Huskers Brace For Red-Hot Golden Eagles

By NU Athletic Communications
The Huskers are set to begin possibly the toughest stretch of the non-conference slate this week when they take on Marquette.
The Huskers are set to begin possibly the toughest stretch of the non-conference slate this week when they take on Marquette.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

The Nebraska men's basketball team begins possibly its toughest stretch of the non-conference season this week as it takes on a pair of major conference opponents in Lincoln. The Huskers open play Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Devaney Center when they host the Marquette Golden Eagles at 7 p.m.

 

The game will be the second of 10 Husker contests televised on FSN Midwest in the state of Nebraska with Greg Sharpe (play by play) and Matt Davison (color commentary) calling the action. The game will be seen in Lincoln on Time Warner Cable channel 37 and in Omaha on Cox Cable channel 47. Satellite subscribers within the state of Nebraska can view the action on Dish Network channel 451 and DirecTV channel 646.

 

Nebraska contests can also be heard on the radio on the Pinnacle Sports Network with Randy Lee handling play by play and Mike Babcock adding color commentary. The Pinnacle broadcast can also be heard live on Huskers.com, where live stats are also available for free.

The game against Marquette will mark the Huskers' first broadcast this season on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 118).

 

Nebraska Starts to Heat Up

Nebraska hopes to continue its perfect start to the season when it plays host to Marquette in a mid-week matchup. The Huskers own a 4-0 record and are looking to make it five straight wins to open the season for the fourth time in the last 10 years, including the third time under Coach Barry Collier.

 

The contest with the Golden Eagles will mark NU's first action against a major conference opponent this season and starts a tough four-game stretch that includes contests against three teams that reached the 2005 postseason, including Marquette (NIT), UAB (NCAA) and Creighton (NCAA).

 

After struggling from the field in the first three games of the season, the Huskers picked up the pace in their last game when they hit 51.9 percent from the field in a 15-point win over Southeast Missouri State. Nebraska took 14 fewer shots and connected on seven more attempts than the Redhawks, who were held to just 30.3 percent shooting, including 27.6 percent from 3-point range.

 

The Huskers, who hit 59.1 percent in the opening period against the Redhawks, topped the 50-percent mark in a game five times last year with the most recent coming in a 74-67 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma State at the Devaney Center.

 

UAB Tip Off Changed

The Nebraska Athletic Department announced Monday that the Huskers' game against UAB on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Devaney Center will tip off at 3 p.m. CST, instead of the originally scheduled 7 p.m. start time.

 

After consulting with UAB officials, the Huskers moved the tip off ahead four hours to allow Nebraska fans a chance to see both the men's basketball team and the No. 1-ranked volleyball team. The top-seeded Huskers, who face Alabama A&M in the opening round on Friday, are favored to be in the second-round matchup on Saturday night at the NU Coliseum. The second-round match begins at 7 p.m.

 

The Matchup

Nebraska and Marquette are meeting for the eighth time in the series and second straight season. The Golden Eagles hold a 4-3 series advantage after taking an 81-62 victory in Milwaukee last season.

 

Travis Diener hit 7-of-11 3-point attempts on his way to a 32-point performance last season before leading Marquette to a postseason NIT appearance. Diener finished the game against the Huskers hitting 8-of-15 shots from the floor while the rest of the Golden Eagles were held to 15-of-43 shooting (34.9 percent).

 

Last season's meeting was the first between the schools since 1987 when Nebraska won 78-76 in Lincoln. The series began in 1933 in Milwaukee and Marquette won three of the first four contests.

 

Scouting the Golden Eagles

A young Marquette Golden Eagles squad comes into Wednesday's matchup against Nebraska riding a great wave of confidence after taking the title at the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska, over the holiday weekend. Marquette won the title for the second time under Coach Tom Crean.

 

The Golden Eagles needed an extra session to pull out the title as they defeated South Carolina, 92-89, in overtime to improve to 4-1 on the season and 3-0 on the weekend. MU also defeated Eastern Washington, 83-73, and Oral Roberts, 73-70, to reach the title game. Marquette also owns an 82-65 win over Rice while its lone setback came in a 71-64 loss to Winthrop at home.

