Huskers Make bid to Sweep Hoosiers on Wednesday
Game #29 at Indiana
Game Date: March 5, 2014
Tipoff Time: 6:01 p.m. (CT)
Venue: Assembly Hall
2013-14 Record: 17-11, 9-7 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 32-29 (2nd year)
Career Record: 315-249 (19th year)
2013-14 Record: 17-12, 7-9 Big Ten
Head Coach: Tom Crean
Record at Indiana: 101-94 (6th year)
Career Record: 291-190 (15th year)
(Ch. 610 on DirecTV; Chs. 439, 9500 on DISH; Chs. 24 and 333-SD, 1333-HD on Time Warner Cable; Chs. 80 SD, 1080-HD on Cox Cable)
Play by Play: Eric Collins
Expert Analysis: Jim Jackson
Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network, including KLIN (1400 AM/94.5 FM) in Lincoln, KFAB (1110 AM) in Omaha and KRVN (880 AM) in Lexington.
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Expert Analysis: Matt Davison
Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio (Indiana feed): Sirius Ch. 92, XM Ch. 190
Huskers Make bid to Sweep Hoosiers on Wednesday
The Nebraska basketball team continues its quest for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998 and a first-round bye in next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis Wednesday night, as the Huskers take on Indiana.
Tipoff from Assembly Hall is set for 6:01 p.m. (CT) and the game will be carried nationally on BTN (Ch. 610 on DirecTV, Chs. 439 and 9500 on Dish; Chs. 24, 333 and 1333 on Time Warner Cable) with Eric Collins and Jim Jackson on the call. The game will also be available online and on mobile devices on BTN2Go.
Wednesday’s game will also be carried across the state on the 27-station Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison calling all of the action, including flagship stations KLIN (1400 AM/94.5 FM) in Lincoln and KFAB (1110 AM) in Omaha (complete list of affiliates is on page five of the game notes). The game can also be heard on Huskers.com and is available on the Huskers’ app on iOS or android devices, as well as Sirius and XM Radio.
The Huskers (17-11, 9-7 Big Ten) enter the final week of the regular season with a chance to finish anywhere from second to sixth in the Big Ten standings. Nebraska has won six of its last seven games following a 54-47 win over Northwestern Saturday afternoon. Against the Wildcats, the Huskers received a double-double from sophomore Shavon Shields, as he finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead three Huskers in double figures.
As it has been for the past month, it was Nebraska’s defense that clamped down on the defensive end. The Huskers held Northwestern to 33 percent shooting, and is holding its last seven foes to a combined 35 percent shooting. The Huskers’ defense is now allowing 63.3 points per game in Big Ten play to rank third in the conference.
The Huskers, who have already clinched their first .500 mark in conference play in five seasons, are bidding for their first 10-win conference season since 1999.
Indiana (17-12, 7-9 B1G) comes into Wednesday’s game with a two-game win streak after knocking off nationally ranked Iowa and Ohio State last week. The Hoosiers, who have played three games in the last week, feature one of the league’s top players in Yogi Ferrell, who averages a team-high 17.7 points and 3.8 assists per game. The win over Ohio State came despite not having the services of Noah Vonleh because of a foot injury. His status for Wednesday’s game has not been determined, and won’t likely be determined until gametime.
After Wednesday’s game, the Huskers will return home for Senior Night on Sunday when they host No. 9 Wisconsin at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game is already sold out.
By the Numbers
.645 - David Rivers’ shooting percentage from the floor since returning to the starting lineup on Feb. 16. He is averaging 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds a game in that stretch.
.846 - Nebraska’s winning percentage in games decided by five points or less under Tim Miles. The Huskers are 11-2 in such games over the last two seasons.
2 - Nebraska (Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields) and Indiana (Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey) are the only Big Ten teams with multiple 30-point scorers this season.
4 - The Huskers have had four players total double-doubles this season (Leslee Smith, Walter Pitchford, Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway).
9.7 - Rebounds per game for Shavon Shields over Nebraska’s last three games following his 10-rebound effort against Northwestern.
