Game 27: at Michigan State Game Date: Feb. 25, 2012 Tipoff Time: 7:06 p.m. (central) Venue: Breslin Center Capacity: 14,797
Nebraska Cornhuskers 2011-12 Record: 12-14 (4-11 Big Ten) Head coach: Doc Sadler Record at Nebraska: 101-85 (6th year) Record at Division I: 149-103 (8th year) Career Record: 269-142 (14th year)
Michigan State Spartans 2011-12 Record: 23-5 (12-3 Big Ten) Head Coach: Tom Izzo Record at Michigan State: 406-166 (17th year) Career Record: same
Huskers Look to Play Spoiler at MSU The Nebraska men's basketball team faces a daunting task on Saturday night, as the Huskers travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a matchup with Big Ten leader Michigan State.
Tipoff is slated for 7:06 p.m. (central) and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network with Tom Hart and Greg Kelser on the call. The game will also be available on BTN.com and the BTN2Go App on select mobile devices.
Saturday's Nebraska-Michigan State game will also be carried across Nebraska on the 30-station IMG Husker Sports Radio Network with Kent Pavelka and Andy Markowski calling all of the action. The game can also be heard on the Internet at Huskers.com and season audio packages are also available for purchase on the Huskers' App for your iPhone or iPod Touch.
The Huskers (12-14, 4-11 Big Ten) performed well offensively at Purdue with 65 points on 52 percent shooting, but couldn't slow down Purdue's shooting. The Boilermakers shot 63 percent from the floor in the first half and connected on 13-of-29 from 3-point range on the night, as Robbie Hummel's game-high 29 points led five Purdue players in double figures.
Bo Spencer paced the Huskers at Purdue on Wednesday with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting and five assists. The 6-foot-2 senior guard is averaging 23.0 points per game on 68 percent shooting in Nebraska's last two contests, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range.
While Spencer has enjoyed a hot shooting hand, fellow senior Brandon Richardson has been more of a distributor in recent games, averaging 5.7 assists per game in Nebraska's last three games. That is the best stretch of the senior's 115-game Husker career.
Michigan State (23-5, 12-3 Big Ten) comes into Saturday's game riding a six-game win streak following a 66-61 win at Minnesota Wednesday night. In that game, the Spartans trailed by seven in the final eight minutes before rallying for a crucial road win to stay one game ahead of Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten race.
The sixth-ranked Spartans are 16-0 at the Breslin Center this season and feature Draymond Green, who is the favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year. The senior forward is averaging 15.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on the season and had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists at Minnesota.
Husker Tip Off
Nebraska has shot well on the road during Big Ten play, shooting over 50 percent in four of its last six road contests. In fact, Nebraska has shot 51.9 percent in three of its last four road games.
at Penn State
Nebraska has done a better job of handling the basketball in recent games, committing an average of 10.3 turnovers per game. That is down from 16.0 turnovers per game in Nebraska's previous five contests.
Last 3 games
Previous 5 games
Last Time Out Robbie Hummel scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the first half, as Purdue used a hot-shooting first half to down Nebraska, 83-65.
Hummel was 10-of-18 shooting from the floor and grabbing seven rebounds to lead five Purdue players in double figures. The Boilermakers shot 55 percent on the night, including 13-of-29 from 3-point range, and shot 63 percent in the first half to build a 17-point margin.
Purdue did most of its damage from long range, as Hummel went 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. D.J. Byrd went 5-of-8 from 3-point range while Ryne Smith added four 3-pointers, as the pair combined for all 27 of their points from 3-point range.
Bo Spencer led Nebraska with 19 points, hitting 8-of-14 shots from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers, as Nebraska shot 52 percent from the floor and committed 10 turnovers.
In the first half, Nebraska shot 48 percent from the floor, but was unable to slow down the Boilermaker attack, as Purdue shot 63 percent from the floor, including 7-of-15 from 3-point range, to build a 47-30 halftime lead. Hummel was 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and keyed a Purdue run with eight straight points, turning a 17-12 game into a 13-point Purdue lead.
