Huskers Look For Sixth Straight Win
Game #27 Illinois
Game Date Feb. 26, 2014
Tipoff Time 8:06 p.m. (CT)
Venue State Farm Center
2013-14 Record: 16-10, 8-6 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 31-28 (2nd year)
Career Record: 314-248 (19th year)
Illinois Fighting Illini
2013-14 Record: 15-12, 4-10 Big Ten
Head Coach: John Groce
Record at Illinois: 38-25 (2nd year)
Career Record: 123-81 (6th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet
(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: Kevin Kugler
Expert Analysis: Shon Morris
Online: BTN2go app on android and iOS devices
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 (Illinois feed): Sirius Ch. 85, XM Ch. 85
Huskers Look For Sixth Straight Win
The surging Nebraska basketball team hits the road for a crucial Big Ten game Wednesday night, as the Huskers travel to Champaign to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Tipoff at the State Farm Center is set for 8:06 p.m. (CT) and the game will be carried nationally on BTN (Ch. 610 on DirecTV, Chs. 439 and 9500 on Dish; Chs. 2, 1333 on Time Warner Cable) with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris 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 (16-10, 8-6 B1G) have been red hot heading into Wednesday’s game with the Illini and have pushed their way into the postseason conversation following a 7-1 stretch over the last month. Nebraska is riding a five-game winning streak following a 76-57 win over Purdue Sunday afternoon. Sophomore Terran Petteway paced the Huskers with a game-high 29 points - his 10th 20-point game of the season - to lead three Huskers in double figures. The conference win streak, Nebraska’s longest since the 1998-99 season, has bolstered the Huskers to above the .500 mark in Big Ten action and Nebraska can assure themselves no worse than a .500 record with a win Wednesday night.
Nebraska’s five-game win streak has been based upon a stifling defense which has allowed 56.4 points per game in that stretch. The Huskers are holding foes to just 35 percent shooting, including 27 percent from 3-point range, and averaging nearly seven steals per game. Sophomore Benny Parker is averaging 2.4 steals off the bench over the Huskers’ last five contests.
Petteway has emerged as one of the contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year, as the sophomore is averaging a conference-best 19.4 points per game. He averaged 27.5 points per game last week and is bidding to become the first Husker since Andre Smith in the 1980-81 season to his league in scoring.
Illinois (15-12, 4-10 B1G) has been off since an impressive 62-49 win over Minnesota last Wednesday. The Fighting Illini has held its last two opponents under 50 points and is 2-2 since snapping an eight-game losing streak. Junior transfer Rayvonte Rice leads Illinois with 16.2 points per game to rank among the Big Ten scoring leaders. Rice had 23 points and six rebounds in the first meeting two weeks ago.
By the Numbers
.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.
1 - Nebraska is the only Big Ten team with multiple 30-point scorers (Terran Petteway vs. UMass and Minnesota; Shavon Shields vs. Illinois) this season.
2 - Career double-doubles for Shavon Shields after his 18-point, 10-rebound effort against Purdue on Sunday.
1998 - The last time Nebraska won three consecutive road games in conference play (TAMU, Colorado, Iowa State), something the Huskers are bidding for on Wednesday evening.
1999 - The last time Nebraska won consecutive conference games by double digits before last week’s two wins.
The Fighting Illini head into Wednesday’s game with a 15-12 record and are 4-10 in the Big Ten following a 62-49 win at Minnesota on Feb. 19. The Fighting Illini, which had lost its last eight games, four games ago, putt freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill into the lineup and have played much better. Illinois is 2-2 since the switch, holding its last two foes under 50 points.
John Groce is in his second year at Illinois after he guided the Illini to a 23-13 record and the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Before taking the Illinois job, he led Ohio University to a 29-8 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2012. Groce also served as an assistant at Ohio State, Xavier and North Carolina State before taking over the Bobcat program.
Illinois, which returned a pair of starters from the 2013 squad, won 13 of its first 15 contests, including wins against UNLV, Missouri and Indiana, before struggling at times in Big Ten action. The Illini are led by junior guard Rayvonte Rice, who ranks among the Big Ten leaders in scoring at 16.2 points per game while grabbing 5.9 rebounds per game. He is one of two Illini in double figures as junior point guard Tracy Abrams averages 11.3 points and 3.1 assists per game. Junior center Nnanna Egwu is one of the top defensive centers in the Big Ten as he ranks second with 2.3 blocked shots per contests.