Indiana enters Thursday’s game with a 17-12 record and is 7-9 in the Big Ten heading into the final week of the season. Following Wednesday’s game, the Hoosiers travel to Big Ten regular-season champion Michigan on Saturday.
Under sixth-year head coach Tom Crean, the Hoosiers are a different team than the 2012-13 squad which featured two NBA Lottery picks and won the Big Ten regular-season title. The Hoosiers returned just one starter from a 29-7 squad that reached the NCAA Sweet 16. Indiana has been up and down in conference play, posting wins over Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, but also losing at home to Northwestern and Penn State. IU is 14-3 at Assembly Hall.
While Indiana averages 73.0 points per game, the Hoosiers’ strength is a defense which holds teams to 41 percent shooting, while IU out-rebounds teams by a conference best 8.2 boards per game.
Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell is one of the Big Ten’s top performers, as he averages a team-high 17.7 points along with 3.8 assists per game to rank in the top 10 in the Big Ten in both categories. Ferrell also shoots 42 percent from 3-point range for the Hoosiers. Noah Vonleh is one of the front runners for Big Ten Freshman of the year, as the 6-foot-10 forward averages 11.6 points and a Big Ten leading 9.1 rebounds per game. He leads the Big Ten with 10 double-doubles on the season. Senior forward Will Sheehey is the third Hoosier in double figures, as he averages 11.1 points per game, including a 30-point outburst against Iowa last Thursday.
This is the fourth matchup between Crean and Nebraska Coach Tim Miles. In addition to the two meetings since Miles was hired at Nebraska before the 2012-13 season, Miles’ North Dakota State team upset eighth-ranked Marquette, 64-60, in the championship game of the 2006 Blue and Gold Classic in Milwaukee.
Nebraska-Indiana Series History
Nebraska and Indiana meet for the 13th time Wednesday night, and fourth since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Indiana leads the all-time series, 9-3, but Nebraska has won two of the three meetings since joining the conference. The Jan. 30 meeting in Lincoln marked the first time since 1944 (prior to the AP poll) that the Hoosiers were not ranked at gametime. The Huskers are winless in five previous trips to Bloomington, including a 76-47 loss to then No. 1 Indiana.
First Meeting: Nebraska 60, Indiana 55
It was a tale of two halves, as Nebraska overcame a 16-point deficit with a 60-55 win over Indiana on Jan. 30. The Huskers overcame a 13-point halftime deficit by shooting 52 percent in the second half to outscore Indiana, 41-23, over the final 20 minutes.
Terran Petteway led four Huskers in double figures with 18 points, including 13 in the second half to lead Nebraska to its second straight Big Ten win. Nebraska outscored Indiana, 20-8 in the opening seven minutes of the half to erase the deficit and made the plays down the stretch to win. Trailing 40-29, Petteway’s 3-pointer and a four-point play from Ray Gallegos highlighted a 10-0 surge that pulled Nebraska within 40-39 after a Petteway jumper with 13:01 left.
Nebraska trailed 46-43 after Evan Gordan’s jumper with 8:03 left, but took control with an 8-0 spurt keyed by one of the most unlikely contributors. Freshman Nathan Hawkins, making his first appearance since Jan. 4, tied the game with his second 3-pointer of the season before a pair of Shields free throws with 6:57 left gave the Huskers their first lead since the opening minutes of the night. Walter Pitchford then capped the run with a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Huskers a 51-46 lead.
Indiana, which shot 45 percent but committed 19 turnovers, fought back and was within 51-50 with 4:40 left before Shields, who finished with 11 points and career bests in both assists (four) and steals (four) hit a driving layup. Petteway then hit a long 3-pointer that staked Nebraska a 56-50 lead with 2:05 left.
Indiana would pull to within 58-55 on a Yogi Ferrell 3-pointer with 48 seconds left, but the Huskers hit just enough free throws in the final minute.
Last Time Out
Shavon Shields had 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Nebraska’s defense turned in another stellar effort, as the Huskers topped Northwestern, 54-47.
Shields led three Huskers in double figures with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor to pace three Huskers in double figures. The sophomore had 13 of his points in the second half, as Nebraska built an 11-point lead and held on in the final minutes. Shields scored five of his points in a 13-5 surge after Northwestern pulled to within 36-33, as the Huskers built an 11-point lead after Shields’ 3-point play with 3:46 left.
