Nebraska MBB: Huskers Face UCF in AdvoCare Invitational Opener

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Posted By: Sports

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Courtesy: UNL Media Relations

Preview with Video and Audio, as well as Coach Miles’ Press Conference

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GAME 5: vs. UCF
ADVOCARE INVITATIONAL

Date: Thursday, Nov. 23
Time: 5:01 p.m. (CT)
Arena: HP Field House

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
2017-18 Record: 3-1, 0-0 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 78-87 (6th year)
Career Record: 361-307 (23rd year)

UCF KNIGHTS
2017-18 Record: 3-0, 0-0 AAC
Head coach: Johnny Dawkins
Record at UCF: 27-12 (2nd year)
Career Record: 183-127 (10th year)

BROADCAST INFO
Television: None
Internet Video: ESPN3 | ESPN app
Play-by-play: Jon Sciambi Analysis: Fran Fraschilla

Radio: Husker Sports Network, including 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln) and 880 AM (Lexington)
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka Analysis: Jake Muhleisen

Online Radio: Available online at Huskers.com, on the Huskers App and on TuneIn Radio and the TuneIn Radio App.

Nebraska looks to build some early season momentum, as the Huskers travel to Florida for the AdvoCare Invitational this week. The tournament takes place at the HP Fieldhouse begins on Thursday, as the Huskers take on UCF at 5 p.m. (CT) in an opening-round game.

Fans can watch the action online as Thursday’s game will be carried on ESPN3 and the ESPN app on mobile devices, including Apple TV, with Jon Sciambi and Fran Fraschilla on the call.

Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, on the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and on the TuneIn Radio app. The radio broadcast begins one hour prior to tipoff.

The Huskers (3-1) put together their best offensive performance of the season in a 92-70 win over North Dakota Sunday afternoon. Nebraska shot 53 percent from the field and had four players in double figures. Junior forward Isaac Copeland broke out of an early-season slump in a big way with a game-high 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the field. Copeland, who grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, had scored just 21 points in the Huskers’ first three contests. Copeland, who had missed a good portion of the offseason following back surgery last winter, is one of six Huskers averaging double figures as he is at 12.8 points per game.

Senior Anton Gill also enjoyed a breakout performance, scoring a carer high 16 points, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, in just his second game back from groin and knee injuries. Gill and Copeland combined on seven of the Huskers’ eight 3-pointers against North Dakota, as NU had struggled from beyond the arc in the first three games.

The Huskers will need strong shooting against a UCF squad that is 3-0 on the season, including an 11-point win over William and Mary on Saturday. The Knights, who won 24 games en route to reaching the NIT semifinals, have battled injuries early in the season, but regained the services of junior center Tacko Fall over the weekend. The 7-foot-6 center had 13 points and seven rebounds in just 15 minutes of action in his 2017-18 debut. Fall hit all five of his shots from the field, and is a career 73 percent shooter from the field.

Depending on Thursday’s result, the Huskers will face either No. 23 West Virginia or Marist on Friday. The second semifinal is at 4 p.m. (CT) while the consolation game is set for 6:30 p.m.

OPENING NUMBER
6 – Isaac Copeland’s 30-point performance against North Dakota marked the sixth different player with a 30-point game under Tim Miles. From 1999-2012, Aleks Maric was the only Husker to have a 30-point game.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
.900 – Under Tim Miles, Nebraska is 18-2 when recording 15 or more assists in a game. The Huskers dished out 20 assists in the win over North Dakota on Sunday.

4 – Under Tim Miles, the Huskers are a perfect 4-0 on holidays, including an 80-78 win over Dayton last Thanksgiving. Three of the four opponents went to the NCAA Tournament in those respective years.

Date Holiday Opponent Result
1/20/14 MLK Day No. 18 Ohio State W, 68-62
12/25/15 Christmas vs. Ohio W, 71-58
11/24/16 Thanksgiving vs. Dayton W, 80-78
1/1/17 New Year’s Day at Maryland W, 67-65

7.0 – Nebraska is averaging 7.0 blocks per game to rank third in the Big Ten and in the 12th nationally. Last year, NU averaged just 3.7 blocked shots per game. The Huskers have blocked five or more shots in all four games this season.

31.5 – Nebraska has averaged 31.5 free throw attempts per game in its first four contests. Last year, the Huskers averaged just 18.3 free throws per contest.

SCOUTING UCF
Second-year coach Johnny Dawkins has UCF coming to the AdvoCare Invitational with a 3-0 mark following wins over Mercer (88-79), Gardner-Webb (68-65) and William and Mary (75-64). The Knights return three starters from a team that won 24 games and reached the semifinals of the 2017 NIT. UCF has battled injuries, as projected starters B.J. Taylor (17.4 ppg and 3.5 apg in 2016-17) and Aubrey Dawkins (Michigan transfer) are out of action. In addition, Tacko Fall missed UCF’s first two games with a hip injury before returning on Saturday. Fall was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17, blocking 94 shots while averaging 10.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. UCF led the nation in defensive field goal percentage in 2016-17, as opponents shot just 36.5 percent from the floor and averaged 61.2 points per game. Senior A.J. Davis is averaging a double-double with 13.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game and is the son of former NBA star Antonio Davis.