 

Marquette enters the week averaging 78.8 points per game while shooting a solid 46.9 percent from the floor. Despite losing the school's top 3-point shooter, Travis Diener, the Golden Eagles are connecting at a sizzling pace from downtown, as they have hit 39.6 percent outside the arc while averaging 8.4 treys per game.

 

The Golden Eagles have allowed opponents to hit 43.2 percent from the floor. Marquette has averaged just 34.4 rebounds per game but still holds a slight +1.2 rebounding margin.

 

Senior Steve Novak, a 6-10 forward, leads the team with 16.2 points per game while hitting a team-best 17 3-pointers. Novak is one of four Golden Eagles averaging double figures along with freshmen Dominic James (14.4 ppg, 7.2 apg) and Jerel McNeal (10.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and sophomore Ryan Amoroso (11.0 ppg and 4.6 rpg). Amoroso keyed Marquette's title game victory as he scored 30 points off the bench on 11-of-17 shooting while adding 12 rebounds. Previously, Amoroso had recorded 25 points and 11 rebounds in the first four games combined.

 

The Golden Eagles are guided by Coach Tom Crean (Central Michigan, 1989), who is in his seventh season as a head coach. Crean owns a 125-66 career record, all at Marquette.

 

Husker Defense Stifles SEMO

Lincoln --- Senior forward Wes Wilkinson scored a career-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting as the Husker men’s basketball team coasted to a 69-54 win over Southeast Missouri State Sunday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. NU kept its season record perfect as it improved to 4-0 with the win, while SEMO dropped to 2-2.

 

Nebraska shot a sizzling 51.9 percent from the field while holding Southeast Missouri State to just 30.3 percent shooting, including just 28.1 percent in the second half. SEMO hit just four 3-point attempts in 15 tries (26.7 percent) in the second period as Nebraska built an 11-point halftime lead into a 20-point advantage late in the contest.

 

Leading by nine with 5:16 remaining, Wilkinson sent Nebraska on a 12-3 run to put the game out of reach. Wilkinson, who also tied a career best with nine rebounds, drilled his second 3-point shot of the game to push NU’s edge to 58-46. Following Roy Booker's trey to pull SEMO back within nine, Wilkinson answered with a putback of a B.J. Walker jumper and a baseline jumper before adding another trey.

 

Freshman point guard Marcus Walker then forced a steal on the Redhawks’ next possession and took it the length of the court for a layup, while B.J. Walker drove the lane for a short jumper on the next NU possession to put the game away at 69-49.

 

Nebraska’s defense was stellar again, allowing an opponent season-low 30 percent shooting from the field while forcing 19 turnovers. SEMO’s 54 points also marked an opponent season low. The Redhawks managed to outrebound the Huskers by a 39-37 margin, including 20 on the offensive glass, but shot only 20-of-66 from the field for the game.

 

Jason Dourisseau added 12 points for the Huskers while Booker led SEMO with his first double-double of the season by registering 23 points and 11 boards. Terrick Willoughby added 15 points for the Redhawks.

 

NU forced the ball inside on the Redhawks early and often in the first half, scoring 22 of its 38 points in the paint. The good looks at the basket from inside the lane helped the Huskers shoot a season-high 59.1 percent from the field in the first period.

 

Return Game

Junior guard Charles Richardson Jr. made his return to the court on Sunday in the Huskers' 69-54 victory over Southeast Missouri State. Richardson's season debut included two steals in nine minutes of action.

 

Despite the relatively few minutes, Richardson's return was a relief for the Huskers as he was Nebraska's only returning point guard with any experience entering the season. Last year, Richardson came on strong at the end of the season, earning his second start of the year in the Big 12 Tournament. Over the final nine games last season, Richardson averaged 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest including posting a career-high 10 points against Colorado in NU's last home game of the 2004-05 campaign.

