Huskers, Gophers Battle Saturday
Game 29: at Minnesota
Game Date: March 3, 2012
Tipoff Time: 11:31 a.m. (central)
Venue: Williams Arena
2011-12 Record: 12-16 (4-13 Big Ten)
Head coach: Doc Sadler
Record at Nebraska: 101-87 (6th year)
Record at Division I: 149-105 (8th year)
Career Record: 269-144 (14th year)
Minnesota Golden Gophers
2011-12 Record: 17-13 (5-12 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Tubby Smith
Record at Minn.: 97-66 (5th year)
Career Record: 484-211 (20th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
Television: Big Ten Network
(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)
Play-by-play: Eric Collins
Expert Analysis: Eddie Johnson
Live Video: BTN2Go App and BTN2Go.com
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
Expert Analysis: Matt Davison
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio (Minn. feed): Sirius 85, XM 85
Huskers, Gophers Battle Saturday
The Nebraska men's basketball team finishes the regular season Saturday morning, as the Huskers travel to Williams Arena to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Tipoff is set for 11:31 a.m. and the game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network with Eric Collins and Eddie Johnson on the call. The game will also be available on BTN.com and the BTN2Go App on select mobile devices.
Saturday's Nebraska-Minnesota game will also be carried across Nebraska on the 30-station IMG Husker Sports Radio Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison calling all of the action. The game can also be heard on the Internet at Huskers.com and season audio packages are also available for purchase on the Huskers' App for your iPhone or iPod Touch.
The Huskers (12-16, 4-13) come into Saturday's game playing for seeding for next week's Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Nebraska can move up to 10th with a win on Saturday and a Penn State loss to Michigan on Sunday, while a loss to the Gophers will mean Nebraska can finish no higher than the 11th seed at Bankers Life Fieldhouse next weekend.
Nebraska looks to bounce back from a disappointing 62-53 loss to Iowa on Wednesday. In that game, Iowa used a 15-3 second-half run to break open a two-point game, as the Huskers shot just 4-of-24 from long range.
One highlight for the Huskers has been the play of Brandon Ubel, who had a career-high 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting against Iowa. It was the second straight game Ubel has led Nebraska in scoring and his 17 points eclipsed his previous high of 15 against Oregon on Nov. 23. Over the last four contests, the 6-foot-10 junior is averaging 11.0 points per game, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 74 percent from the floor.
Like Nebraska, the Golden Gophers (17-13, 5-12 Big Ten) have struggled down the stretch, as Minnesota has lost its last six games since a 69-61 win over the Huskers in Lincoln back on Super Bowl Sunday. The Golden Gophers are coming off a 52-45 loss at Wisconsin on Tuesday night, as Minnesota shot just 24 percent from the floor. Andre Hollins led Minnesota with 18 points, including 10-of-11 from the foul line, as Wisconsin outscored Minnesota 36-22 in the second half.
Last Time Out
Brandon Ubel had a career-high 17 points, but Iowa used a 15-3 second-half run to pull away with a 62-53 win at the Devaney Center Wednesday evening.
Ubel was a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the floor and led all scorers, but the Huskers shot just 36.5 percent from the floor as a team in dropping to 12-16 overall and 4-13 in the Big Ten. His 17 points topped his previous high of 15 against Oregon this season as he also added a team-high seven rebounds in a losing effort.
Nebraska was within 34-32 after a Caleb Walker dunk at the 14:00 mark, but Roy Devyn Marble keyed a 15-3 spurt that spotted the visitors a 49-35 lead. Marble had eight of his 11 points in the spurt, including consecutive 3-pointers that pushed the Iowa lead to double figures for the first time at 45-35 with 11:26 left.
The Huskers fought back, as a Bo Spencer 3-pointer and a Mike Fox jumper pulled Nebraska within 49-40 but Bryce Cartwright came right back with a driving basket and a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 14 at 54-40 with 5:05 left. Cartwright finished with 11 points off the bench for Iowa.
Nebraska made one last run, cutting an 11-point lead to 58-51 on Ubel's dunk with 39 seconds left, but Iowa held on by hitting 4-of-6 from the foul line in the last 35 seconds to thwart Nebraska's comeback hopes.
