec. 1, 2009.

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 four 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 four games because of a thigh bruise.

The injuries to Diaz and Talley have shifted around Nebraska's rotation. After NU's bench scored 11 points in a three-game span (after averaging 21 points per game over NU's first nine games), freshman Josiah Moore moved into the starting lineup while Bo Spencer came off the bench to give NU more offensive production.

The Huskers did get some good news on the health front, as freshman Corey Hilliard Jr. returned to action on Dec. 27, after missing Nebraska's last seven games. He played a career-high 10 minutes in Nebraska's loss to No. 16 Michigan State on Saturday.

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 13.0 points per game on 56 percent shooting over the last nine 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 10.2 points per game and ranks 10th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (53.6 percent) and ninth in 3-point percentage (.433). He is one of only three players in the Big Ten to rank in the top 10 in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, joining Indiana's Jordan Hulls and Michigan's Evan Smotrycz.

McCray moved into the starting lineup in the Huskers' last four games after an injury to Jorge Brian Diaz and has averaged 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in that span. McCray began with a 20-point, seven-rebound effort against Alcorn State on Dec. 17, and had 16 points and nine rebounds effort against No. 11 Wisconsin. He comes off a 14-point, 6-rebound afternoon in Saturday's loss to No. 16 Michigan State.

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 75 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 month weeks.  The 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 9.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last six contests, well above his season and career averages. He now ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rebounding at 6.2 per game, including a league-leading 3.0 offensive rebounds per game.  Ubel's performance on the glass has helped Nebraska out-rebound eight of its first 13 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 looks to bounce back after being grabbing a season-low one rebound in the Huskers' loss to No. 16 Michigan State on Saturday.

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 76.6 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 nine of the last 11 contests, hitting an impressive 78.4 percent from the line in that stretch.

Prior to this season, NU's best season under Doc Sadler was 71.3 percent during the 2006-07 campaign.

Four Huskers are shooting over 80 percent from the line this season, including senior guard Bo Spencer, who is 49-of-56 from the strip for an 87.5 percent rate to rank third in the Big Ten. Other Huskers above 80 percent include Brandon Richardson (87.0 percent), Dylan Talley (82.4 percent) and Brandon Ubel (80.6 percent). The Huskers have been at their best in the clutch, hitting 82 percent (49-of-60) 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 14.0 attempts in its five losses.

This Day in Nebraska Basketball History
Nebraska is 10-9 all-time on Jan. 3, and has won its last four games on this date, including a 77-46 win over North Dakota last seson. Tuesday's conference game at Ohio State will be the Huskers' first conference game and first game versus a ranked foe since a 96-76 loss at Kansas in 1998. NU is 1-2 against ranked foes, falling to No. 11 Arkansas 64-58 in 1983 and topping No. 23 Texas, 85-69 in 1996.  The only other time NU has faced a Big Ten foe on this date was a 26-24 loss at Illinois in 1921.

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