Nebraska-Illinois Series History
Illinois leads the all-time series, 10-4, over Nebraska in a series that dates back to 1921. The Illini have won three of the five matchups since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Prior to Nebraska joining the conference, the Huskers and Illini had played only once since 1976 - a 100-73 Husker victory in the 1990 San Juan Shootout. Nebraska is 1-7 all-time in Champaign with the lone win coming in the first meeting between the two teams back in 1921.
First Meeting: Nebraska 67, Illinois 58
Shavon Shields scored a career-high 33 points, making all 15 of his free throws for Nebraska’s best performance at the line in 32 years, and the Cornhuskers defeated Illinois 67-58. The Huskers pulled away with the help of a defense that held Illinois to two field goals over the last 6:57. Terran Petteway added 16 points as the Huskers raised their record to 11-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Shields bettered his previous high of 29 points against Penn State last season. He made 8 of 12 shots from the field, and his 15-for-15 night at the line was the best for Nebraska since Jack Moore made all 15 of his against Oklahoma State in 1982. The Huskers were 24 of 27 from the line, 14 of 17 in the second half. Rayvonte Rice scored 23 points to lead the Illini, which shot 37 percent while Nnanna Egwu had 12 rebounds for Illinois.
Last Meeting in Champaign: Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos combined for 43 points, but Illinois pulled away in the final five minutes to earn a 72-65 victory over Nebraska. Gallegos led all players with 23 points, matching his then-career high with six 3-pointers to pace the Huskers while Talley finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a losing effort. Nebraska led the back-and-forth contest 57-55 after a Shavon Shields basket with 6:07 left, but the Illini took control with a 7-0 spurt to regain the lead for good in a matchup which saw 10 ties and 13 lead changes. Nebraska kept hanging around and was within 64-62 after Gallegos’ sixth 3-pointer of the game, but Paul’s driving basket started a game-ending 9-3 surge. The Illini went 6-for-6 from the line in the final minute to hold off the Huskers’ comeback bid, capping a 15-of-18 effort from the charity stripe on the day. Tracy Abrams led five Illini in double figures with 16 points, including 6-of-6 from the line, while Paul and Richardson added 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Last Time Out
Terran Petteway scored 29 points to lead surging Nebraska, which won its fifth straight game, over Purdue 76-57 Sunday. Nebraska used a 26-8 second half run to take down the Boilermakers. The Huskers have won five straight conference games for the first time since 1998-99 and have won eight conference games for the first time since 2008-09 when it was a member of the Big 12.
Nebraska took control of the game late in a low-scoring first half. With Purdue center A.J. Hammons on the bench, Nebraska went on a 7-0 run capped by a Petteway fast break layup to take a 21-14 lead and stretched that advantage to 30-20 on Shavon Shields’ three-point play with 1:04 left in the first half.
Shields finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for Nebraska and Walter Pitchford had 10. Terone Johnson led Purdue with nine points.
The Boilermakers were held to just 30 percent shooting in the game and twice went more than 6 minutes without a field goal. The second drought came early in the second half. After cutting the Nebraska lead to 39-30 with 17:43 remaining, Purdue made just one field goal in nearly 10 minutes against Nebraska’s aggressive man-to-man defense. Nebraska went up 63-38 on back-to-back dunks by Petteway and Walter Pitchford. Purdue got no closer than 21 until the final minutes.
*-The Huskers will be looking for their sixth straight win for the first time since the 1997-98 season, when the Huskers closed the regular season with six straight conference wins.
*-Nebraska will be seeking its ninth conference win for the first time since the 1998-99 season and for just the 10th time since WWII. The win would also mark just the second time since 2000 that Nebraska can finish .500 or better in conference play (2008-09).
*-Nebraska is bidding for its eighth Big Ten win in the last nine games, which would be a first for the program since the 1998-99 season when Nebraska went 9-1 in a stretch during Big 12 action.
*-The Huskers are seeking their first win in Champaign since 1921, and snap a seven-game losing streak at Illinois. In addition, Nebraska could pick up its first-ever sweep of the Illini.
*-Nebraska is seeking its first three-game road win streak since the 1998-99 season.
*-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.
*-A win on Wednesday would assure the Huskers would finish no worse than ninth in the final Big Ten standings, as Northwestern, Illinois and Penn State already have 10 Big Ten losses. In addition, Minnesota (which lost to Nebraska in the only meeting) and Purdue also have nine Big Ten losses.
