Nebraska MBB: Huskers Begin Two-Game Homestand With Rutgers

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Game #15 vs. Rutgers
Date: Thursday, Jan. 8
Time: 8:05 p.m. (CT)
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Capacity: 15,000

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2014-15 Record: 8-6, 0-2 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 42-37 (Third year)
Career Record: 325-257 (20th year)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2014-15 Record: 9-6, 1-1 Big Ten
Head coach: Eddie Jordan
Record at Rutgers: 21-27 (Second year)
Career Record: Same

Broadcast Information
Television: ESPNU
Announcers: Adam Amin and Craig Robinson
Online: WatchESPN.com

Radio: IMG Husker Sports Radio Network, including KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln, KFAB (1110 AM) in Omaha and KRVN (880 AM) in Lexington. Also available online at Huskers.com, on the Huskers App and on TuneIn Radio and the TuneIn Radio App.
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Expert Analysis: Matt Davison

Satellite Radio: Sirius (84), XM (84)

Live Stats: Huskers.com

Huskers Begin Two-Game Homestand With Rutgers Thursday Night
The Nebraska men’s basketball team returns to action Thursday night, as the Huskers hosts Big Ten newcomer Rutgers at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tipoff for Thursday’s matchup between the Huskers and Scarlet Knights is set for 8:05 p.m. and the game will be nationally televised on ESPNU with Adam Amin and Craig Robinson on the call. The game is also available online and on mobile devices on the WatchESPN app.

The game will be broadcast across the state of Nebraska on the IMG Husker Sports Radio Network, including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln, 1110 KFAB in Omaha and KRVN 880 AM in Lexington with Kent Pavelka calling the action and Matt Davison adding color commentary. The game can be heard for free on Huskers.com and available on the Huskers’ app on iOS or android devices, as well as on TuneIn Radio and on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

A limited number of tickets for Thursday’s game, ranging from $10 (300 Level) to $30 (100 Level) are available on Huskers.com or at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Ticket Office beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

The Huskers (8-6, 0-2 Big Ten) look to avoid an 0-3 conference start after falling at Iowa, 70-59, on Monday night in Iowa City. Junior forward Shavon Shields led Nebraska with 25 points and six rebounds, but Iowa went 31-of-38 from the foul line, including 9-of-11 in the final 2:38 to pull away in the final minute.

Shields has become one of the Big Ten’s most consistent scorers this season and is averaging 22.3 points per game over the last three contests. Entering Wednesday’s action, Shields leads the Big Ten in scoring in conference play at 22.5 points per game. He combines with All-American candidate Terran Petteway to give the Huskers a pair of high-scoring wings.

Thursday’s matchup features a pair of teams who defend well. Nebraska is holding opponents to 38.7 percent shooting this season, including 29 percent from 3-point range, while Rutgers has limited teams to 38.9 percent shooting, including just 30 percent from 3-point range. Nebraska has limited four of its last five teams to under 40 percent shooting, while Rutgers (9-6, 1-1 Big Ten) is allowing a Big Ten-low 48.5 points per game in Big Ten play.

Thursday’s contest continues a busy week for the Huskers, as they are in the middle of playing three games in a seven-day stretch. After Sunday’s home game with Illinois, they play only once until Jan. 20. The game with Rutgers also begins a stretch where four of the next five are at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Numbers 2 Know
.800 – Nebraska is 8-2 in Big Ten home games at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Both losses have come in the conference home opener for the Big Red.

1.9 – Steals per game by Benny Parker this year, which is on pace to be the most by a Husker since Cookie Belcher averaged 2.7 steals per game in 2001-02.

3 – Number of OT games that Nebraska has played this season, posting a 2-1 record. Prior to this year, NU had not played an overtime game since the 2011-12 season.

7 – Nebraska’s last three home games have been decided by a total of seven points.

8 – Nebraska has held seven of its first 14 opponents under 40 percent shooting, including five of the last six foes.

68 – Points that Terran Petteway needs to reach 1,000 for his career as he has 932 career points, including 88 as a freshman at Texas Tech in 2011-12.

Scouting Rutgers
Rutgers enters Thursday’s game with a 9-6 record following a 50-46 win over Penn State last Saturday evening. In that game, Rutgers held Penn State to 29 percent shooting and limited D.J. Newbill, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, to just 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting. Kadeem Jack paced the Scarlet Knights with 12 points and 11 boards, while Myles Mack added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Second-year head coach Eddie Jordan was one of the greatest players in program history, helping Rutgers to a Final Four in 1976. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in both assists (585) and steals (220) and was an honorable-mention All-American in 1977. Jordan, who was a former assistant at Rutgers and Boston College, did most of his coaching in the NBA, and coached nine years in the league with stints in Sacramento (1996-98), Washington (2003-09) and Philadelphia (2009-10).

