Nebraska Cornhuskers 2011-12 Record: 12-15 (4-12 Big Ten) Head coach: Doc Sadler Record at Nebraska: 101-86 (6th year) Record at Division I: 149-104 (8th year) Career Record: 269-143 (14th year)
Iowa Hawkeyes 2011-12 Record: 15-14 (7-9 Big Ten) Head Coach: Fran McCaffery Record at Iowa: 26-34 (2nd year) Career Record: 277-211 (16th year)
Huskers on TV/Radio/Internet Television: ESPNU (DirecTV Ch. 208, Dish Ch. 141, Ch. 235 on Time Warner Cable; Ch. 220 on Cox Cable) Play-by-Play: Mitch Holthus Expert Analysis: Miles Simon Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network (including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln; KFAB 1110 AM in Omaha; KRVN 880 AM in Lexington) Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka Expert Analysis: Matt Davison Internet Radio/Stats: Free on Huskers.com Satellite Radio: Sirius 128
Huskers Host Iowa on Senior Night The Nebraska men's basketball team takes the Devaney Center court for the final time this season, as the Huskers take on Iowa on Senior Night this Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 8:05 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Mitch Holthus and Miles Simon on the call.
Tickets for Wednesday's game are available for as little as $10 by visiting Huskers.com, calling 800-8-BIGRED or by visiting the Devaney Center Ticket Office beginning 90 minutes prior to tipoff.
Wednesday's Nebraska-Iowa game will also be carried across Nebraska on the 30-station IMG Husker Sports Radio Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison calling all of the action. The game can also be heard on the Internet at Huskers.com and season audio packages are also available for purchase on the Huskers' App for your iPhone or iPod Touch.
The contest with Iowa marks the final home game for a quartet of Husker seniors as Toney McCray, Brandon Richardson, Bo Spencer and Caleb Walker will all be honored during pregame ceremonies. McCray and Richardson are in their fifth year at Nebraska and have been a part of three posteason squads during their time at Nebraska, while Walker and Spencer are both in their second year in the Husker program. Pregame ceremonies will begin at approximately 7:45 p.m.
The Huskers (12-15, 4-12 Big Ten) look to bounce back following a disappointing 62-34 loss to No. 6 Michigan State Saturday night. The Huskers shot a season-low 29.2 percent from the floor against the Spartans, who used a 26-4 second-half run to take control.
Brandon Ubel led the Huskers with 13 points against the Spartans, his first double figure performance of Big Ten play. Ubel hit 6-of-9 from the floor in his highest-scoring effort since Dec. 17. He has been more known for his rebounding during the year, leading Nebraska with 5.3 rebounds per game.
Iowa (15-14, 7-9 Big Ten) makes its first visit to the Devaney Center since the inaugural game in the facility on Nov. 27, 1976. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 65-54 loss at Illinois on Sunday. Iowa has been led by senior Matt Gatens, who is averaging 25 points over Iowa's last three games, including consecutive 30-point efforts versus Indiana and Wisconsin last week.
Husker Tip Off
84 Number of wins in the Husker careers of fifth-year seniors Toney McCray and Brandon Richardson. The pair has helped the Huskers to three postseason appearances during their five years at Nebraska.
Nebraska has done a better job of handling the basketball in recent games, committing an average of 10.8 turnovers per game over the last four contests. That is down from 16.0 turnovers per game in Nebraska's previous five contests. Both Bo Spencer and Brandon Richardson are averaging more than 3.5 assists per game in that stretch.
Last 3 games
Previous 5 games
Last Time Out Draymond Green scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while the sixth-ranked Spartans used a 23-2 second-half run to put away a short-handed Nebraska squad, 62-34, Saturday night in East Lansing.
Michigan State moved within one game of clinching the Big Ten title, holding Nebraska to a season-low 29.2 percent from the floor and its lowest offensive total in Doc Sadler's six seasons.