The Huskers went to a zone and started chipping away, as a 3-point play from Dylan Talley and a basket by Mike Fox started a 10-4 run as Caleb Walker's basket made it 29-22 but a Smith 3-pointer stopped the run for the Boilermakers. The Huskers were within 34-25 but two Terone Johnson baskets highlighted a 6-0 spurt to push the lead back to 15 and eventually took a 17-point lead into the locker room.
Nebraska pulled to within 47-33 after a Spencer 3-pointer on the Huskers' first possession of the second half, but Purdue used an 8-0 run to build its largest lead of the night at the time at 55-33 after a Hummel 3-point play. The Huskers eventually pulled to within 14 at 67-53 with 8:17 left, but a Johnson basket and a 3-pointer from Byrd quickly pushed the lead back to 19 points.
Scouting Michigan State Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State comes into Saturday's matchup with a 23-5 record and sits in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 12-3 mark. The Spartans, who began the season with losses to North Carolina and Duke, have lost three times since Nov. 18 - with two of those losses by one point - and come into this weekend on a six-game win streak. MSU is now sixth in the AP poll this week and in position to win their seventh Big Ten title in Izzo's 17 seasons.
Izzo, who has guided the Spartans to six Final Fours, is the dean of Big Ten coaches, as he is in his 17th season. Michigan State has reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 14 seasons, and Izzo is sixth all-time among Big Ten coaches in conference wins.
The Spartans are fourth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (72.9) and third in scoring defense (58.7) while holding opponents to a league-low 37.4 percent shooting.
MSU is led by senior forward Draymond Green who is the front runner for Big Ten Player of the Year. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward leads MSU in scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.0 rpg) while also averaging 3.7 assists per game. He leads the Big Ten with 15 double-doubles this season and had a season-high 34 points at Gonzaga in December.
Sophomore Keith Appling joins Green in double figures, averaging 12.1 points and 3.9 assists per game, as MSU has six players averaging at least seven points per game. Appling has four 20-point efforts this season and totaled 13 points, five assists and three steals against Minnesota on Wednesday.
Nebraska-Michigan State Series Michigan State leads the all-time series, 9-6, that dates back to February of 1920 and snapped Nebraska's two-game win streak in the series with a 68-55 win in Lincoln on Dec. 31. The Spartans have won four of the five meetings in East Lansing, with Nebraska's only win coming in its last visit to the Breslin Center, an 85-81 win on Dec. 18, 1993.
Dec. 31: Michigan State 68, Nebraska 55 Toney McCray and Bo Spencer combined for 29 points, but Keith Appling scored eight of his 14 points in a decisive second-half run, as No. 16 Michigan State pulled out a 68-55 win. McCray and Spencer led the Huskers' comeback, as Nebraska chipped away at a 15-point lead to pull within 53-50 before Appling then took over, scoring six straight points, as the sophomore hit a driving jumper and a layup on consecutive possessions before his two free throws gave the Spartans a 59-50 lead. Nebraska would eventually pull within 59-55, but Austin Thornton's 3-pointer and two Appling free throws ended NU's comeback hopes. The Spartans went 19-of-21 from the foul line and enjoyed a 38-24 advantage on the glass. Spencer came off the bench to lead Nebraska with 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, while McCray finished with 14 points.
Husker Quick Hits
Doc Sadler will be looking for his 150th Division I win at Michigan State on Saturday. Sadler is 149-103 in eight seasons as a Division I coach, including his two-year stint at UTEP.
Nebrska will be seeking its 1,400th win in program history Saturday night. The Huskers are 1,399-1,237 all-time heading into the Michigan State contest.
Nebraska is bidding to shoot over 50 percent for the third straight conference game on Saturday night at Michigan State. Over the last decade, the Huskers have shot 50 percent in at least three consecutive conference games one time - a four-game stretch from Feb. 20 to March 1, 2008.
Bo Spencer has played some of his best basketball away from the Devaney Center, as the senior guard is averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting 47 percent in NU's 10 road games this season. Four of his seven 20-point efforts in 2011-12 have come on the road, including a career-high 29 points at Creighton on Dec. 4.
Despite being held to four points at Purdue on Wednesday, Caleb Walker is averaging 9.7 points per game in his last three contests after coming into the stretch with an average of 6.5 points per game. Nebraska is 5-1 when he reaches double figures in 2011-12 and 11-3 during his career.