The Scarlet Knights, who are in their third conference in as many years, have been up and down at times this season, posting non-conference wins over Vanderbilt and Clemson while losing to St. Peters and St. Francis (Pa.) among others. Rutgers has struggled from the floor, shooting just 38 percent as a team, including 29.5 percent from long range. In Big Ten play, Rutgers has been stout, allowing a conference-best 48.5 points per game, while holding teams to 33 percent shooting.

Senior guard Myles Mack is one of the Big Ten’s top guards, averaging 13.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Kadeem Jack joins Mack in double figures with 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while Junior Etou paces Rutgers with 6.9 boards per outing.

Nebraska-Rutgers Series History
Thursday’s matchup will be the fourth all-time meeting with the Scarlet Knights and the first Big Ten meeting between the programs. Rutgers leads the all-time series, 2-1, as the two teams split a home-and-home series in 2006 and 2007, including a 63-51 win at the Devaney Center on Dec. 9, 2006. The only other meeting was a 19-point Scarlet Knight win at the 1999 Hoop and Quill Classic in St. Charles, Mo.

Last Time Out
Despite 25 points from Shavon Shields, the Huskers fell at Iowa, 70-59, Monday night in Iowa City.

Shields was brilliant, posting his third straight 20-point game and sixth of the season with his 25-point effort in a losing cause for the Huskers. Terran Petteway joined Shields in double figures with 11 points and six rebounds despite battling through a shin bruise for most of the contest.

Aaron White led three Hawkeyes (11-4, 2-0 Big Ten) in double figures with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Gabriel Osaseni and Jarrod Uthoff added 18 and 15 points, respectively.

Nebraska overcame a seven-point halftime deficit and took a 51-50 lead after a pair of Shields’ free throws with 8:09 left, but Iowa went on an 11-3 spurt to regain the lead for good. The Hawkeyes, who were 2-of-14 from 3-point range until the run, hit three straight trifectas in the surge.

Nebraska would pull to within 61-57 after a pair of Shields free throws with 2:47 left, but Iowa was solid from the line down the stretch, hitting 9-of-11 from the line in the final 2:30 to seal the win. Iowa won the game at the foul line, hitting 31-of-38 from the charity stripe to overcome shooting 39 percent, while Nebraska went just 13-of-21 from the line.

Notes from the Iowa Game

  • Nebraska held Iowa to 38.6 percent shooting, the eighth time in 14 games the Huskers have held the opponent under 40 percent.
  • Shavon Shields posted his third straight 20-point game with a game-high 25 points. Shields now has six 20-point efforts this season and 11 in his career.
  • Terran Petteway reached double figures for the 25th straight game with 11 points. It is now the longest stretch since Tyronn Lue had 36 straight games in double figures spanning the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
  • Nebraska had 10 or fewer turnovers for the second straight game.
  • Iowa’s free throws (31) and attempts (38) were season highs for a Husker opponent.

Worth Noting

  • Thursday’s matchup is the only game of the season between the Huskers and Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights are one of the Huskers’ single-play opponents.
  • Not only have the Huskers led in the second half in all six losses, but Nebraska has been within one possession in the final two minutes of regulation or in OT in five of the six games. The Iowa game was the only time NU has not led or been within three points in the final two minutes, as Nebraska trailed by five with 2:00 left.
  • Nebraska has had only two letterwinners from the state of New Jersey in program history, the most recent was Dylan Talley, who played at Nebraska during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. He is currently playing professionally in the Czech Republic, averaging 18.4 points and 5.4 points per game this season.
  • Freshman Tarin Smith is from Ocean Township, N.J. and is the only Husker newcomer to play in every game this season. Smith has been solid off the bench over the past two weeks, averaging 5.0 points per game on 56 percent shooting over the Huskers’ last five games.
  • Senior center Moses Abraham is the only current Husker who has faced Rutgers, as he played against the Scarlet Knights twice during the 2012-13 season when he was at Georgetown. Abraham, who went by Moses Ayegba at the time, had four points and seven rebounds in the most recent matchup on March 3, 2013.
  • Nebraska injuries in the front court have reduced the Huskers’ depth, as NU got just eight points in 40 minutes from its bench at Iowa on Monday night. Since Moses Abraham suffered a broken hand on Dec. 9, NU’s bench has reached double figures only once in the last seven games.
  • Nebraska has done a nice job of converting opponents’ mistakes, averaging 15.1 points per game off opponent turnovers. Nebraska was held to nine points – matching its lowest total of the year – in Monday’s loss to Iowa.
  • As juniors Shavon Shields (900) and Terran Petteway (844) climb toward 1,000 career points, it could mark the fifth time in school history when Nebraska has a pair of players reach 1,000 points in the same season (1967-68-Stuart Lantz and Tom Baack; 1978-79-Carl McPipe and Brian Banks; 1990-91-Rich King and Clifford Scales; 1998-99; Cookie Belcher and Venson Hamilton). Nebraska’s last 1,000-point scorer was Ryan Anderson during the 2009-10 season.
  • Nebraska has had seven double-figure runs during the season, including a 10-0 spurt in overtime against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 22.
  • The Huskers are getting to the foul line as well as any team in the Big Ten, ranking third in free throw attempts per game at 23.0 per outing. NU trails only Maryland (25.7) and Purdue (24.7) in attempts from the foul line. NU is also converting, hitting 72.7 percent from the line to rank fifth in the Big Ten. The 72.7 percent would rank as the Huskers’ second-highest effort in the last two decades, trailing only the school-record 76.7 percent during the 2011-12 season.