The Huskers were within 23-15 at the break when Bo Spencer suffered an ankle injury on the final possession of the half. Spencer, NU's leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, did not return in the second half, finishing with two points, as Michigan State outscored Nebraska, 39-19 after the break.
In the second half, the Huskers trailed 25-17 after a Brandon Ubel basket with 16:27 left, but Green scored 12 of his 20 points over the next six and half minutes, as Michigan State built a 48-19 lead and cruised to the win.
Green got the run started with a jumper and a three-point play, as the Huskers had just two baskets in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Ubel led Nebraska with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while no other Husker had more than six points. Brandon Richardson added six points and five assists.
Scouting Iowa Under second-year coach Fran McCaffery, Iowa comes into Wednesday's game with a 15-14 record and is tied for seventh in the Big Ten with a 7-9 record. McCaffery, who is 26-34 in two seasons at Iowa, spent the previous five years at Siena, guiding the Saints to NCAA appearances in his final three seasons at the school. He also was at UNC Greensboro for six seasons.
Iowa had downed nationally ranked Indiana and Wisconsin before falling at Illinois, 65-54, on Sunday evening. In that game, Matt Gatens had 22 for the Hawkeyes, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range, while Roy Devyn Marble had 10 points and six assists. Iowa shot 36 percent from the floor and were out-rebounded by the Fighting Illini, 35-27. Meyers Leonard came off the bench for Illinois with 22 points and 14 rebounds in snapping a six-game losing streak.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes are a balanced attack, as eight regulars average at least 16 minutes per game while three players are in double figures. Gatens leads Iowa at 15.7 points per game, but is averaging 25 points per game over the Hawkeyes last three contests, including 19-of-26 from 3-point range. Sophomore guard Roy Devyn Marble chips in 11.2 points and 3.8 assists per contest while freshman Aaron White averages 10.3 points per game and grabs a team-leading 5.5. IU has struggled at times on the defensive end, allowing a league-high 71.7 points per contest.
Nebraska-Iowa Series Info
The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series, 12-8 in a series that dates back to 1907, but the two teams had not met prior to Nebraska joining the Big Ten since the 1976-77 season. Nebraska snapped Iowa's three-game win streak in the series with the win in January in Iowa City. Nebraska's last win in the series prior to this year was a 73-71 win in Lincoln on Dec. 5, 1970. The Huskers have won six of the nine meetings in Lincoln, but Iowa won the only meeting at the Devaney Center, a 71-57 win on Nov. 27, 1976.
Last Meeting: Nebraska 79, iowa 73 (Jan. 26)
Behind a career high 25 points from senior Brandon Richardson, Nebraska rallied in the second half for a 79-73 victory over Iowa on Jan. 26. Richardson put together the most outstanding performance of his career, totaling 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, to help Nebraska come back from a double-figure first-half deficit. Richardson came up big in the game's decisive run, scoring six points in a 12-2 Husker spurt to help Nebraska erase a 61-56 deficit and take the lead for good. Richardson's 3-pointer started the run before Brandon Ubel hit a pair of free throws to pull the Huskers even at 61 with 5:29 left. Moments later, Richardson's 3-pointer put the Huskers ahead 66-63 before Dylan Talley's jumper gave Nebraska a five-point lead with 3:26 left. Bo Spencer joined Richardson in double figures with 16 points, as Nebraska shot 52 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Hawkeyes, 34-27, to pick up its first win in Iowa City since 1941. Zach McCabe led four Hawkeyes in double figures with 20 points in the losing effort
Huskers to Honor Four Seniors Prior to Iowa Game
Nebraska's four-member senior class has helped the Huskers to 84 wins and three postseason appearances during their time at Nebraska. Fifth-year seniors Toney McCray and Brandon Richardson were members of Doc Sadler's first recruiting class at Nebraska, while Caleb Walker and Bo Spencer are both in their second year in the Husker program. The quartet will be honored prior to Wednesday's tipoff, while senior team managers Greg Keown, Brent Menke and Monte Ritchie will also be recognized for their contributions to the Husker basketball program.