Northwestern made one last charge behind Alex Olah, who scored a game-high 20 points in the loss. The 7-footer scored six straight points to make it 49-44 with 2:03 left before Shields stemmed the tide with a jumper to push the lead back to seven. After Drew Crawford’s 3-pointer and a Husker turnover, Nebraska held a slim 51-47 lead before Benny Parker made the defensive play of the game. The 5-foot-9 guard drew a charge against Sanjay Lumpkin with 29 seconds left to give the Huskers’ possession. Shields then split a pair of free throws to push the lead to five before his dunk with five seconds left sealed the season sweep over the Wildcats.
Walter Pitchford and Terran Petteway joined Shields in double figures with 10 points apiece, while Pitchford finished one rebound shy of a double-double. Nebraska held Northwestern to 33 percent shooting, the seventh straight foe under 40 percent, in picking up nine conference wins for the first time since 1998-99.
- Nebraska will look for their 10th conference win of the season, the first time that has happened at Nebraska since the 1998-99 season. It would also be the 11th time in school history (since 1908 when NU joined the Missouri Valley Conference) that NU reached double digits in wins.
- A win on Wednesday would also assure the Huskers of finishing no worse than fifth in the Big Ten regular-season standings (Ohio State is 9-8 entering this week). That would be NU’s best conference finish since 1998-99.
- A victory over Indiana would give the Huskers two sweeps in conference play for the first time since 1998-99 (Colorado and Kansas).
- NU is bidding to reach at least 18 wins for the fourth time in the last seven seasons (2007-08; 2008-09; 2010-11).
- Nebraska is bidding for its ninth Big Ten win in the last 11 games dating back to Jan. 26.
- A win on the road would be the Huskers’ third in the past four road games dating back to Feb. 8, and match NU’s conference road total for the previous four seasons.
- The Huskers will close the regular season on Sunday when they host Wisconsin. Nebraska is a Big Ten-best 14-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena with a win on Saturday and has won 16 of its last 17 home games dating back to last season with the only setback being a one-point loss to Big Ten regular-season champion Michigan on Jan. 9.
- The Huskers have already topped last year’s win total, marking the 13th time in 14 seasons under a Miles’ coached-team that has matched or exceeded the previous season. The only time it did not happen in Miles tenure was in 2003-04 at North Dakota State.
- Terran Petteway became the 19th player in school history to reach 500 points in a season following his 10-point effort against Northwestern. He is currently tied for 18th on NU’s single-season scoring list, but could jump to 12th with 18 points on Wednesday.
- Ray Gallegos has 753 career points and is 12 points away from moving into the top 50 scorers in school history. Bus Whitehead and Jorge Brian Diaz share the No. 49 spot with 765 points. In addition, Shavon Shields is 22 points away from reaching 600 for his career.
Quick Look at Nebraska
It has taken less than two years for the Huskers to rebuild under Tim Miles. Only two of the 12 recruited scholarship players have been at NU longer than two seasons (Ray Gallegos and David Rivers), and Gallegos is the only scholarship senior on the 2013-14 roster before Mike Peltz was put on scholarship in January.
- Nebraska enters the game at No. in the RPI and a schedule rated as the 36th toughest nationally according to realtime RPI. The Huskers will have a pair of opportunities this week for top-100 wins, as both Indiana and Wisconsin are in the top 100. The Huskers are currently 6-8 vs. top 100 teams this season.
- The Huskers have three top-50 wins (at Michigan State, vs. Ohio State and Minnesota) while seven of the 11 losses are to teams in the top 40 of the RPI released Monday.
- The Huskers started Big Ten play with a 1-5 record with four of their first six on the road, but had chances to win in the final minutes of three of those losses.
• vs. Michigan (Jan. 9) - Led 70-69 with 0:34 left (lost, 71-70)
• at Purdue (Jan. 12) - Led 58-55 with 6:43 left (lost, 70-64)
• at Penn State (Jan. 26) - Led 51-47 with 2:24 left (lost, 58-54)
- Nebraska has been playing its best basketball down the stretch, going 8-2 over its last 10 games dating back to Jan. 26.