Matt Gatens led Iowa (16-14, 8-9 Big Ten) with 16 points to pace three Hawkeyes in double figures, while Walker joined Ubel in double figures for Nebraska with 15 points. The Huskers did a good job of containing Gatens, who was averaging 25 points per game over Iowa's last three games, but could not take advantage from long distance, hitting 4-of-22 from 3-point range.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, as neither team shot over 40 percent, as Iowa took a 23-19 lead into the locker room. Iowa used a 10-2 run in building a 23-15 lead on a McCabe layup, but Nebraska chipped away as two Ubel baskets made it a four-point game at the break.
Under Tubby Smith, Minnesota comes into today's game with a 17-13 record, including a 5-11 mark in Big Ten play. Smith is in his fifth season at Minnesota following stints at Kentucky, Georgia and Tulsa. His teams won 20 straight games in his first four years at UM before dipping to 17-14 in 2010-11. The Gophers were 17-7 following a 69-61 win in Lincoln on Feb. 5, but have dropped their last six contests, including the last three to ranked opponents.
The Gophers are a balanced club with seven players averaging over five points per game as the Gophers rely on a deep rotation. Forward Rodney Williams leads the Gophers with 10.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as he is among the Big Ten leaders in both shooting percentage (.550, fifth) and in blocked shots (1.4, fourth). Julian Welch also averages double figures with 10.2 points per game, including a team-best 43.4 percent from 3-point range and a team-high 89 assists, while Austin Hollins (8.5) and Ralph Sampson III (7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game) provide balance. Welch has come off the bench in recent games, allowing Andre Hollins to break into the starting lineup.
Nebraska-Minnesota Series History
Nebraska and Minnesota will meet for the 65th time on Saturday, which is the most between the Huskers and any other Big Ten member. To put it in perspective, Nebraska had faced the other 10 teams in the league just 96 times prior to this season. It is also NU's longest-running series in the Big Ten, as it dates back to February of 1902. The Gophers lead the all-time series, 49-15, including a 33-6 lead in Minneapolis. Nebraska's last win in Williams Arena was a 77-60 win on Dec. 29, 2003. NU and Minnesota met in non-conference action every year from 1995 until 2004 after not playing for 16 years.
Last Meeting: Minnesota 69, Nebraska 61 (Feb. 5)
Bo Spencer's 18 led three Huskers in double figures, but a second half scoring drought doomed Nebraska in a 69-61 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 5. The Huskers and Gophers were tied at 39 with 12:27 left after Spencer hit a pair of free throws, but then went scoreless for nearly six minutes, as Minnesota used a 9-0 run to take the lead for good. The Huskers, who missed 14 of their first 16 shots from the field in the second half, were still in striking distance, as Toney McCray's 3-pointer cut the lead to 48-42 with 6:39 left. NU was within 52-46 but could not get closer. Chip Armelin came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, as Minnesota shot 54 percent, including 67 percent after halftime. In addition to Spencer's game-high 18 points, Toney McCray finished with 15 points, six rebounds and a career-high three blocked shots, while Brandon Richardson added 10 points and three steals in a losing effort.
Husker Quick Hits
- Doc Sadler will be looking for his 150th Division I win at Minnesota on Saturday. Sadler is 149-105 in eight seasons as a Division I coach, including his two-year stint at UTEP.
- Nebraska will be seeking its 1,400th win in program history on Saturday. The Huskers are 1,399-1,239 all-time heading into the Iowa contest.
- Two of the Huskers' three highest scoring performances in Big Ten play have been on the road, as Nebraska scored 79 points at Iowa on Jan. 26 and 74 at Northwestern on Feb. 2. Conversely, two of the Huskers' three lowest-scoring games have also taken place away from home, including a 34-point effort at No. 6 Michigan State on Feb. 25.
- Brandon Richardson is posting a 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over Nebraska's last nine games, a stretch where he is averaging 4.3 assists along with 9.1 points per game. He has five or more assists 10 times in Big Ten play after totaling two during his first three years of conference action.
- Richardson enters the final weekend of the regular season needing 11 steals to move into 10th place on Nebraska's single-season list, while his 52 steals this season is one shy of ninth place on the Huskers' senior season list (53, Ryan Anderson, 2011).