 

While he was out, Richardson's playing time was split between freshmen Marcus Walker and Jamel White. The pair have combined to average 13.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

 

Wilkinson Adds Another Dimension For Huskers

Senior forward Wes Wilkinson missed the Louisiana Tech game with an injury but returned in fine fashion against Southeast Missouri State last weekend. Wilkinson torched the Redhawks for a career-high 25 points while tying his career high with nine rebounds.

 

The 6-10, 220-pounder hit 10-of-15 attempts from the floor both career highs while showing his versatility as he hit 3-of-4 from 3-point range while also playing well in the paint. Wilkinson was third on the team with a career-best 24 3-pointers last season and currently shares the top spot with Joe McCray, as each has six treys on the year.

 

Wilkinson has averaged a team-best 14.7 points to go with 5.3 rebounds per game. He has hit a team-best 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the floor, including 6-of-12 from long range. Wilkinson also owns six of NU's nine blocked shots this season, including a career-best five blocks against Yale before going out with an injury.

 

Hot Hand

Senior guard Jason Dourisseau has continued his hot hand from last year when he ranked second on the squad by hitting 49.1 percent of his attempts from the floor. While the Omaha native continues to work on his game at the free throw line, where he has hit 66.7 percent this season, he has been exceptional from the field over his last 12 regular-season games dating back to last season.

 

During that span, Dourisseau has hit 55.1 percent (48-of-87) from the floor, including 20-of-36 (55.6 percent) in four games this season. Dourisseau is second on the team with 12.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season. He was one of three Huskers named to the all-tournament team at the season-opening John Thompson Foundation Basketball Challenge.

 

Charity Work

While the percentage is still not where they would like it to be, the Huskers have done an outstanding job of getting to the free throw line in the early season games. Nebraska has averaged 27.0 free throw attempts per game (108 total attempts in four games) while allowing its opponents to get to the stripe just 11.8 times per game (47 attempts combined).

 

Nebraska has hit 65.7 percent from the line this season after connecting on 66.0 percent (409-of-620) last year. Four players have at least 12 attempts this season with Jamel White (15-of-20) and Joe McCray (9-of-12) leading the way at a 75.0-percent clip.

 

First-Timers

Husker fans are seeing several new faces on the court in 2005-06. Nebraska's 16-man roster entering the season included nine players (six newcomers, three redshirts) who had never played a minute in a Husker uniform during a regular-season game.

 

During NU's three games at the season-opening John Thompson Foundation Basketball Challenge, six players saw action for the first time in their Husker careers, including three true freshmen (Marcus Walker, Jamel White and Kyle Marks), a redshirt junior (Marcus Perry), a redshirt freshman (Jim Ledsome) and a junior college transfer (B.J. Walker).

 

Marcus Walker has earned a starting nod in each of NU's first four games, and was just the second true freshman to start his first career game at Nebraska since Cookie Belcher in 1996-97. Marcus Walker is not the only newcomer to earn a start, as B.J. Walker was in for the tip off against Holy Family in NU's final exhibition game.

 

Through four regular-season games, Jamel White leads the newcomers as he is averaging 9.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and a team-high 3.0 assists per game while averaging 25.5 minutes per game off the bench.

 

Last year, the Huskers had two freshmen (Joe McCray and Aleks Maric) see significant time early in the season before setting NU records. McCray posted the best scoring average by an NU freshman in history after gaining a team-best 15.5 points per game. He also set records for 20-point games (10) and broke the Big 12 freshman record with 80 3-pointers. Maric set the NU freshman rebound record with 169 boards on the year.

 

Passing Grade

Freshmen guards Marcus Walker and Jamel White have made solid first impressions for the Huskers. The duo has combined for 13.8 points, 4.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game while hitting 19-of-26 attempts from the free throw line. 

 

The pair made a strong impression during the exhibition season while taking the place of NU's only returning point guard, Charles Richardson Jr., who was sidelined with an injury.

 

Walker started both exhibition games at point guard and led the team with 13 assists, including an eight-assist, no-turnover game against Holy Family in the second exhibition game. While Walker struggled from the field in exhibition play, he went 6-of-6 at the free throw line, including four crucial freebies sandwiched around a driving layup in the final minutes of a five-point win over Nebraska-Omaha.