Brandon Richardson is posting a 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over Nebraska's last seven games, a stretch where he is averaging 4.0 assists along with 10.6 points per game. He has five or more assists eight times in Big Ten play after totaling two during his first three years of conference action. The 6-foot senior guard already has established a career high in assists this season with 81.
Nebraska's 80 points against Illinois on Feb. 18 marked only the fourth time in Doc Sadler's six years that Nebraska cracked 80 points in regulation in conference action and the first time it occurred since scoring 87 points in a loss at Kansas State on Feb. 17, 2010. NU's 80 points was the Huskers' highest conference home total in regulation since putting up 85 against Oklahoma on March 5, 2007.
Brandon Ubel leads Nebraska and ranks second in the Big Ten with 67 offensive rebounds this season. His total is the most by a Husker since Aleks Maric had 131 in 2007-08.
Walk-on Mike Fox has come off the bench to give the Huskers depth, averaging 4.0 points per game on 58 percent shooting in Nebraska's last four contests. In the last three games, the 6-foot-4 junior has tied or set career highs in minutes (19), points (six), assists (two), rebounds (three) and steals (two). He had six points and three rebounds in Wednesday's loss at Purdue.
Huskers Against Ranked Teams The Huskers will be looking to improve to 2-5 against ranked teams this season, as they take on the sixth-ranked Spartans on Saturday night.
Nebraska is now 59-220 all-time against ranked teams, including 9-25 against ranked teams in Doc Sadler's six seasons at Nebraska. The Huskers have won at least one game against a ranked team in five of his six campaigns and last year's win over No. 3 Texas on Feb. 19, 2011, was Sadler's first victory over a top-10 team and the highest ranked opponent Nebraska knocked off since the 1993-94 season.
Nebraska's last win over a top-10 team on the road was a 74-69 win at Iowa State on Feb. 22, 1997. This will be Nebraska's third game against a team ranked sixth in the AP poll, as both of the Huskers' games against Ohio State came with the Buckeyes holding the No. 6 spot in the AP poll.
Huskers Learn to Win on the Road For the Huskers to continue to climb in the Big Ten standings, Nebraska will have to play well on the road. The Huskers are 3-7 away from Lincoln this season, a vast improvement over the 2-20 mark on the road over the past two seasons, and had chances to win in road setbacks at Illinois and Wisconsin, as both games were a one-possession contest in the last minute. With a win at Michigan State on Saturday, the Huskers can match the program's highest road victory total since going 6-6 away from the Devaney Center in 1998-99.
Huskers Look to Generate Offense For the 2011-12 Huskers, the key to success has been at the offensive end. Nebraska enters Saturday's game at Michigan State with an 11-5 record when scoring at least 60 points, but is just 1-9 when not reaching that threshold. In Nebraska's four Big Ten wins, the Huskers have scored 70 or more points, but have been to 65 points or less in 10 of their 11 league losses.
Charity Begins at the Foul line One area where the Huskers have been proficient this season is at the free throw line, where Nebraska's 75.3 percent rate leads the Big Ten and ranks 25th nationally in the latest NCAA rankings.
It is on track to be one of the best seasons in school history, as only two Husker teams have shot over 75 percent since 1948, led by the 1967-68 team which was third nationally when they hit a school-record 76.5 percent from the line. Prior to this season, NU's best season under Doc Sadler was 71.3 percent during the 2006-07 campaign.
Nebraska has shot 70 percent or better from the line in 19 of 26 contests and 80 percent or better 10 times this season.
Four Huskers are shooting over 80 percent from the line this season: Bo Spencer (88.0 percent); Brandon Ubel (81.6); Brandon Richardson (81.0) and Dylan Talley (81.0).
Spencer is on track to finish in the top five on Nebraska's single-season free throw chart and is the best since Cary Cochran shot 92.2 percent in 2001-02.
The Huskers have been solid in the clutch, hitting 74 percent (86-of-116) from the line in the last five minutes of games this season, as Bo Spencer and Brandon Richardson are both over 90 percent.
Nebraska's success has often been determined by its ability to get to the line. In the Huskers' 12 wins, Nebraska is averaging 19.6 attempts per game, but that number drops to 11.5 in the Huskers' 13 losses, including three times at Purdue on Wednesday.