- Caleb Walker has been in double figures in three of the Huskers' last five games, including a 15-point effort on Wednesday night against Iowa. He is averaging 8.4 points per game in that stretch, above his 6.5 points per game average over his first 23 appearances this season.
- Brandon Richardson and Brandon Ubel are the only Huskers who have started all 28 games this season.
- Nebraska is 8-4 this season when holding an opponent under 45 percent shooting from the floor.
- The Huskers are 8-4 when getting to the free throw line at least 10 times a game, but is winless in eight contests when not getting to the foul line.
- Nebraska's 80 points against Illinois on Feb. 18 marked only the fourth time in Doc Sadler's six years that Nebraska cracked 80 points in regulation in conference action and the first time it occurred since scoring 87 points in a loss at Kansas State on Feb. 17, 2010. NU's 80 points was the Huskers' highest conference home total in regulation since putting up 85 against Oklahoma on March 5, 2007.
- Brandon Ubel leads Nebraska and ranks third in the Big Ten with 70 offensive rebounds this season. His total is the most by a Husker since Aleks Maric had 131 in 2007-08.
- Walk-on Mike Fox has come off the bench to give the Huskers depth, averaging 3.7 points per game on 48 percent shooting and 2.3 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last five contests. He had four points and a team-high five rebounds at Michigan State on Feb. 25, marking the third time in Sadler's six seasons a walk-on has led the Huskers in rebounding (Paul Velander-7, vs. Savannah State, 1/3/07; Drake Beranek-5 at Kansas State, 2/2/11).
Huskers Look to Generate Offense
For the 2011-12 Huskers, the key to success has been at the offensive end. Nebraska enters Wednesday's game against Iowa with an 11-5 record when scoring at least 60 points, but is just 1-11 when not reaching that threshold. In Nebraska's four Big Ten wins, the Huskers have scored 70 or more points, but have been to 65 points or less in 12 of their 13 league losses.
Charity Begins at the Foul line
One area where the Huskers have been proficient this season is at the free throw line, where Nebraska's 75.7 percent rate is second in the Big Ten and in the top 20 nationally in the latest NCAA rankings.
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 which was third nationally when they hit a school-record 76.5 percent from the line. Prior to this season, NU's best season under Doc Sadler was 71.3 percent during the 2006-07 campaign.
- Nebraska has shot 70 percent or better from the line in 21 of 28 contests and 80 percent or better 12 times this season, including 11-of-13 against Iowa on Wednesday.
- Four Huskers are shooting over 80 percent from the line this season: Bo Spencer (87.1 percent); Brandon Richardson (82.3); Brandon Ubel (81.1); and Dylan Talley (81.0).
- Spencer is on track to finish in the top five on Nebraska's single-season free throw chart and is the best since Cary Cochran shot 92.2 percent in 2001-02.
- The Huskers have been solid in the clutch, hitting 75 percent (93-of-124) from the line in the last five minutes of games this season, as Bo Spencer and Brandon Richardson are both over 90 percent.
Nebraska's success has often been determined by its ability to get to the line. In the Huskers' 12 wins, Nebraska is averaging 19.6 attempts per game, but that number drops to 11.3 in the Huskers' 16 losses.
Spencer Makes the Point for the Huskers
The focal point of Nebraska's offensive attack has been senior guard Bo Spencer. The 6-foot-2 guard has made the most of his only season at Nebraska after transferring from LSU.
He leads the Huskers in scoring at 14.9 points per game, while also adding 3.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game and shooting 87.1 percent from the foul line. Spencer has been an iron man for the Huskers, averaging 32.8 minutes per game as only one Husker has averaged more minutes in the last decade (Charles Richardson, 36.3 minutes per game in 2006-07).
Spencer's 14.9 ppg is on pace to be the highest scoring average by a Husker guard since the 2004-05 season (Joe McCray, 15.5 ppg). He reached double figures a team-high 21 times, including seven 20-point performances, which is the most by any Husker in five years. His latest 20-point effort came on Feb. 18 against Illinois when he had 27 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers. It was his third 20-point effort in Big Ten action, as he had 24 at Northwestern on Feb. 2 and 23 in the win over No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18.