- The Huskers have relied on its youth, as its top three active scorers (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford) are sophomores. In fact, the Husker sophomore class has combined for 62 percent of NU’s points and 55 percent fo the individual rebounds heading into Wednesday’s game with Indiana.
- Nebraska’s starting lineup is all underclassmen, one freshman (Tai Webster), three sophomores (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford) and one junior (David Rivers).
- Nebraska has beaten five teams that reached the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament (Florida Gulf Coast, Miami, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State).
- Prior to the season, the Huskers were picked in the preseason poll of writers with a roster which is 293rd (of 351 teams) in experience according to KenPom.com. Five of NU’s nine primary rotation players are in their first year of competition at Nebraska, although three of the newcomers (Pitchford-Florida; Smith-SMU; Petteway-Texas Tech) have previous Division I experience.
Miles, who was given a seven-year contract when he was hired in 2012, led the Huskers to a 15-18 record last year, as 14 of NU’s 18 losses came against NCAA Tournament teams despite having only eight recruited scholarship players available. Nebraska played one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2012-13, facing 10 ranked teams while the strength of schedule was 13th nationally. The Huskers finished 10th in the Big Ten in 2012-13 after being picked to finish last by 23 of the 24 beat writers in the league.
Husker Defense Makes Strides
With a roster featuring so man newcomers, it is only natural for the defense to get better as players got more accustomed to each other. Nebraska’s second half surge has been primarily based on defensive improvement. Over the last 12 games, NU held nine opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field, including each of the last seven foes. The seven straight foes under 40 percent is the longest streak by a Husker defense in at least four decades. The Huskers are now third in conference games in both field goal percentage defense (.418) and points per game (63.3).
Petteway on Track for Historic Season
Terrran Petteway has come from obscurity to being a Big Ten Player of sthe Year candidate in his first season at Nebraska. The 6-foot-6 forward from Galveston, Texas, enters the week leading the Big Ten at 17.9 points per game while adding 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest.
- Petteway, who is second in scoring in conference play at 18.4 ppg, is bidding to become just the fifth Husker in the last century to lead a conference in scoring in conference games. He looks to join Andre Smith in 1980-81 as the only Husker to accomplish the feat in the last 65 years. In fact, only three Huskers have ranked in the top-three in conference scoring over the last four decades and none since Tyronn Lue in 1997-98.
- He is on track to enjoy one of the highest scoring sophomore seasons in school history. At 18.2 points per game, it would be the highest by a Husker sophomore since Tyronn Lue averaged 18.8 points per game in 1996-97. In fact, only three players have averaged more than 16 points per game as a sophomore - Dave Hoppen (19.9), Lue and Jerry Fort (18.0).
- Petteway is closing in on Nebraska’s single-season top-10 scoring list. With 502 points this season, he is just 49 points shy of 10th place on NU’s single-season scoring list.
- He has raised his scoring average nearly 15 points from his true freshman year at Texas Tech (3.3) , as his career high entering this season was a 13-point effort against DePaul.
- Petteway is the only player in the Big Ten over the last two seasons with multiple 30-point games. The last person with three 30-point games in a season was John Shurna of Northwestern in 2011-12. Only nine Big Ten players have had multiple 30-point games in a season since 2009-10.
- He’s reached double figures in 26 of 28 games, including 15 of 16 Big Ten contests, after just having one double-figure effort prior to this season.
- His 10 20-point games, including five in Big Ten action, put him second in the league in that category. He has also scored 15 or more points in 13 of NU’s 16 conference games.
- Petteway put together the finest game of his career in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 26 with a career-high 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting and six rebounds. Petteway hit four 3-pointers in the win and went 11-of-14 from the foul line. It is the highest scoring performance in conference action this year.
- He led Nebraska to an upset win at No. 9 Michigan State with 23 points, including 16 in the second half, and five rebounds. It was NU's first win over a top-10 team since 1997.