Spencer Makes the Point for the Huskers The focal point of Nebraska's offensive attack has been senior guard Bo Spencer. The 6-foot-2 guard has made the most of his only season at Nebraska after transferring from LSU.
He leads the Huskers in scoring at 15.6 points per game, while also adding 3.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while leading the Big Ten in free throw percentage (88.0).
Spencer has been an iron man for the Huskers, averaging 33.3 minutes per game which is the highest total by a Husker since Charles Richardson in 2006-07 (36.3 minutes per game).
Spencer's 15.6 ppg is on pace to be the highest scoring average by a Husker guard since the 2000-01 season (Cookie Belcher, 16.4 ppg). He reached double figures a team-high 21 times, including seven 20-point performances, which is the most by any Husker in five years. His latest 20-point effort came on Feb. 18 against Illinois when he had 27 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers. It was his third 20-point effort in Big Ten action, as he had 24 at Northwestern on Feb. 2 and 23 in the win over No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18.
Spencer got off to a slow start in Big Ten play, averaging 10.0 points per game while shooting 26 percent in NU's first three games, but is averaging 16.7 ppg on 47 percent shooting over the Huskers' last 12 conference contests. Spencer led Nebraska with 19 points at Purdue on 8-of-14 shooting and is averaging 18.0 points per game on 54 percent shooting during the month of February.
He enjoyed his best offensive game of the year at Creighton on Dec. 4, pouring in 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and adding five rebounds in the highest scoring effort by a Husker since 2007-08.
Spencer led Nebraska to a road win at TCU on Dec. 10, hitting 7-of-12 shots, including four 3-pointers, in NU's 69-57 victory. At USC on Nov. 14, he had 22 points, including the tying basket in overtime and the go-ahead bucket in double overtime, and also tied a personal best with seven rebounds. Against Rhode Island on Nov. 20, he had 23 points, four assists and three steals.
Before coming to Nebraska, he started two seasons at LSU, averaging 14.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game in 2009-10. Spencer showed the ability to get to the basket, putting up 11 games of at least 20 points, including a season-high 28-point effort against Western Kentucky and back-to-back 25-point contests against Kentucky and Tennessee.
In his three-year LSU career, he reached double figures in 45 of 93 career contests, including 21 times as a junior. Spencer was the starting point guard on LSU's SEC championship squad in 2008-09, as the Tigers reached the second round before falling to eventual champion North Carolina.
Big Ten Active Leaders - Career 20-Point Games (as of Feb. 22)
John Shurna, Northwestern
Brandon Wood, Michigan State*
Bo Spencer, Nebraska*
William Buford, Ohio State
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
*-includes previous school
McCray Makes Most of Starting Role Fifth-year senior Toney McCray has overcome a pair of injuries to play some of the best basketball of his career in 2011-12. The 6-foot-6 senior was hampered by surgery on his feet over the summer and a toe injury in October, but has rebounded to enjoy a solid senior year. He is setting career bests in scoring (10.0 ppg), rebounding (4.7 rpg) and field goal percentage (46 pct.), while also shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.
He originally moved into the lineup in December when Jorge Brian Diaz missed five games earlier in the season with an injury, and has been in the lineup ever since. He tops the Huskers in rebounding (5.5 rpg) and is second in scoring (11.2 ppg) since moving into the starting lineup.
Once inserted into the lineup, he promptly put together seven straight games in double figures - the longest stretch of his career - before being held to seven points at Wisconsin on Jan. 15. Prior to this season, his longest stretch of games in double figures was four games. The stretch began with a 20-point, seven-rebound effort against Alcorn State on Dec. 17, and had 16 points and nine rebounds against No. 11 Wisconsin on Dec. 27. McCray led NU with 13 points and five rebounds at No. 6 Ohio State and totaled 12 points and six rebounds at Illinois on Jan. 7. He comes off an eight-point effort in just 20 minutes of action on Wednesday night.
During non-conference play, McCray had three straight games where he tied or set season highs, including 15 points and five rebounds at No. 22 Creighton on Dec. 4. He also had 12 points in Nebraska's games against South Dakota and Wake Forest.