McCray has overcome several injuries to play some of the best basketball of his career in 2011-12. He comes into the matchup with Iowa ranking second on the team in both scoring (9.8 ppg) and rebounding (4.5 rpg) and has been in double figures 13 times. After serving as a backup in his first two seasons at Nebraska, he ranked among the Big 12 leaders in 3-point percentage and steals as a junior and scored a career-high 23 points at Baylor.
Richardson has been a regular in the lineup for the past four seasons and is expected to make his 70th career start on Wednesday. He has played 116 games in his Husker career and ranks in the top 10 in school history in career steals (141, ninth) and free throw percentage (82.5, third). This season, Richardson ranks in the top 10 in the Big Ten in steals (1.9, third) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8, sixth). He had a career-high 25 points, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, in the Huskers' first matchup with Iowa on Jan. 26.
Spencer has made the most of his season at Nebraska after transferring from LSU, ranking among the Big Ten leaders in scoring (15.1 ppg), assists (3.4 apg) and 3-pointers per game (1.9). He has seven 20-point games this season, including a career-high 29 points against Creighton, while his scoring average is the highest by a Husker guard since the 2004-05 season.
Walker has been a starter in the Husker lineup in both of his seasons at Nebraska after coming from Butler Community College. As a junior, he led Nebraska in rebounding (4.5 rpg), including three games with at least 10 rebounds. This season, he has started 26 games and is 6.6 points per game. He has been in double figures six times, including a career high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting against Rhode Island. The Huskers are 5-1 in games when he reaches double figures.
Final Pinnacle Bank Arena Showing Set for Wednesday
Husker basketball fans will have an opportunity to see the new model of Pinnacle Bank Arena, as the last of four public showing will take place on Wednesday, Feb, 29, prior to the Huskers' game with Iowa.
Fans that have tickets to Wednesday's Nebraska-Iowa basketball game can see the model, which will be located in the main lobby of the Hendricks Training Complex, and learn more about seating in the new facility, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. Members of the Nebraska Athletic Department administration, including the Athletic Ticket Office and Huskers Athletic Fund staffs, will be on hand to assist with fans' questions on seating locations in the new facility.
The showing will begin at 6 p.m., as the Devaney Center doors will open two hours prior to tipoff instead of 90 minutes prior to tipoff.
Husker Quick Hits
-Nebraska has played 575 home games since the Huskers' last took on Iowa at the Devaney Center, as Iowa was Nebraska's first game in the facility back in 1976. The 2012-13 season will be the Huskers' final season at the Devaney Center before moving into the Pinnacle Bank Arena downtown.
-Nebraska will play on Leap Day (Feb. 29) for the first time since an 84-70 win over Colorado in 1992. That win is the Huskers' only win on that date, as NU is 1-5 all-time on Feb. 29. NU's only other matchup with a Big Ten team on that day came in 1908 against Minnesota.
-Doc Sadler will be looking for his 150th Division I win against Iowa on Wednesday. Sadler is 149-104 in eight seasons as a Division I coach, including his two-year stint at UTEP.
-Nebraska will be seeking its 1,400th win in program history on Wednesday. The Huskers are 1,399-1,238 all-time heading into the Iowa contest.
-The Huskers are 3-0 in Big Ten play when scoring at least 70 points at home, including a conference-high 80 points against Illinois on Feb. 18.
-Brandon Richardson is posting a 2.36-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over Nebraska's last eight games, a stretch where he is averaging 4.3 assists along with 10.0 points per game. He has five or more assists nine times in Big Ten play after totaling two during his first three years of conference action.
-Richardson enters the final week of the regular season needing 13 steals to move into 10th place on Nebraska's single-season list, while his 50 steals ties for 10th all-time among Husker seniors.
