Husker hoops ready to host No. 23 Ohio State

Tipoff is at 8:05 p.m.

From: Nebraska Athletics

The Nebraska men’s basketball returns to Pinnacle Bank Arena Thursday night as the Huskers take on No. 23 Ohio State. Tipoff is at 8:05 p.m. and any returned tickets will go on sale at the Pinnacle Bank Arena box office beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Thursday’s game will be televised on ESPN2 with Jason Benetti and Robbie Hummel on the call. The game with the Buckeyes will also be available on the ESPN app and on ESPN.com with authentication.
Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, the Huskers app and TuneIn radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff.

Thursday’s game is the annual Red Cross night, as volunteers will be collecting cash donations from fans at the PBA entrances prior to Thursday’s game to support disaster relief throughout the heartland.
Nebraska (7-20, 2-14 Big Ten) was short-handed and battled Illinois before falling 71-59 on Monday night. Haanif Cheatham led four Huskers in double figures with 14 points, as Nebraska was down to just eight players because injuries and illness. Nebraska limited Illinois to 39 percent shooting, but allowed 19 offensive rebounds which led to 14 second-chance points for the Fighting Illini.

One encouraging development is the play of freshman Yvan Ouedraogo, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds against Illinois for his second double-double of the season. He joins Ron Taylor (1973-74), Andre Smith (1977-78) and Aleks Maric (2004-05) as the only players in school history with multiple double-doubles as freshmen.  Ouedraogo, who doesn’t turn 18 until after the Big Ten Tournament, has been playing some of his best basketball in the last two weeks, averaging 9.0 points on 62 percent shooting and 7.7 rebounds over the last four games.

Ohio State (18-9, 8-8 Big Ten) comes off an impressive 79-72 win over No. 7 Maryland on Sunday,  snapping the Terrapins’ nine-game win streak. Luther Muhammad had a game-high 22 points to lead five Buckeyes in double figures. The Buckeyes, who have won six of their last eight games, jumped to 23rd in both national polls this week.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Dachon Burke is averaging 14.7 points per game since missing the Huskers’ game at Maryland because of illness. He is shooting 47.2 percent from the field in that stretch and has been in double figures all three contests. His 21-point effort against Michigan State last Thursday was the most points by a Husker reserve since Jack McVeigh had 21 in a win over No. 20 Purdue on Jan. 29, 2017.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
– Yvan Ouedraogo enters the Ohio State game needing three rebounds to tie Aleks Maric’s freshman record of 169 set in 2004-05. Ouedraogo is averaging a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game.

1.27 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio is on pace to rank fifth in school history. The Huskers are currently fourth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, including tied for first in Big Ten action. In addition, NU’s 14.3 assists per game is on pace to be the Huskers’ highest total since the 2006-07 season.

Best Assist-to-Turnover Ratios in School History

No Year Ratio
1. 1984-85 1.81
2. 1985-86 1.64
3. 1983-84 1.34
4. 2018-19 1.32
5. 1981-82 1.29
6. 1979-80 1.28
7. 2019-20 1.27

– Cam Mack is one of just eight players in Division I – and just four in power conferences – averaging at least 12.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game as of Feb. 25. The other power conference players include Tre Jones (Duke), Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State) and Markell Johnson (NC State).

50 – Returning point total from last season, all by Thorir Thorbjarnarson. That is the lowest by any power conference team in the last decade.

SCOUTING OHIO STATE
Under the direction of third-year coach Chris Holtmann, Ohio State comes to Lincoln with an 18-9 mark, including an 8-8 mark in the Big Ten. Holtmann is looking to guide OSU to its third straight NCAA appearance after the Buckeyes won 25 and 20 games in his first two seasons.  Holtmann spent the previous three seasons at Butler, guiding the Bulldogs to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017.

This year’s Buckeyes were one of the best teams in the country in the first two months of the season with wins over Villanova, Cincinnati, Penn State, Kentucky and North Carolina. OSU hit a rough patch in January where the Buckeyes lost four of six games before rebounding over the last month. OSU has won six of its last eight games, highlighted by a 79-72 win over No. 7 Maryland on Sunday.

The Buckeyes are a balanced attack, with six players averaging at least 6.9 points per game. OSU is one of the best shooting teams in the Big Ten, topping the Big Ten in 3-pointers per game (8.7) and 3-point percentage (.379), while ranking second in scoring margin (+9.3). The Buckeyes rank in the top four of the Big Ten in both scoring defense (62.6 ppg) and field goal defense (.392).

Junior center Kaleb Wesson anchors a balanced Buckeye attack with 14.0 ppg and 9.3 rpg. Duane Washington Jr. averages 10.9 points per game and is one of five active Buckeyes shooting at least 36 percent from 3-point range.

SERIES HISTORY
Ohio State leads the all-time series, 17-4, in a series that dates back to 1936. The Buckeyes are 13-2 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten with Nebraska’s wins coming in 2014 (Lincoln) and 2017 (Columbus). Nebraska looks to snap a three-game losing streak to the Buckeyes, while Thursday’s game is the 11th time in the 16 meetings that OSU has been ranked since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.