McCray may have made his biggest contributions from the foul line in the double overtime win at USC on Nov. 14. A career 61 percent shooter from the line entering his senior year, McCray hit four clutch free throws at USC - two in the final minute of regulation and a pair with 2.8 seconds remaining in overtime - for his only points of the night in NU's 65-61 double overtime win. McCray is up to 68 percent from the foul line this season, the best percentage of his career.
Richardson is Huskers' Glue Guy While senior guard Brandon Richardson doesn't lead the Huskers in any offensive category, his versatility is his greatest asset. The fifth-year senior averages 7.6 points, 3.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, while he leads Nebraska and ranks third in the Big Ten in steals (1.9 per game).
Richardson enters this weekend's action in second place among active Big Ten players in career steals with 139, and he is threatening to become the first Husker since Cookie Belcher in 2000-01 to average more than two steals per game. Belcher, who holds three of the top four totals in school history, still ranks fourth in NCAA history with 353 steals in his career. Richardson is now eighth on Nebraska's career steals list.
Richardson has been active on the defensive end in Big Ten play, ranking second in the league with 2.0 steals per game in Big Ten action, including a career-high seven steals at No. 6 Ohio State on Jan. 3. He has multiple steals in eight of Nebraska's 15 league games, including three steals in Nebraska's upset of No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 11.
Richardson has become more of an offensive force in recent weeks, averaging 10.6 points on 55 percent shooting and 4.0 assists per game in Nebraska's last seven games. He is 14-of-22 from 3-point range in that span and is now third in Big Ten league action, hitting at 47 percent from long distance. He was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc at Purdue Wednesday night. He began his hot streak at Iowa, totaling a career-high 25 points, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, and added a season-high six rebounds and five assists.
Richardson now has 785 career points and is 16 points away from becoming the 46th player in school history to score 800 career points.
The 6-foot senior came up big in his return home to Los Angeles on Nov. 14, totaling 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the Huskers' overtime win at USC. He matched his career best with four 3-pointers and dished out a pair of assists, including the game-tying basket in double overtime. Against Rhode Island on Nov. 20, he set then-career highs in both assists (eight) and steals (four). Richardson closed non-conference play with a strong performance against Central Michigan on Dec. 20, finishing with a season-high 15 points and three assists.
Throughout his career, Richardson has been clutch from the free throw line, as he ranks third in school history with an 82.4 career percentage from the charity stripe and is one of only five players in program history to shoot over 80 percent for a career.
Last year, he was second in Big 12 action in league play, hitting 87.8 of his free throws, including a stretch of 25 consecutive made free throws. Throughout his career, he has been his best in late-game situations, going 81-of-87 from the foul line in the final five minutes of games, a remarkable 93.1 percentage.
Richardson Earns Big Ten Honor Brandon Richardson became the Huskers' first-ever Big Ten weekly award winner in basketball, as he was the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Jan. 30. Richardson, who shared the honor with Michigan State's Draymond Green, became the first Husker since Aleks Maric in 2008 to be named conference player of the week.
Richardson had a career night at Iowa on Jan. 26, scoring 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting and adding six rebounds and five assists in the Huskers' 79-73 win in Iowa City. Richardson was 6-of-7 from 3-point range, as his six 3-pointers were the most by a Husker since the 2006-07 season, while his 25-point night easily surpassed his previous season (15 vs. Central Michigan) and career (20 at Texas Tech on Jan. 22, 2011) bests. Richardson set season highs in points, rebounds and 3-pointers in the Huskers' win. He also had six points in Nebraska's 12-2 second-half run to take control and earn the program's first win in Iowa City since 1941.
Talley is Huskers' Scoring Sixth Man Junior college transfer Dylan Talley has provided the Huskers with a boost off the bench in his first season at Nebraska, and comes into Saturday's game ranked third on the team in scoring at 9.1 points per game, while also chipping in 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He is hitting 37 percent from 3-point range and 80.5 percent from the foul line.
Talley leads all Big Ten reserves in scoring and has been in double figures nine times in his first year at Nebraska. He was slowed by a thigh injury which sidelined him for five games before returning to action against Illinois on Jan. 7. Talley has regained his early-season form, averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last 11 contests. More importantly, he has been best in late-game situations, scoring 62 percent of his points in the second half over the last 10 games dating back to Jan, 15.