Petteway and Shields Carry Husker Attack
NU features two of the Big Ten’s most dynamic wing players in juniors Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. The pair has been a prolific scoring duo, combining for 36.8 points per game and ranking among the Big Ten’s top four scorers entering Thursday’s game with Rutgers.

  • Only six schools have two players combining for at least 36 points per game this season, and Nebraska’s duo is fifth nationally and leads all power conference duos.
  • In Nebraska’s 119-year history, only five duos have combined to average more than 36 points per game for a season and nine since the 1983-84 season.

Defense Keys Husker Turnaround
One of the keys to Nebraska’s success the last two seasons has been an emphasis on improved defense. Last year’s midseason turnaround was keyed on the defensive end, as a team that was last in field goal defense entering Big Ten play finished second in the conference in field goal percentage.

This year, Nebraska has been solid defensively while missing its two top interior defenders for long stretches this year. In 2014-15, the Huskers got off to a strong start, holding their first six opponents to 38 percent shooting from the floor, but Creighton and Incarnate Word have combined to shoot 47 percent over a two-game stretch. Nebraska regrouped since the loss to Incarnate Word, holding its last five opponents to a combined 36.5 percent shooting and just 60.2 points per game. NU is now up to 25th nationally in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com entering its game with Rutgers.

  • Under Miles, NU is 27-9 over the past three seasons when holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting.
  • Nebraska is 8-2 this season when holding opponents to under a point per possession and 0-4 when an opponent is above the mark.
  • Nebraska held Loyola Marymount to 42 points on 28 percent shooting in the overtime win on Dec. 23. It was the lowest points and field goal defense under Miles at NU and the best by a Husker defense since 2010-11.
  • The Huskers held Indiana to a then-season-low 70 points in the loss on Dec. 31, 16 points under the Hoosiers’ average.

Petteway Leads Husker Returnees
Junior wing Terran Petteway entered the season as one of the best players in the country and has played at a high level for the Huskers this season. The 6-foot-6 junior has raised his numbers across the board from his sophomore season, as he averages 18.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest. Is is second in the Big Ten in scoring and ranks among the Big Ten leaders in rebounding (18th) and blocked shots (13th).

  • Petteway is one of only eight players in the country averaging at least 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2014-15.
  • Petteway has seven 20-point games in 2014-15, including a season-high 25 points against both Northern Kentucky and at Florida State, and now has 19 career games at NU with 20 or more points following his 23-point effort against Indiana on Dec. 31.
  • Petteway has been in double figures in 25 consecutive games dating back to last year and 44 of 46 career games at Nebraska. That streak is the longest streak for a Husker since 1998 NBA first-round pick Tyronn Lue posted 36 consecutive double-figure efforts spanning the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
  • He leads the Huskers with two double-doubles (20 points, 12 rebounds vs. Omaha; 22 points, 10 rebounds vs. Ohio) and has four double-doubles in his NU career.
  • With 844 points over the last two years at Nebraska, his career scoring average of 18.3 points per game is second only to Dave Hoppen (19.5 ppg).
  • Petteway looks to become the first player since Ohio State’s Evan Turner (2009-10) to lead the Big Ten in scoring in consecutive seasons. Over the last 30 years, only three players – Turner, Purdue’s Glenn Robinson (1993-94) and Michigan’s Glen Rice (1988-89) – have accomplished the feat.
  • On Nov. 16, he was chosen for the Wooden Award Men’s Preseason Top 50. Chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball experts, the list is comprised of 50 student-athletes who are the early front-runners for the sport’s most prestigious honor. Petteway is the first Husker on the list since Aleks Maric in the 2007-08 season. He is also a candidate for the Naismith Trophy and on the Oscar Robertson and Lute Olson Player of the Year watch lists.
  • Petteway had 18 points along with a career-best eight assists against Tennessee-Martin, which was the most by a Husker since the 2011-12 season.