Last Meeting: The Huskers could not overcome a strong shooting performance from No. 21 Ohio State, as the Huskers fell to the Buckeyes 80-68 on Jan. 14. Ohio State shot 54.5 percent on the night, including 10-of-22 from the 3-point line. CJ Walker, who scored 14 second-half points, paced six Buckeyes in double figures with a game-high 18 points. Kaleb Wesson added a double-double for Ohio State with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Nebraska, which topped the 60-point mark for the first time in seven trips to Value City Arena, fell to 7-10 overall with the loss and dropped to 2-4 in Big Ten play. The Huskers shot 42.4 percent from the field and were 9-of-22 from the 3-point line. NU knocked down eight threes and shot 54.8 percent in the second half. It was a balanced scoring night for the Big Red, as six Huskers had at least nine points. Thorir Thorbjarnarson led Nebraska with 15 points while knocking down a career-high five 3-pointers. He also led NU with six rebounds. Jervay GreenCam Mack and Yvan Ouedraogo each added 10 points for the Huskers, with Mack adding six assists.

LAST TIME OUT
A shorthanded Nebraska team rallied from a double-digit deficit to force a tie game early in the second half, but Illinois responded with an 11-1 run to regain control and defeat the Huskers 71-59 on Monday night at the State Farm Center.

Nebraska trailed by six points at halftime and faced the same deficit three minutes into the second half when senior guard Haanif Cheatam made a free throw and junior guard Thorir Thornbjarnarson scored in the paint. Illinois responded with a layup, but Thornbjarnarson made a 3-pointer and junior guard Jervay Green scored in transition on an assist from Cheatham to force a 46-46 tie with 15:12 remaining.

Illinois (18-9, 10-6) outscored the Huskers by 10 points over the next four minutes to assume control. The Illini went on to lead by as many as 14, while Nebraska drew within no closer than eight.

Nebraska played without sophomore point guard Cam Mack, who remained in Lincoln because of an illness. Without him, the Huskers counted on Cheatmam, who scored 14 points to pace four Nebraska players in double-figure scoring. Dachon Burke Jr. finished with 13 points, Thornbjarnarson scored 11 and freshman center Yvan Ouedraogo had 11 points to go with 10 points for his second double-double this season.

STORYLINES
• Thursday’s game features four of the top five shooters in the Big Ten based on field goal percentage. Nebraska’s Thorir Thorbjarnarson is fifth at 41.7 percent while OSU’s Andre Wesson (44.6, second), Justin Ahrens (42.6, third) and Kaleb Wesson (41.9 fourth) all rank in the top five in the conference entering Tuesday’s action.

• While the Huskers have lost 12 straight entering Thursday’s game, NU Head Coach Fred Hoiberg experienced a similar double-figure losing streak during his first season at Iowa State. That year, the Cyclones were short-handed with four sit-out transfers en route to going 3-13 in the Big 12. The next season, the Cyclones put together the largest turnaround in Big 12 history and went 12-6 on their way to the first of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances under Hoiberg.

• NU’s game against Ohio State, which is 19th in the NET as of Feb. 25, will mark the 10th straight opponent in the top 40 of the NET. In all, 11 of the 14 Big Ten teams are in the top 45 of the NET as of Feb. 25.

• Cam Mack is in fourth place on NU’s single-season assist list with 170 and needs just nine assists to tie Charles Richardson Jr. (179, 2006-07) for third place. Mack and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston are the only Big Ten players in the top five in both assists and steals as of Feb. 22.

• Dachon Burke’s 21-point effort against Michigan State on Feb. 20 marked the Huskers’ 10th 20-point game of the season (Burke-4; Cheatham-3; Mack-2; Green-1).

• Nebraska has 221 3-pointers this year to tie for fifth in school history. The Huskers’ first 3-pointer on Thursday will push the 2019-20 squad into sole possession of fifth on the single-season chart. The Huskers have hit 10-or-more 3-pointers six times this season

• Nebraska enters Thursday’s game leading in the Big Ten in turnover margin with +2.8 per game. The Huskers lead the Big Ten in forcing turnovers (14.1 per game) and fourth in taking care of the basketball (11.3 per game). NU is 26th nationally in fewest turnovers per game as of Feb. 25.  During his tenure at Iowa State, Hoiberg’s teams ranked in the top three in the Big 12 in fewest turnovers per game in four of his five seasons at the school.

• Despite being undersized and having just one player who had played in a Big Ten game entering the season, Nebraska’s play in Big Ten action is starting to resemble the team’s that Coach Hoiberg had at Iowa State, especially with ball movement and limiting turnovers. In Big Ten games only, NU is in the top three in four offensive categories after Monday’s game, including assist-to-turnover ratio and 3-pointers per game.

Categories: Husker Sports, Sports
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