 

White has come on to play at both the point and shooting guard and ranked fourth on the team with 8.0 points per game in the exhibition contests. White hit 6-of-8 attempts at from the line and was 4-of-8 from the floor while adding three steals.

 

Read to Succeed Book Drive

The Nebraska Athletic Department's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is sponsoring Read to Succeed book drives in November. Student-athletes are asking fans to donate new or good-condition used picture and reading books. The books will be given to the Title 1 Lincoln Public Elementary Schools to encourage families to practice reading and develop a love for reading.

 

Fans who donate a book can enter to win a prize awarded the night of the game. Husker volunteers collected books at the NU women's game vs. Creighton and at the NU volleyball match vs. Colorado. The final drop off time is Wednesday against Marquette.

 

McCray Looks to Continue Hot Hand in 2005-06

Guard Joe McCray set several Nebraska freshman records last season and hopes to continue his record-setting trend during his sophomore campaign. Nebraska's top returning scorer had 80 3-pointers to his credit after one season and now with 86 in his career, needs just nine treys to break into the Husker career top 10. Former Huskers Jake Muhleisen and Jamar Johnson currently rank 10th with 95 career 3-pointers.

 

With 14 more 3-pointers, McCray will become the 10th player in Nebraska history to reach 100 career treys and will become only the second player to reach 100 treys during his sophomore season, joining Cary Cochran, who had 101 3-pointers after two full seasons playing for the Huskers. If McCray matches his production from last year he would finish the 2005-06 season ranked sixth in NU history, only 22 treys from the top three. Cochran owns the NU record with 268 3-pointers in his career, while Eric Piatkowski (202) is the only other Husker with more than 200 career treys. 

 

International Man

Center Aleks Maric (pronounced MAR-itch) returned from the summer in the best shape of his life, which makes sense as he played more than 30 games in Slovenia, Greece, Canada and Argentina during July and August as part of the Australian Under-21 National Team. The 6-11, 265-pounder who set the Nebraska freshman rebounding record last season helped his Aussie team, the Crocs, to a fourth-place finish at the U21 World Championships in Argentina in August.

 

Maric averaged 9.4 rebounds per game while helping the Crocs to a 6-2 record at the World Championships. He was second in the tournament in rebounding, behind only 7-3 Peter Ramos, who played for the Puerto Rican Olympic team and was in the NBA last season. Maric also averaged 10.6 points while hitting 50.6 percent from the floor in the championships.

 

Maric is the second Husker to play on a youth World Championship team, joining current Atlanta Hawk Tyronn Lue, who played for the United States at the Under-22 World Championships in 1997. Bill Johnson played at the World Championships while helping the United States to gold in 1954, and Dave Hoppen (1985) and Eric Piatkowski (1993) played on the United States' World University Games teams.

 

Get to Know Him

Sophomore center Aleks Maric gained recognition as one of the top foreign players in the country last year and has already started back on the same track in 2005-06.

 

In a Wednesday, Nov. 9, article titled '20 Players You Should Know,' Jeff Goodman of scout.com compiled a list of the top sophomores and incoming rookies who flew "under the radar or should be impact freshmen this season." Maric was ranked No. 12 on the list and was one of two players in the Big 12 Conference, along with fellow Australian Aaron Bruce of Baylor who was ranked No. 3.

 

Huskers Rise to Challenge

A trio of Huskers were named to the all-tournament team as they lead Nebraska to a perfect 3-0 record and the title of the John Thompson Foundation Basketball Challenge on the opening weekend of the 2005-06 season.

 

Senior Jason Dourisseau, sophomore Aleks Maric and freshman Jamel White each earned a spot on the all-tourney team, along with Yale's Sam Kaplan, Longwood's Michael Jefferson and tournament MVP Paul Millsap of Louisiana Tech.