- Led NU with a strong road performance at Northwestern on Feb. 8 when he led Nebraska in scoring (17), rebounds (eight) and assists (four) in NU’s 53-49 win.
- Averaged 27.5 ppg in wins over Penn State and Purdue, including a 29-point effort against the Boilermakers.
- Ranks fourth in the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 81.8 percent after shooting just 46 percent from the line during his lone season at Texas Tech.
- Recorded his first career double-double at Iowa on Dec. 31, leading all scorers with 20 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
- Nearly put together a double-double in the loss at Purdue with 19 points, nine rebounds and two steals, along with two blocked shots.
- Led the Huskers at the Charleston Classic in November, averaging 22 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in three games, including a 30-point game against UMass.
- Put together his first 30-point game of the season in a 96-91 loss to UMass at the Charleston Classic, and is now only one of 13 players in school history with multiple 30-point games at Nebraska.
Shields Keys Huskers Success
Shavon Shields is on his way to creating an impressive resume in his own right. While his father, Will, is one of the greatest linemen in college and NFL history and a three-time NFL Hall of Fame finalist, the younger Shields has played an integral role over the last two years on the court for the Huskers.
As a freshman, Shavon overcame an early season elbow injury and averaged 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 29 games. Shields started to shine during the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, averaging 16.5 points on 61 percent shooting in games against Purdue and Ohio State.
- This season, Shields has stated all 28 games and is averaging 12.1 points and a 5.8 rebounds per game, as he leads the Huskers in rebounding and is second in scoring.
- Shields has played some of his best basketball over the last month, averaging 14.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field over NU’s last eight contests. The Huskers are 6-2 over that stretch.
- He has put togther two double-doubles over NU’s last three contests, including 17 points and 10 rebounds against Northwestern on Saturday. Over the last three games, he is averaging 9.7 caroms per contest.
- Shields keyed NU’s win over Purdue on Feb. 23, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
- His best offensive effort came against Illinois on Feb. 12, when he scored a career-high 33 points, hitting 8-of-12 shots from the field and all 15 of his free throws. Shields tied Nebraska’s single-game record for free throws without a miss and became only the 11th Big Ten player to hit at least 15 free throws without a miss and the first since 1997.
- He keyed Nebraska to a win over No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 20 when he scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
- He has been in double figures 17 times, and has grabbed at least six rebounds 16 times, including a season-high 10 rebounds on three occasions (at Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern).
- Shields has paced the Huskers in scoring seven times and has a pair of 20-point games this season. All three of his 20-point nights came against 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Florida Gulf Coast, Creighton and Illinois).
- He was named Big Ten Player of the Week and Lute Olson National Player of the Week for his effort against Sweet 16 qualifier Florida Gulf Coast in the season opener. In that game he scored a game-high 28 points - one off his career high - hitting 8-of-13 shots from the field and a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. The 6-foot-7 forward also led NU in rebounds (six) and assists (three).
- Last summer, Shields played for the Denmark U-20 National Team, leading the country to the 2013 Nordic Cup Championship. He averaged 13.3 points per game in wins over Sweden, Finland and Estonia, capping the tournament with a 17-point, 12-rebound effort in a 101-94 double overtime win over Estonia.
- Off the court, Shields is a microbiology major who wants to become a doctor following his basketball career. He was named first-team Academic All-District VII on Jan. 31, as he carries a 3.77 GPA in microbiology.
Pitchford Provides Scoring Punch
Another one of Nebraska’s transfers, sophomore Walter Pitchford has developed into a consistent scoring option for the Huskers. The 6-foot-10 forward began his career at Florida, where he was a reserve on the Gators’ Elite Eight squad in 2011-12. This year, he has taken advantage of the new surroundings and has been productive, averaging 8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. One of the Huskers’ best athletes with a 42-inch vertical leap, Pitchford is also one of the Huskers’ top 3-point shooters at nearly 40 percent on the season.
- Is playing some of his best basketball of the season over the last month, averaging 10.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting over the last 10 games. Pitchford has been in double figures eight times in that stretch and has set season highs in points on two occasions, most recently at Michigan State on Feb. 16.