-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 68 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 50 percent shooting and 2.4 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last five contests. He had four points and a team-high five rebounds at Michigan State on Saturday, marking the third time in Sadler's six seasons a walk-on has led the Huskers in rebounding (Paul Velander-7, vs. Savannah State, 1/3/07; Drake Beranek-5 at Kansas State, 2/2/11)
Huskers Look to Generate Offense
For the 2011-12 Huskers, the key to success has been at the offensive end. Nebraska enters Wednesday's game against Iowa with an 11-5 record when scoring at least 60 points, but is just 1-10 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 11 of their 12 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 75.4 percent rate leads the Big Ten and ranks 20th 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 20 of 27 contests and 80 percent or better 11 times this season.
Four Huskers are shooting over 80 percent from the line this season: Bo Spencer (88.0 percent); Brandon Richardson (81.7); Brandon Ubel (81.6); 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 11.1 in the Huskers' 15 losses, including eight times in the last two games.
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 15.1 points per game, while also adding 3.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game while leading the Big Ten in free throw percentage (88.0). Spencer has been an iron man for the Huskers, averaging 32.7 minutes per game as only one Husker has averaged more minutes in the last decade (Charles Richardson, 36.3 minutes per game in 2006-07).
Spencer's 15.1 ppg is on pace to be the highest scoring average by a Husker guard since the 2004-05 season (Joe McCray, 15.5 ppg). He reached double figures a team-high 21 times, including seven 20-point performances, which is the most by any Husker in five years. His latest 20-point effort came on Feb. 18 against Illinois when he had 27 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers. It was his third 20-point effort in Big Ten action, as he had 24 at Northwestern on Feb. 2 and 23 in the win over No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18.
Spencer got off to a slow start in Big Ten play, averaging 10.0 points per game while shooting 26 percent in NU's first three games, but had rebounded to average 16.7 points per game over the next 12 contests before being restricted to 17 minutes at Michigan State because of an ankle injury. Prior to the Michigan State game when he was held to a season-low two points, he had averaged 18.0 points per game on 54 percent shooting over the previous six games.
He 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. 27)
John Shurna, Northwestern
Brandon Wood, Michigan State*
Bo Spencer, Nebraska*
William Buford, Ohio State
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
*-includes previous school
Bo Looks to Bounce Back vs. Iowa After being held to two points at Michigan State, Bo Spencer looks to bounce back against Iowa on Wednesday. If recent history is any indication, a bounce back performance is likely. In the five games following his single-figure efforts this season, Spencer has averaged 20.4 points per game. His most recent performance was a 27-point effort against Illinois on Feb. 18. It was one of three 20-point efforts, as he had 22 points at USC and at TCU. Most importantly, NU is 4-1 on those contests. Spencer has been held to single figures in consecutive games one time dating back to his final season at LSU.
McCray Makes Most of Starting Role Fifth-year senior Toney McCray has overcome a pair of injuries to play some of the best basketball of his career in 2011-12. The 6-foot-6 senior was hampered by surgery on his feet over the summer and a toe injury in October, but has rebounded to enjoy a solid senior year. He is setting career highs in both scoring (9.5 ppg), rebounding (4.4 rpg) while shooting 45 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.
McCray looks to break out of a mini slump, averaging 6.4 points per game in the last five games after averaging 12.4 points per game in the previous 13 contests. He was held to three points in just 17 minutes before fouling out at Michigan State on Saturday.
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, as Nebraska has used a smaller 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.
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 7.5 points, 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, while he leads Nebraska and ranks third in the Big Ten in steals (1.9 per game).
Richardson enters this week's action in second place among active Big Ten players in career steals with 141, 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 nine of Nebraska's 16 league games, including three steals in Nebraska's upset of No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 11.
Richardson has become more of an offensive force in recent weeks, averaging 10.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 4.1 assists per game in Nebraska's last eight games. He is 14-of-24 from 3-point range in that span and is now seventh in Big Ten league action, hitting at 45 percent from long distance. He was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc at Purdue last Wednesday before adding six points and five assists in Saturday's loss at No. 6 Michigan State. He began his hot streak at Iowa on Jan. 26, totaling a career-high 25 points, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, and added a season-high six rebounds and five assists.