 

The Huskers had to scratch out two of the wins as NU's victories over Yale and LaTech were not decided until the final minutes. NU used a solid defensive effort that held its opponents to a tournament-low 61.7 points per game while shooting just 38.5 percent.

 

Maric and Dourisseau each averaged 12.7 points per game to lead the Huskers. Maric also pulled in 10.7 rebounds per game to rank second in the four-team field while Dourisseau was fourth overall and second on the team with 8.7 rebounds per contest.

White sparked the Huskers on both ends of the court as he took several charges on defense and added double-figure points twice. He finished with 10 points, seven boards and five assists against one turnover in the hard-fought win over Yale.

 

It was the first tournament title the Huskers have won since taking three straight games at the San Juan Shootout in 2000. Nebraska defeated Iona (81-80), Kent State (69-68) and SMU (72-70) that season. The Huskers started that trip with a 72-64 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

 

New Bench Look

The Huskers have a new look on the bench as they have two new faces within the staff.

 

Jerome Francis Jr. joined the Huskers as an assistant coach in June and works directly with the post players. Francis formerly was head coach at Prairie View A&M three years and served at several Division I schools as an assistant coach, including one season at Butler with Coach Barry Collier.

 

Also new to the program this year is head basketball strength coach Travis Reust. A native of Oklahoma, Reust has most recently guided the programs at TCU and Colorado before coming to Nebraska. Reust has helped several Huskers reach new highs in the weight room already, as three Huskers have already benched at least 300 pounds this season while nearly every Husker has made a significant weight gain as well.

 

Fresh Faces

Nebraska has a returnee at each spot on the floor but will look for its depth this season to be provided mostly by new faces. Overall, the Huskers have six newcomers on the squad including five freshmen. The heralded group of newcomers gives Nebraska its most athletic roster in several years. 

 

Leading the list of fresh faces this season is junior college transfer B.J. Walker. The forward from Cincinnati nearly averaged a double-double last season with 16.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while helping Garden City (Kan.) Community College to its first-ever Jayhawk Conference West Division title. Walker has a soft touch inside 12 feet and solid offensive moves in the post and at 6-9, 245 pounds, provides another wide body to rest  either Wes Wilkinson or Aleks Maric.

 

Along with Walker, freshmen Marcus Walker, Jamel White and Kyle Marks have earned early praise from the coaching staff. Marcus Walker, who was rated the No. 25 point guard in the country as a senior last year by scout.com, gives Nebraska another lightning-quick point guard to pair with Charles Richardson Jr. Walker and White can both score and give Nebraska a different look with a bigger lineup as they go 6-2 and 6-3, respectively. Marks has been described by his teammates as "freakishly athletic" and the 6-7, 220-pounder has one of the top vertical jumps on the team.

 

Huskers Name Captains

After losing four veterans who had combined to play in more than 380 games over the past four seasons, it didn't take long for the Huskers to figure out who would take on more of a leadership role in 2005-06. Seniors Jason Dourisseau and Wes Wilkinson and sophomore Aleks Maric were selected as team captains for the upcoming season.

 

Dourisseau and Wilkinson are the only two scholarship players on the roster from Nebraska and have stepped up over the past seven months to provide leadership on and off the court. After a strong summer of play with the Australian Under 21 National Team, Maric is believed to be only the second sophomore in school history to be named a captain. Former Husker Jake Muhleisen was a three-year captain between 2003 and 2005.

 

Defensive Mind Set

The Huskers look to continue a recent tradition of success on the defensive end of the court this season as Nebraska has held opponents to less than 64.0 points per game each of the past two years. The last time Nebraska held opponents to fewer than 64.0 points per game in consecutive seasons was 1983 (60.9 ppg) and 1984 (61.6 ppg).

 

Before Coach Collier arrived in Lincoln, the Huskers had held opponents to under 71.0 points per game only twice (1999, 64.3 ppg; 1998, 68.5) in the previous 14 seasons, dating back to the addition of the 3-point line in 1987. Under Collier's guidance, NU has held opponents to less than 71.0 points per game five times in five seasons, including four times under 70.0 points per game.