Spencer got off to a slow start in Big Ten play, averaging 10.0 points per game while shooting 26 percent in NU's first three games, but had rebounded to average 16.7 points per game over the next 12 contests before being restricted to 17 minutes at Michigan State because of an ankle injury. Prior to the Michigan State game when he was held to a season-low two points, he had averaged 18.0 points per game on 54 percent shooting over the previous six games. He returned to action against Iowa on Wednesday, finishing with eight points before fouling out.
He enjoyed 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 in the highest scoring effort by a Husker since 2007-08.
Spencer led Nebraska to a road win at TCU on Dec. 10, hitting 7-of-12 shots, including four 3-pointers, in NU's 69-57 victory. 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 23 points, four assists and three steals.
Before coming to Nebraska, he started two seasons at LSU, 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 three-year 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 SEC championship squad in 2008-09, as the Tigers reached the second round before falling to eventual champion North Carolina.
Richardson is Huskers' Glue Guy
While senior guard Brandon Richardson doesn't lead the Huskers in any offensive category, his versatility is his greatest asset. The fifth-year senior averages 7.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, while he leads Nebraska and ranks third in the Big Ten in steals (1.9 per game).
Richardson enters this week's action in third place among active Big Ten players in career steals with 143, and he is threatening to become the first Husker since Cookie Belcher in 2000-01 to average more than two steals per game. Belcher, who holds three of the top four totals in school history, still ranks fourth in NCAA history with 353 steals in his career. Richardson is now eighth on Nebraska's career steals list.
Richardson has been active on the defensive end in Big Ten play, ranking second in the league with 2.0 steals per game in Big Ten action, including a career-high seven steals at No. 6 Ohio State on Jan. 3. He has multiple steals in 10 of Nebraska's 16 league games, including three steals in Nebraska's upset of No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 11.
Richardson has become more of an offensive force in recent weeks, averaging 9.1 points on 48 percent shooting and 4.3 assists per game in Nebraska's last eight games. He is also 14-of-27 from 3-point range in that span.
He began his hot streak at Iowa on Jan. 26, totaling a career-high 25 points, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, and added a season-high six rebounds and five assists. He has hit multiple 3-pointers in four of his last nine games including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc at Purdue on Feb. 22.
Richardson now has 790 career points and is 10 points away from becoming the 46th player in school history to score 800 career points.
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 at USC. 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 on Nov. 20, he set then-career highs in both assists (eight) and steals (four). Richardson closed non-conference play with a strong performance against Central Michigan on Dec. 20, finishing with a season-high 15 points and three assists.
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 five players in program history to shoot over 80 percent for a career. Throughout his career, he has been his best in late-game situations, going 81-of-87 from the foul line in the final five minutes of games, a remarkable 93.1 percentage.
McCray Makes Most of Starting Role
Fifth-year senior Toney McCray has overcome a pair of injuries to play some of the best basketball of his career in 2011-12. The 6-foot-6 senior was hampered by surgery on his feet over the summer and a toe injury in October, but has rebounded to enjoy a solid senior year. He is setting career highs in both scoring (9.2 ppg) and rebounding (4.5 rpg).
McCray looks to break out of a mini slump, averaging 6.3 points per game in the last five games after averaging 12.4 points per game in the previous 13 contests. He had six points and five rebounds in Wednesday's loss to Iowa.
He originally moved into the lineup in December when Jorge Brian Diaz missed five games earlier in the season with a foot injury, and has been in the lineup ever since, as Nebraska has relied on a smaller lineup. Once inserted into the lineup, he promptly put together seven straight games in double figures - the longest stretch of his career. Prior to this season, his longest stretch of games in double figures was four games. The stretch began with a 20-point, seven-rebound effort against Alcorn State on Dec. 17, and had 16 points and nine rebounds against No. 11 Wisconsin on Dec. 27. McCray led NU with 13 points and five rebounds at No. 6 Ohio State and had 16 points and five rebounds at Northwestern on Feb. 2. In the first matchup with Minnesota, he totaled 15 points and six rebounds.
During non-conference play, 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 double overtime 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 69 percent from the foul line this season, the best percentage of his career.
Talley is Huskers' Scoring Sixth Man
Junior college transfer Dylan Talley has provided the Huskers with a boost off the bench in his first season at Nebraska, and comes into Saturday's game ranked third on the team in scoring at 9.1 points per game, while also chipping in 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He is hitting 37 percent from 3-point range and 81.0 percent from the foul line.