Richardson now has 788 career points and is 12 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 82.5 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.
Talley is Huskers' Scoring Sixth Man Junior college transfer Dylan Talley has provided the Huskers with a boost off the bench in his first season at Nebraska, and comes into Saturday's game ranked third on the team in scoring at 9.1 points per game, while also chipping in 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He is hitting 37 percent from 3-point range and 81.0 percent from the foul line.
Talley leads all Big Ten reserves in scoring and has been in double figures nine times in his first year at Nebraska. He was slowed by a thigh injury which sidelined him for five games before returning to action against Illinois on Jan. 7. Talley has regained his early-season form, averaging 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in Nebraska's last 12 contests. More importantly, he has been best in late-game situations, scoring 63 percent of his points in the second half over the last 12 games dating back to Jan, 15.
He has been in double figures four times since his return to the lineup, including his best effort of the year against No. 11 Indiana on Jan. 18. In that game, he had 10 points, including eight in the final 5:19, as Nebraska came back from 11 points down, and also matched his career high with nine rebounds and added two blocks. Talley finished with 13 points at Northwestern hitting 5-of-7 shots from the floor and led the Huskers with 12 points at Penn State.
Talley has shown the knack for the heroics, hitting a game-winning basket with 10.4 seconds remaining against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 7, as part of a 14-point effort. The 6-foot-5 guard reached double figures in three straight games earlier this season, including a season-high 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals against Oregon on Nov. 23.
Talley's adjustment may have been helped by the Division I experience he had when playing at Binghamton (N.Y.) University in 2009-10. That season, he was the America East Rookie of the Year and averaged 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Last year, he was an honorable-mention All-American at Blinn (Texas) College, ranking sixth in the NJCAA in scoring at 23.0 points per game while also chipping in 5.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Ubel 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 18 games at center since Jorge Brian Diaz suffered a foot injury in early December.
On the season, he is averaging 6.3 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds per game, ranking 14th in the league in rebounds. His rebounding total is on pace to be the best by a Husker in the last four seasons. Ubel is second in the Big Ten on the offensive glass, grabbing 2.5 rebounds per game, and has 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. He comes off his best offensive game in Big Ten action on Saturday at No. 6 Michigan State, totaling 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor.
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 nine of the Huskers' 16 Big Ten games because of foot injuries, while backup center Andre Almeida has not played at all this season because of a knee injury suffered last March. In 2010-11, the duo combined for 15.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, and Diaz was on pace for career highs in all three categories before he was originally sidelined in early December. In addition, Dylan Talley missed the Huskers' first three games of Big Ten play with a thigh injury. Both Talley and Diaz were back for a seven-game stretch when the Huskers went 3-4 with two of the losses being decided on the road (at Illinois and at Wisconsin) in the final 30 seconds. Diaz re-aggravated the injury prior to the Minnesota game on Feb. 5 and has missed the last six games.
The absence of Diaz on the inside has not only altered the Huskers' rotation, but also took away a vital part of Nebraska's attack. In league play, NU averaged 62 points per game and shot 44 percent with Diaz in the lineup, while averaging 52.4 points on 40 percent in the nine contests Diaz missed with injuries, going 1-8 in that span.
Big Ten Play with Diaz
Big Ten Play Without Diaz
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 five of the last six 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. Fox had four points and a career-high five rebounds in 28 minutes in Saturday's loss at No. 6 Michigan State.
In addition, Christopher Niemann will see additional action, as he has averaged almost seven minutes per game in the last five games after playing a total of six minutes in the previous seven contests.
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.
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.
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 4-12 in the nation's top league according to the RPI, the Huskers have been tested in a league that features five nationally ranked teams as well as seven 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. Nebraska has never had a losing season in 36 years at the Devaney Center, while the seven home losses are the most since the Devaney Center opened during the 1976-77 season.
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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