- He nearly had a double-double in Saturday's 54-47 win over Northwestern, finishing with 10 points and nine boards.
- Bounced back from a knee bruise against Penn State and had 10 points and five rebounds against Purdue.
- Finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in 24 minutes against Penn State on Feb. 23.
- Enjoyed a successful homecoming at Michigan State on Feb. 16, totaling a career-high 18 points, including a season-high four 3-pointers, along with five rebounds and two steals in Nebraska's win over the No. 9 Spartans.
- Reached double figures in scoring 15 times this year, including a then-career-high 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the four-point win over Northwestern on Nov. 8. In that game, he scored 13 second-half points, including five straight points after the Wildcats cut an eight-point lead to 44-all in the final four minutes.
- Shined in the Big Ten opener at Iowa on Dec. 31, finishing with 13 points and a season-high 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Pitchford also had eight offensive rebounds and helped NU cut a 20-point deficit to five in the second half.
- Posted his first career double-double against Arkansas State on Dec. 14 with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
- Totaled an incredible 339:23 without a turnover dating back to his time at Florida before his first turnover on Jan. 9. The streak lasted 22 games dating back to his freshman year at Florida, as he was the last regular rotation player in the country without a turnover.
Finding Offensive Pace
Despite having a revamped lineup, the Huskers have been more proficient offensively, averaging nearly eight points more per game than at this point last year.
- Last year, NU was 12th in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 58.3 points per game. This season, NU has been held under 60 points just eight times.
- The Huskers’ tempo has vastly increased, as Nebraska was over 300th in adjusted tempo in each of the last three seasons and is now 201st coming into Wednesday’s game against Indiana.
- Nebraska’s 8.2 points per game improvement over last season is on pace to be the Huskers’ largest scoring increase since the mid-1960s. Only five Husker teams since 1948 have had a seven-point scoring jump from one season to the next.
- Nebraska’s 82 points against Minnesota on Jan. 26 marked the most points by the Huskers in a conference game since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12.
- Nebraska scored 80 or more points in consecutive games against South Carolina State and UMass, the first time that has happened since the 2008-09 season. Nebraska has already scored 75 or more points six times this season after just reaching that plateau twice in 33 games during the 2012-13 season.
- Nebraska has had nine players reach double figures at least once this season. The Huskers had three games where five players reached double figures and seven others with four double-figure scorers.
- In two seasons under Miles, Nebraska is 24-8 when scoring over 60 points.
The move to Pinnacle Bank Arena has been a boon to Nebraska basketball, as the Husker program has shattered season-ticket records. On May 3, all of the season tickets allotted for 2013-14 had been accounted for, as season-ticket sales were up nearly 95 percent from 2012-13. It marked the third straight season that tickets sales were up.
- Nebraska will shatter its single-season attendance record of 13,357 set in 1992-93. Currently, the Huskers are averaging 15,380 fans per game heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale with Wisconsin.
- Nebraska ranks 12th nationally in average attendance heading into this week’s games.
- Over the last five seasons, only four schools have increased their attendance by more than 3,000 fans per game in a single season with the largest increase by BYU in 2010-11 (4,685 per game increase). Nebraska is currently averaging 5,028 more fans per game than in 2012-13.
- The Huskers sold over 14,000 season tickets for its first season in the building, including 1,650 student tickets. The previous school record for season ticket sales was 12,000 set in 1992-93.
- The Huskers have rewarded the fans by going 14-1 in the first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena. With a win on Sunday against Wisconsin, the Huskers would close the regular season with its best home record since 1982-83 (17-1).
Gallegos Looks to Prove Less is More
While senior guard Ray Gallegos was Nebraska’s top returning scorer heading into the season, the Huskers’ increased depth has made him a more efficient player in 2013-14.
While Gallegos is known for being a long-range shooter who can hit shots in bunches, he has been a more well-rounded player in 2013-14. He is fourth on the team in scoring at 7.0 points per game while averaging 1.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Last year, Gallegos averaged a Big Ten-high 37.5 minutes per game, including nearly 39 minutes per game in conference play, but NU’s increased depth has reduced his minutes to just under 28 minutes per game.