 

Huskers Open Practice with Madness

Nebraska opened the 2005-06 year with a public scrimmage and dunk contest at Husker Madness on Oct. 14. With about 2,500 fans in attendance, the Huskers joined the Nebraska women's team to give the public a taste of what is to come in the regular season.

 

Following the women's scrimmage and 3-point contest, the Husker men held a 20-minute running clock scrimmage with the veterans taking on the newcomers. The newcomers struggled early but made a late surge before being held off by the veterans,
34-27.

 

In the dunk contest, freshman Kyle Marks impressed the fans with a two-handed slam after jumping over the entire team, which had crouched down inside the lane. Marks' dunk came in the finals against senior Jason Dourisseau, who cleared a ball rack set up in the lane inside the free throw line. Each scored a '50' to force a second finals matchup, which Dourisseau won after Marks missed both of his attempts.

 

Board Games

Nebraska looks to clean the boards on a regular basis again this season as it returns 57.4 percent of its rebounding from the 2004-05 campaign when it led the Big 12 Conference in rebounding margin. The Huskers averaged a +5.2 rebounding margin over 28 games last season to rank 30th nationally.

 

Last year's effort marked the eighth time in the past 10 seasons the Huskers held an advantage on the glass. It was also NU's highest rebounding output since 1992, when Nebraska held a +6.4 rebounding advantage, and only the third time since 1953 the Huskers had at least a +5.0 rebounding margin. 

 

Map Quest

Nebraska's roster has changed quite a bit in the past 12 months. That is most evident when looking down the state listings as the only Nebraskans on the roster are the four seniors Jason Dourisseau and Wes Wilkinson along with walk-ons Bronsen Schliep and Tony Wilbrand. The states following Nebraska with the most current Huskers are New York and Florida with two each, while the other eight players are from seven other states and one foreign country. Overall, the Husker roster consists of players from 10 states and two countries.

 

Forcing Their Hand

Nebraska's foes hit just 41.4 percent from the floor last season as the Huskers ranked fourth in the Big 12 Conference. It marked the third straight year Nebraska has held opponents to 41.5 percent or less from the floor. Since 1965, NU has held opponents to a 41.5 field-goal percentage or less just eight times, although six of those seasons have come in the last decade.

 

Tough Schedule Ahead

Nebraska will face 11 teams in 2005-06 that reached the postseason last year. Among the eight teams to reach the 2005 NCAA Tournament were six Big 12 opponents in Texas Tech (Sweet 16), Oklahoma State (Sweet 16), Oklahoma (Second Round), Iowa State (Second Round), Texas (First Round) and Kansas (First Round), along with two non-conference foes in UAB (Second Round) and Creighton (First Round).  Nebraska opponents Texas A&M (Third Round), Missouri (First Round) and Marquette (First Round) reached the 2005 National Invitation Tournament.

 

Home Sweet Home

The Huskers will play a Bob Devaney Sports Center single-season record 19 home games this season. The Huskers will break the record of 18 home games at the Devaney Center, last tied during the 2003-04 campaign when Nebraska picked up an NIT victory over Niagara on its way to a 15-3 home record. The 15 wins tied for second all-time on the building's single-season win chart.

 

Nebraska owns a 346-109 all-time record in its 30th year at the Devaney Center.

 

Basketball Luncheons

The Rebounders Club has announced the dates for its monthly basketball luncheons in Omaha during the 2005-06 season. The Rebounders Club is a booster organization that provides support for the Nebraska men’s basketball program and financial assistance to the NU Athletic Department.

 

The Husker Roundball Luncheons will take place for the 19th season sponsored by the Rebounders Club. The luncheons will take place at Anthony’s Steakhouse at 72nd and F Street in Omaha on the following dates: Tuesday, Nov. 22; Tuesday, Dec. 13; Tuesday, Jan. 10; Tuesday, Feb. 14.

 

The price for a four-luncheon pass is $65, or fans can join the luncheon for $20 at the door on a space-available basis. The event will include guest speakers from the basketball program and  is open to the general public as well as all Rebounders Club members.

 

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