Talley leads all Big Ten reserves in scoring and has been in double figures nine times in his first year at Nebraska. He was slowed by a thigh injury which sidelined him for five games before returning to action against Illinois on Jan. 7. Talley has regained his early-season form, averaging 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last 12 contests. More importantly, he has been best in late-game situations, scoring 63 percent of his points in the second half over the last 12 games dating back to Jan, 15.
He has been in double figures four times since his return to the lineup, including his best effort of the year against No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18. In that game, he had 10 points, including eight in the final 5:19, as Nebraska came back from 11 points down, and also matched his career high with nine rebounds and added two blocks. Talley finished with 13 points at Northwestern hitting 5-of-7 shots from the floor and led the Huskers with 12 points at Penn State.
Talley has shown the knack for the heroics, hitting a game-winning basket with 10.4 seconds remaining against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, as part of a 14-point effort. The 6-foot-5 guard reached double figures in three straight games earlier this season, including a season-high 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals against Oregon on Nov. 23.
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 (Texas) 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.
Ubel Continues to Improve
While Nebraska relies on its guards for the bulk of the offensive output, junior Brandon Ubel gives the Huskers a physical presence on the inside. The 6-foot-10 forward has started NU's last 19 games at center since Jorge Brian Diaz suffered a foot injury in early December.
On the season, he is averaging 6.7 points and a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game, ranking 11th in the league in rebounds. His rebounding total is on pace to be the best by a Husker in the last four seasons. Ubel is second in the Big Ten on the offensive glass, grabbing 2.5 rebounds per game, and has 11 games this season with at least seven rebounds, including nine rebounds in the loss to No. 22 Michigan on Feb. 8.
Despite playing out of position, Ubel has made the adjustment to the Big Ten and his scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage numbers are significantly higher during the second half of conference play. Over the last four contests, the 6-foot-10 junior is averaging 11.0 points per game, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game while shooting 74 percent from the floor.
He comes off one of the best performances of his career on Wednesday, scoring a career-high 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting and adding seven rebounds in the loss to Iowa. His offensive output was one of the few highlights in the loss at Michigan State on Feb. 25, as he led NU with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Ubel's best rebounding effort came against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, when he grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and added 10 points for his first career double-double. That began a five-game stretch where he averaged 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, including 13 points and eight rebounds in the win over Alcorn State, 11 points and seven rebounds against Central Michigan on Dec. 20 and eight points and nine rebounds against No. 11 Wisconsin on Dec. 27.
An overlooked part of Ubel's game is his passing abilities, as he has 35 assists this year after totaling just 22 assists in his first two seasons at Nebraska. He had his second five-assist effort at Northwestern on Feb. 2.
Huskers Battling Health issues
The Huskers have battled health issues during Big Ten play, as Nebraska has been without three-year starting center Jorge Brian Diaz for 10 of the Huskers' 17 Big Ten games because of foot injuries, while backup center Andre Almeida has not played at all this season because of a knee injury suffered last March. In 2010-11, the duo combined for 15.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, and Diaz was on pace for career highs in all three categories before he was originally sidelined in early December. In addition, Dylan Talley missed the Huskers' first three games of Big Ten play with a thigh injury. Both Talley and Diaz were back for a seven-game stretch when the Huskers went 3-4 with two of the losses being decided on the road (at Illinois and at Wisconsin) in the final 30 seconds. Diaz re-aggravated the injury prior to the Minnesota game on Feb. 5 and has missed the last seven games.
The absence of Diaz on the inside has not only altered the Huskers' rotation, but also took away a vital part of Nebraska's attack. In league play, NU averaged 62 points per game and shot 44 percent with Diaz in the lineup, while averaging 52.4 points on 40 percent in the nine contests Diaz missed with injuries, going 1-8 in that span.
Big Ten Play with Diaz
Big Ten Play Without Diaz
Taking Care of the Basketball
Nebraska has done a better job of handling the basketball in recent games, committing an average of 11.0 turnovers per game over the last five contests. That is down from 16.0 turnovers per game in Nebraska's previous five contests. Both Bo Spencer and Brandon Richardson are averaging more than 3.3 assists per game in that stretch.
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