- Leads the Huskers with a career-high 2.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season and has nearly twice as many steals as turnovers on the year.
- Ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 1.7 3-pointers per game, including a trio of 3-pointers in the win over Indiana on Jan. 31. He also has four 3-pointers in the first matchup with Michigan on Jan. 9 and broke out of a mini slump with 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, against Penn State on Thursday night.
- Has already set a career high in assists on two occasions, including five assists against The Citadel on Dec. 21 and Minnesota on Jan. 23.
- Enjoyed one of his best games of the season at Cincinnati on Dec. 28 with a season-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, while dishing out three assists.
- Leads the Huskers with 44 3-pointers this season and now sits in seventh place on Nebraska’s career 3-point chart with 148. He passed Cookie Belcher (146, 1997-01) against Penn State on Feb. 23.
- Opened the 2013-14 season by hitting six of 10 3-pointers in a win over South Carolina State on Nov. 17, the fifth time he has hit on at least six 3-pointers in a game.
As a junior, he connected on 83 3-pointers, a total which ranked second on Nebraska’s single-season list. It is more impressive when you consider that Gallegos made only 21 3-pointers during his first two seasons at Nebraska before redshirting in 2011-12.
- Led the Big Ten in 3-pointers per game (2.5 per game) during the 2012-13 season. He became the first Husker basketball player to lead the Big Ten in any statistical category.
- Connected on a career-high seven 3-pointers at Iowa on March 9, 2013, a total which is one shy of Nebraska’s single-game record.
Webster Makes a Point, Plays the Point
Tai Webster has found a home in the Huskers’ backcourt, averaging 4.5 points, 2.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game heading into Wednesday’s game at Indiana. While he is averaging just 2.9 points per game in Big Ten play, Webster has found other ways to help the Huskers win, as he is second on the team in assists (28) and fourth in steals (12) while hitting 73 percent from the foul line.
Webster had his Big Ten performance of the year against Penn State on Feb. 23, totaling 10 points, a season-high five rebounds and a team-best three assists. It marked his first double-digit effort in Big Ten play, as he went 8-of-10 from the line against the Nittany Lions and hit his only shot from the field. He also performed well in NU’s win over No. 17 Ohio State with nine points, including 5-of-6 from the foul line, and two rebounds. Webster had five points and four assists in 29 minutes in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 26 and had four points, two assists and two steals against Indiana on Jan. 30. He dished out four assists and matched his personal best with four steals at No. 22 Iowa on Dec. 31.
The 6-foot-4 freshman enjoyed the best game of his career on Nov. 24 against Georgia, scoring 14 points and dishing out three assists in NU’s 73-65 win. Webster scored 13 of his points in the second half and went 7-of-9 from the foul line. It was his second double-figure effort of the Charleston Classic, as he totaled 12 points and two assists in NU’s loss to UMass. He has dished out a season-high five assists on three occasions, most recently against Arkansas State on Dec. 14.
With his start against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 8, Webster became just the ninth true freshman to start a season opener in the last 18 years. Webster totaled nine points, two rebounds and an assist in helping the Huskers to a 79-55 win. He reached double figures for the first time in his young career against South Carolina State on Nov. 17, totaling 13 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Although he is a freshman who does not turn 19 until after this season, Webster was considered one of the top international guards in this year’s senior class. He played for New Zealand’s national team in qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, averaging 13.5 points per game in 52.5 percent shooting in three games. He also played in New Zealand’s National Basketball League, averaging 18.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last spring despite being the youngest player in the league. Webster is among the five Big Ten freshmen to watch by ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, joining Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Illinois’ Kendrick Nunn, Michigan’s Zak Irvin and Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes.
Setting a Benchmark
For Nebraska, one of the biggest improvements has been the development of its bench this season. Nebraska is averaging nearly 18 points per game from its bench, compared to just over seven last season. The bench has been reshaped following the dismissal of Deverell Biggs in late January.
Despite the loss of Biggs, the Huskers feature one of the Big Ten’s best sixth men in Leslee Smith. The 6-foot-8 junior forward has been the Huskers’ most consistent performer according to Tim Miles, as he gives NU a physical post presence. Smith is averaging 5.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game to rank 20th in the Big Ten in rebounding. Smith is one of only two players from the British Virgin Islands playing Division I basketball.