He has been in double figures four times since his return to the lineup, including his best effort of the year against No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18. In that game, he had 10 points, including eight in the final 5:19, as Nebraska came back from 11 points down, and also matched his career high with nine rebounds and added two blocks. Talley finished with 13 points at Northwestern hitting 5-of-7 shots from the floor and led the Huskers with 12 points at Penn State.
Talley has shown the knack for the heroics, hitting a game-winning basket with 10.4 seconds remaining against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, as part of a 14-point effort. The 6-foot-5 guard reached double figures in three straight games earlier this season, including a season-high 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals against Oregon on Nov. 23.
Talley's adjustment may have been helped by the Division I experience he had when playing at Binghamton (N.Y.) University in 2009-10. That season, he was the America East Rookie of the Year and averaged 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Last year, he was an honorable-mention All-American at Blinn (Texas) College, ranking sixth in the NJCAA in scoring at 23.0 points per game while also chipping in 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Ubel Doing the Dirty work Inside While Nebraska relies on its guards for the bulk of the offensive output, junior Brandon Ubel gives the Huskers a physical presence on the inside. The 6-foot-10 forward has started NU's last 17 games at center since Jorge Brian Diaz suffered a foot injury in early December.
On the season, he is averaging 6.1 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game, ranking 10th in the league in rebounds. His rebounding total is on pace to be the best by a Husker in the last four seasons. Ubel is second in the Big Ten on the offensive glass, grabbing 2.6 rebounds per game, and has 10 games this season with at least seven rebounds, including nine rebounds in the loss to No. 22 Michigan on Feb. 8.
Ubel's best rebounding effort came against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, when he grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and added 10 points for his first career double double. That began a five-game stretch where he averaged 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, including 13 points and eight rebounds in the win over Alcorn State, 11 points and seven rebounds against Central Michigan on Dec. 20 and eight points and nine rebounds against No. 11 Wisconsin on Dec. 27. Ubel is also solid at the free throw line, hitting 82 percent this season and is one of five players in school history to hit 80 percent for their career.
An overlooked part of Ubel's game is his passing abilities, as he has 33 assists this year after totaling just 22 assists in his first two seasons at Nebraska. He had his second five assist effort at Northwestern on Feb. 2, the second time this season he has had five assists in a game.
Huskers Battling Health issues The Huskers have battled health issues during Big Ten play, as Nebraska has been without three-year starting center Jorge Brian Diaz for eight of the Huskers' 15 Big Ten games because of foot injuries, while backup center Andre Almeida has not played at all this season because of a knee injury suffered last March. In 2010-11, the duo combined for 15.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, and Diaz was on pace for career highs in all three categories before he was originally sidelined in early December. In addition, Dylan Talley missed the Huskers' first three games of Big Ten play with a thigh injury. Both Talley and Diaz were back for a seven-game stretch when the Huskers went 3-4 with two of the losses being decided on the road (at Illinois and at Wisconsin) in the final 30 seconds. Diaz reaggravated the injury prior to the Minnesota game on Feb. 5 and has missed the last five games.
The absence of Diaz on the inside has not only altered the Huskers' rotation, but also took away a vital part of Nebraska's attack. In league play, NU averaged 62 points per game and shot 44 percent with Diaz in the lineup, while averaging 54.8 points on 41 percent in the nine contests Diaz missed with injuries, going 2-7 in that span.
Big Ten Play with Diaz
Big Ten Play Without Diaz
Huskers Look for Interior Presence with Diaz Sidelined For the second time this season, the Huskers are battling through injury issues at the center spot, as Jorge Brian Diaz is likely to miss extended time with an injury.
The 6-foot-11 center is Nebraska's fourth-leading scorer at 8.6 points per game while he also averages 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest in 16 contests. Since originally returning to the lineup on Jan. 8, he had come off the bench in seven games, helping NU to a 3-4 mark, before missing the last five games.
He enjoyed his best game in that stretch in the win over No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18 when he had 10 points and four rebounds while hitting a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left to provide the winning margin. It was the sixth time he had been in double figures this season and has 37 career games in double figures.