He is bidding to become the first Husker to earn All-America honors since Carl McPipe during the 1977-78 season.

Last season, Petteway became the first player to earn unanimous first-team all-conference honors since Venson Hamilton in 1999, and also earned first-team all-district honors by the NABC (coaches) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (writers). Petteway finished Big Ten play as the conference scoring leader, averaging 18.6 points per game. He became the fifth Husker in the last century to lead a conference in scoring in conference games and first since former Big Eight Player of the Year Andre Smith in 1980-81. He also led the conference at 18.1 points per game in all games and became the first Husker since 1950 (first year the Big Seven Conference kept records) to ever lead the league in scoring for all games.

Shields Keys Husker Attack
While Petteway was one of the best players in the Big Ten last season, Shavon Shields may have been more of the most underrated players in the conference in 2013-14. The 6-foot-7 wing started all 32 games and averaged 12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game to earn honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media. As a sophomore, Shields was second on the team in scoring and led Nebraska in rebounding.
This season, Shields has continued his emergence, averaging 17.9 points on 48 percent shooting and 6.9 rebounds per game heading into Thursday’s game vs. Rutgers. Shields is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring, seventh in free throw percentage (.863) and eighth in rebounding.

  • He is one of four players in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding in the Big Ten.
  • Shields is one of only 15 players in the country averaging at least 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game following Thursday’s game.
  • His 86.3 percent from the line is not only 14 percent better than his sophomore season, but would rank eighth in school history.
  • Shields already has six 20-point games this season, which already topped his entire career total entering the 2014-15 season, following his 25-point effort at Iowa on Jan. 5.
  • His 35-point effort against Omaha on Nov. 22 tied for the most in a Big Ten game this year and ties for 10th in school history. In that game, Shields went 12-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range.
  • With his 35-point game against UNO, he became one of only 14 players in school history – including Petteway – with multiple 30-point games in school history. Shields scored 33 points against Illinois on Feb. 14, 2014.
  • Collected his fourth career double-double against Central Arkansas with 16 points – all in the first half – and 11 rebounds while dishing out four assists. He also nearly had a double-double at Rhode Island with 25 points and nine rebounds.
  • Scored 18 points on just four field goal attempts, hitting all four shots from the floor while going 10-of-10 from the charity stripe. It was the third time in his career he has gone 10-of-10 or better from the foul line in a game.
  • Shields also excels off the court, carrying close to a 3.8 GPA in biology and was a first-team Academic All-District selection in 2013-14.

Pitchford Poses Problems for Opponents
Walter Pitchford became one of the focal points to the Huskers’ attack in Big Ten play last season. The 6-foot-10, 237-pounder is one of the toughest matchups in college basketball, as he is a skilled shooter who hit 41 percent from 3-point range. Last season, Pitchford averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while starting 31 games.

An outstanding athlete with a 42-inch vertical leap, Pitchford played some of his best basketball of the season over the Huskers’ second-half surge, averaging 11.0 points per game on 53 percent shooting over the last 14 games. Pitchford reached double figures 11 times in that stretch including a career-high 18-point effort along with five rebounds and a pair of steals in a win at No. 9 Michigan State on Feb. 16.

Pitchford, who was averaging just 3.5 points per game on 21 percent shooting in his first four games, has been playing basketball over the last six weeks, averaging 9.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game over the last 10 contests. The junior set personal bests in both points (19) and 3-pointers (six) against Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 28, and has improved his rebounding in Moses Abraham’s absence, averaging nearly seven rebounds a game over NU’s last six contests. He played his most complete game of the year against Cincinnati on Dec. 13 with nine points and a season-high 10 rebounds, while playing 48 minutes – the most minutes in a game by a Husker in more than a decade – and followed up with his first double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 boards against Hawaii. He has grabbed at least five rebounds in each of the last six contests dating back to the win over Cincinnati on Dec. 13.