*-Terran Petteway comes into the Illinois game with 479 points this season and is 21 points away from becoming just the 13th Husker to score 500 points in a season. It would be the 19th time in school history that a Husker scored 500 points in a season and the first since Aleks Maric had 519 points in 2007-08.
*-Petteway is also seeking his fourth straight 20-point game, which would be the first time a Husker has done that since Aleks Maric had four consecutive 20-point games in 2006-07. Petteway now has 10 20-point games, which is the most by a Husker since Maric in 2006-07.
*-Tai Webster enters Wednesday’s game needing two steals to crack into the top-10 list for steals by a Husker freshman. Webster has 23 on the season, three behind Leslee Smith and Shavon Shields for the team lead. Cookie Miller is the last Husker freshman to lead NU in steals during the 2007-08 season.
*-Ray Gallegos is two points from reaching 750 points. He would be the 56th player in school history to reach 750 career points.
*-Shavon Shields enters Wednesday’s game needing 13 rebounds to reach 300 for his career. With his first rebound on Wednesday, he will match his entire 2012-13 total.
*-Following Sunday’s win over Purdue, the Huskers are a Big Ten-best 13-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. NU has won its last six home conference games, the longest home conference win streak for the Huskers since an eight-game stretch spanning the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons. NU has won 15 of its 16 home games with the only loss coming to Big Ten leader Michigan on Jan. 9.
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. 48 in the RPI and a schedule rated as the 24th toughest nationally according to realtime RPI. The Huskers will have more opportunities to improve their schedule over the final two weeks of the season, as three of NU’s final four teams are in the top-100 of the RPI entering this week.
*-The Huskers have three top-50 wins (at Michigan State, vs. Ohio State and Minnesota) while seven of the 10 losses are to teams in the top 30 of the RPI released on 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 beaten five teams that reached the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament (Florida Gulf Coast, Miami, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State).
*-Nebraska has relied on its youth, as its top three active scorers (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford are sophomores and of the nine players who played at least 10 minutes per game, only one is a senior. In fact, over 60 percent of the Huskers’ scoring comes from NU’s sophomore class.
*-Nebraska’s starting lineup is all underclassmen, one freshman (Tai Webster), three sophomores (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford) and one junior (David Rivers). Of NU’s top eight players, Gallegos is the only senior.
*-Miles is not afraid to play freshmen, as at least one freshman has started in 57 of the 59 games he has coached at Nebraska over the last two seasons.
This season, Nebraska is picked 12th 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.
Finding Offensive Pace
Despite having a revamped lineup, the Huskers have been more proficient offensively, averaging nearly 10 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 six times in 26 games.
*-The Huskers’ tempo has vastly increased, as Nebraska was over 300th in adjusted tempo in each of the last three seasons and is now 176th coming into Wednesday’s game at Illinois.
*-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.
Legends Weekend Set for Saturday
The Nebraska basketball program’s second-annual Legends Weekend will take place this weekend (Feb. 28-March 1), as the Huskers will take on Northwestern at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Saturday’s game, which is a 4 p.m. start on ESPNU is already sold out.
The event was created by Coach Tim Miles with the Husker Athletic Department and the N-Club to welcome back former players and staff and recognize them for their contributions to the Nebraska basketball program, as well as have the current Husker team connect with former players and learn more about the history of Nebraska basketball.
Nearly 50 former players, coaches and staff are returning to Lincoln for the weekend’s events, which includes a private reception on Friday night, a chance to tour Nebraska’s basketball facilities and watch Saturday’s walk-through before the Huskers take on Northwestern. In addition, the former players will be introduced and recognized during Saturday’s halftime ceremony.
Husker students will also have a chance to be a part of the special day, as the first 700 students in attendance in the Red Zone will receive a custom-made shirt to celebrate Legends Weekend.
Petteway on Track for Historic Season
Terrran Petteway has come from obscurity to being a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate in his first season at Nebraska. The 6-foot-6 forward from Galveston, Texas, enters the week leading the Big Ten at 18.4 points per game while adding 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest.
*-Petteway 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.
*-Petteway is on track to enjoy one of the highest scoring sophomore seasons in school history. At 18.4 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 has raised his scoring average over 15 points from his true freshman year at Texas Tech, 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 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.
*-Reached double figures in 24 of 26 games after just having one double-figure effort prior to this season.
*-Is tied for the Big Ten lead with 10 games of at least 20 points following his 29-point effort against Purdue on Sunday. Over the last three games (Purdue, Penn State, Michigan State), he is averaging 26 points per game.
*-He put together a strong outing in the win at No. 9 Michigan State with 23 points, including 16 second-half points, and five 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.