- Leads the Huskers with three double-doubles, most recently an 11-point, 10-rebound effort at No. 3 Ohio State on Jan. 4.
- Has five games with at least 10 rebounds, as he is sixth in the Big Ten in that category. He is the only player on the list who is not a starter. He also leads all Big Ten reserves in rebounding entering this week’s action.
- Put together a solid effort at Illinois on Feb. 26 with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting and four rebounds in 13 minutes of work.
- Leads the Huskers in steals (27) and is second in blocked shots (18) while averaging less than 18 minutes per contest. Smith is bidding to become the first Husker to lead Nebraska in both steals and blocked shots in the same season.
Sophomore Benny Parker has been in the lineup all 28 games this year and has a 2.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as NU’s backup point guard. The 5-foot-9 guard is a pest on the defensive end, averaging nearly one steal per game and has taken many of the minutes that Biggs played. Over the last 10 games, Parker is averaging 3.2 points on percent shooting, 1.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in 17 minutes per game, a big reason why the Huskers are 8-2 in that span. Parker keyed NU’s win over Northwestern on March 1 with seven points and two rebounds while his charge in the final minute preserved the Huskers win. Parker had a season-high nine points in the opener against Florida Gulf Coast and had two assists and three steals in NU’s win over Purdue on Feb. 23.
Junior David Rivers is NU’s other primary post player, as he averages 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Rivers, who started during conference play last season, had a season-high 10 points against UMass on Nov. 21. He matched his career high with seven rebounds against Illinois on Feb 12. He has moved back into the starting lineup the last five games and is averaging 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Rivers had eight points and three rebounds against Illinois on Feb. 26 and seven points, six boards and three blocks against Purdue on Feb. 23.
The other player who has gained playing time in the wake of Biggs’ dismissal is Nathan Hawkins. He has played in 14 games and is averaging 1.6 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. His best effort of the year came against No. 10 Michigan on Feb. 5, and had 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, in 20 minutes of work.
- Nebraska has received 17 double-figure games from its bench, including seven from Deverell Biggs and five from Leslee Smith.
- Against South Carolina State, Nebraska’s bench combined for 51 of the 83 points, making the fifth time in the last decade NU has received at least 50 points from its bench.
- Nebraska had three bench players reach double figures in the win over Georgia (Tai Webster-14; Ray Gallegos-11; Leslee Smith-10).
A Historic Win
Nebraska’s 60-51 win at No. 9 Michigan State on Feb. 16 was one of the Huskers’ best road wins in recent history.
- The win marked just the fourth win over a top-10 opponent outside Lincoln and the first since 1997. NU also snapped a 29-game losing streak against top-10 teams away from Lincoln.
- Nebraska snapped a 21-game losing streak to ranked teams on the road, dating back to a 65-59 win at No. 22 Texas A&M and Feb.23, 2008. It also ended a 24-game streak against ranked teams outside of Lincoln.
- NU picked up its first Big Ten win against Michigan State, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Spartans. Nebraska’s only other win was 86-81 overtime win over No. 15 Michigan State on Dec. 18, 1993.
- The win was the second road win against a top-10 team for Nebraska Coach Tim Miles, as his North Dakota State team topped eighth-ranked Marquette on Dec. 3, 2006.
Value the Basketball
Under Tim Miles, one major emphasis is taking care of the basketball, and the Huskers were among the nation’s best in that category in 2012-13. Nebraska finished 10th nationally with 10.7 turnovers per game - nearly three fewer than 2011-12. NU’s turnovers per game were the fewest in school history, bettering the 11.30 per game in 1984-85. Nebraska committed 10 turnovers or less 15 times in 2012-13, including a school-record two turnovers against Purdue on Jan. 16.
This season, the Huskers have also been among the national leaders in that category, ranking 66th nationally with 11.2 turnovers per game. Nebraska is seventh in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +1.3 per contest and do a good job of getting the ball from opponents, ranking fifth in the Big Ten with 6.9 steals per game.