Diaz enjoyed one of the best offensive games of his career against Oregon on Nov. 23, finishing with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, six rebounds and three blocks. He had eight of his points in a 22-7 run to help the Huskers erase a 15-point deficit before succumbing in the final minute. It was his third career 20-point effort and first since his freshman year. He nearly recorded a double-double at Creighton on Dec. 4 with 10 points and seven rebounds while also blocking a pair of shots. He turned in a strong effort at USC on Nov. 14 with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in a career-high 43 minutes.
Defensively, he was second in the Big Ten with 1.9 blocks per game at the time of his injury and has had three or more blocks six times this season. Diaz tied his career high with five blocks in the one-point win over Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, joining Illinois' Meyers Leonard and Michigan State's Draymond Green as the only Big Ten players with two games with at least five blocked shots this season.
With Diaz out, the bulk of the minutes inside are going to junior Mike Fox, who has set career highs in minutes in four of the last five games. He had five points and a pair of assists in the win over Illinois on Feb. 18 before coming back with a career high six points and three rebounds in 19 minutes at Purdue on Wednesday.
In addition, Christopher Niemann will see additional action, as he has averaged almost seven minutes per game in the last four games after playing a total of six minutes in the previous seven contests. Niemann had two points and a rebound in six minutes at Purdue.
Winning the Close Ones With an experienced team, Nebraska has shown the ability to win the close games this year, going 4-1 in games decided by three points or less in 2011-12, including a pair of one-point wins (vs. Florida Gulf Coast and No. 11 Indiana). Last year, the Huskers were just 4-5 in games decided by three points or less, including a 3-2 mark in one-point games.
Comeback Kids Nebraska has showed the knack for a comeback in 2011-12, rallying from three double-digit deficits. On Dec. 10 at TCU, Nebraska rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit in posting a 69-57 victory. On Jan. 18, the Huskers were down by 13 early in the second half to No. 11 Indiana and trailed by 11 with six minutes remaining before coming back with an 18-6 spurt to pull out the 71-70 win. The last time out, the Huskers overcame an 11-point first-half deficit to down Iowa, 79-73.
Nebraska now has eight double-figure comebacks under Doc Sadler, including a 20-point comeback against USC in 2010-11 - matching the largest comeback in school history.
The Jan. 18 win over Indiana was the first double-digit comeback against a ranked team since overcoming an 11-point deficit to fourth-ranked Oklahoma State on Feb. 22, 2005.
Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska began its inaugural Big Ten slate with one of the toughest stretches in conference history. The Huskers opened conference action with No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan State and No. 6 Ohio State in its first three conference contests. It marked the first time in school history that Nebraska has opened conference action with three straight ranked foes. In fact, it is only the fourth time in the last eight years that any Big Ten school has faced three straight ranked teams to start league play.
While Nebraska is 4-11 in the nation's top league according to the RPI, the Huskers will be tested in a league that features five nationally ranked teams as well as six teams in the top 45 of the RPI released Monday.
Home Sweet Home Nebraska has been strong on its home court over the years and enjoyed an impressive home run under Coach Doc Sadler. In the past six seasons under Sadler, Nebraska has dominated to the tune of an 80-27 record (.748 winning percentage), but are just 9-7 at home this season following the victory over Illinois on Feb. 18. The seven home losses are the most since the Devaney Center opened during the 1976-77 season, as Nebraska will play its final home game of the season against Iowa on Feb. 29.
Last year, Nebraska tied a program record with 17 home wins, going 17-2 in the friendly confines of the Devaney Center. Facing non-conference opponents, the Huskers have been nearly unbeatable at home under Sadler, losing three times in 55 games, including a 26-game home win streak snapped on Nov. 23.
Nebraska Coach Doc Sadler Doc Sadler is in his sixth season on the Husker sideline after leading Nebraska to an NIT appearance in 2010-11. Sadler has guided the Huskers to postseason appearances in three of the last four seasons, and his 89 wins in his first five seasons was the most by any Husker coach in his first five years at Nebraska. He is now in fourth place on Nebraska's career wins list with 101 after collecting his 100th win at Iowa on Jan. 26. Sadler has guided teams to postseason berths in five of his seven years as a Division I head coach, as both of his UTEP squads reached postseason play before taking over the Nebraska program in August of 2006. His next win will be the 150th of his Division I coaching career.
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