*-Recorded his first career double-double at Iowa on Dec. 31, leading all scorers with 20 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
*-Ranks sixth 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.
*-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.
*-Led the Huskers at the Charleston Classic in November, averaging 22 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in three games.
*-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.
The Son Also Rises
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.
*-Shields, who was hampered by a knee bruise suffered in practice early in Big Ten play, is averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, as he leads NU in rebounding, is second in scoring and third in assists. All three categories are up from his freshman year.
*-After a week off during Nebraska’s first conference bye to get healthy, Shields has been solid, averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game over the last 10 contests, a stretch where the Huskers have posted an 8-2 mark.
*-He comes off one of his best games of the season, as he finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals in the victory over Purdue. It marked his first double-double of the season and second of his career.
*-Shields enjoyed a career-high 33 point performance against Illinois on Feb. 12, when he hit 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.
*-Shields has the team's longest starting streak at 45 games dating back to last season.
*-He has been in double figures 16 times, and has grabbed at least six rebounds 14 times, including a season-high 10 rebounds at Penn State on Jan. 23 and against Purdue on Feb. 23.
*-Shields has paced the Huskers in scoring six 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 9.1 points and 4.3 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 41 percent on the season.
*-Is playing some of his best basketball of the season over the last month, averaging 11.9 points per game on 56 percent shooting over the last eight games. Pitchford has been in double figures seven times in that stretch and has set season highs in points on two occasions, most recently at Michigan State on Feb. 16.
*-Bounced back from a knee bruise against Penn State and had 10 points and five rebounds in Sunday's win over 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 14 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.
*-Played a key role in the Huskers’ win over Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4 with 13 points and five 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.
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 7.3 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 over 28 per game.
*-Leads the Huskers with a career-high 3-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 1.9 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 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 43 3-pointers this season and now sits in seventh place on Nebraska’s career 3-point chart with 147. 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 4.7 points, 2.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game heading into the Illinois game. While he is averaging just 3.1 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 (27) 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.
Record-Breaking Season Ticket Sales
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 15,338 fans per game heading into Saturday’s contest with Northwestern. NU’s regular-season finale against Wisconsin is already sold out.
*-Nebraska ranks 12th nationally in average attendance heading into this week’s games.
*-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.
*-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 4,986 more fans per game than in 2012-13.
*-The Huskers have rewarded the fans by going 13-1 in the first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Nebraska finished non-conference play unbeaten for the first time since 2010-11, and knocked off their first ranked foe since 2012 with the win over No. 15 Ohio State on Jan. 20.
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 58th nationally with 11.1 turnovers per game. Nebraska is fifth in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +1.7 per contest. The Huskers also do a good job of getting the ball from opponents, ranking third in the Big Ten with 7.3 per game.
Husker Defense Makes Strides
The biggest strides the Huskers have made during their recent surge have been on the defensive end. Over the last 10 games, NU is holding opponents to just 39 percent from the field, a significant drop from the first 16 games. During Nebraska’s current five-game win streak, the Huskers have held their last five foes to under 37 percent from the floor.
Setting a Benchmark
For Nebraska, one of the biggest improvements has been the development of its bench this season. Nebraska is averaging nearly 20 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 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game to rank 20th in the Big Ten. 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.
*-Leads the Huskers in both blocked shots (18) and steals (25) while averaging less than 20 minutes per game. 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 26 games this year and has a 2.3-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 eight games, Parker is averagnig 2.4 points and 1.5 steals per game in 15 minutes per game, a big reason why the Huskers are 7-1 in that span.
Parker provided a big spark in the win over Northwestern on Feb. 8 with five points - all in the second half - two steals and an assist in 16 minutes of action. He also played a major role in NU’s win over Illinois on Feb. 12 with four points and four steals while playing exceptional on-ball defense. Parker had a season-high nine points in the opener against Florida Gulf Coast and had two assists and three steals in Sunday’s win over Purdue.
Junior David Rivers is NU’s other primary post player, as he averages 2.7 points and 2.7 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 three games and is averaging 6.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He had seven points, six boards and three blocks against Purdue on Sunday.
The other player who has gained playing time in the wake of Biggs’ dismissal is Nathan Hawkins, who has appeared in the last three games after not playing since Jan. 4. Hawkins, who missed the first eight games of the season because of a foot injury, averages 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. He played 10 minutes against Indiana on Jan. 30, as his 3-pointer tied the score at 46. He came off the bench 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).