Series History: Thursday’s matchup is the first meeting on the basketball court between the two teams. Nebraska is 17-23 all-time against members of the American Athletic Conference with the last meeting being a 65-61 loss to Cincinnati at the 2015 Barclays Classic.

LAST TIME OUT
Behind a 30-point, eight-rebound performance from Isaac Copeland, the Huskers posted a 92-70 win over North Dakota Sunday afternoon. Copeland went 12-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, as Nebraska (3-1) shot 53 percent from the field and put four players in double figures. He did most of his damage in the first half, totaling 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Glynn Watson Jr., Anton Gill and Isaiah Roby scored in double digits as well to help propel the offense to its highest output since last January. Gill finished with a career-high 16 points, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, while Watson and Roby finished with 13 and 11 markers, respectively.

Nebraska took control from the onset, using an early 11-0 run keyed by Copeland and Watson to take a nine-point lead, as the duo combined for nine Husker points in the run. North Dakota pulled to within 11-5 after a Dale Jones 3-pointer, but Nebraska responded with a 12-2 run to push the lead back to 16 after seven straight Husker points, capped by Gill’s jumper. NU shot 61 percent in the first half and took a 17-point halftime lead.

North Dakota (2-2), which went to the NCAA Tournament last year, cut the 17-point deficit to 55-46 after a Cortez Seales basket with 14:07 left, but the Huskers ran off six straight points, extending the margin 63-48 after a Copeland 3-pointer and led by double figures the rest of the way.

BUILDING BLOCKS
One of the biggest differences between previous seasons and 2017-18 is the Huskers’ interior size and it made a defensive impact in the Huskers’ first four games.

  • Nebraska ranks 12th nationally and third in the Big Ten in blocked shots per game with 7.0 per outing entering the week. While it is very early in the season, NU’s school record for blocks is 6.1 per game set by the 1996-97 team. That team blocked a school-record 202 shots that season.
  • Nebraska has blocked five or more shots in all four games, including nine blocked shots against both Eastern Illinois and North Texas.
  • Nebraska’s nine blocked shots in each of the first two games marked the two highest single-game totals at Nebraska under Tim Miles. Previously, NU’s team high in blocked shots was seven.
  • Both Isaiah Roby (2.5 bpg) and Isaac Copeland (1.8 bpg) are in the top-10 of the Big Ten in blocked shots. The Huskers have not had a player average two blocked shots per game since Kimani Ffriend averaged 2.6 blocks per game in 2000-01.
  • Isaiah Roby’s six blocks against Eastern Illinois was the most by a Husker since the 2005-06 season. In fact, no Husker had totaled five or more blocked shots since the 2011-12 campaign.
  • In the win against North Texas, Isaac Copeland established his personal best with four blocked shots while Duby Okeke added three blocks off the bench.
  • Okeke, a grad transfer who set single-season and career blocked shot records at Winthrop, is also averaging 1.5 blocks per game while playing just 41 minutes in NU’s first four contests.

HUSKERS LOOK FOR BALANCE
Tim Miles believes that the 2017-18 Huskers are the deepest roster he has enjoyed in his six-year tenure. With 10 players averaging at least 9.5 minutes per outing, Miles has relied the Huskers’ depth early on. While Nebraska has had at least one player in the top five in scoring in the Big Ten the last four seasons, the 2017-18 squad comes to Orlando with six players averaging between 10.3 and 13.5 points per game and no player currently among the top 20 in the Big Ten in scoring.

  • The Huskers currently have six players averaging double figures through the first four contests. Under Miles, NU has had three double figure scorers twice in five seasons (2012-13 and 2015-16).
  • Seven Huskers have already reached double figures in scoring in NU’s first four games, including 20-point efforts from Isaac Copeland and Glynn Watson Jr.
  • The last time Nebraska had more than three players average double figures was in 1993-94, when future NBA pros Eric Piatkowski and Erick Strickland highlighted five double-figure scorers for the Big Red.

HUSKERS AT THE ADVOCARE CLASSIC
Nebraska makes its first appearance in the AdvoCare Invitational this week. The AdvoCare Invitational is the fifth ESPN-run event that the Huskers have participated in since 2010 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 2010; Charleston Classic, 2013; Diamond Head Classic, 2014 and Wooden Legacy, 2016). Nebraska’s best finish at any of the ESPN-run events is a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Wooden Legacy.

  • Nebraska’s last trip to Florida was a 70-65 win at Florida State in the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
  • While this is the Huskers’ first in-season tournament in Florida, NU did play in 2000, 2005 and 2006 Orange Bowl Classics, going 2-1 in those contests.
  • NU’s last in-season tournament title was the 2000 San Juan Shootout, when the Huskers downed SMU, 72-70, in the title game. The Huskers’ three wins were decided by a total of four points.
  • This is the third straight NU has faced a local school, as they took on Hawaii in the opening round of the 2014 Diamond Head Classic and lost to UCLA in the 2016 Wooden Legacy semifinals.
  • Nebraska has one Florida native on the roster in senior walk-on Malcolm Laws. The Orlando, Fla., native won three state titles in high school, playing at Lake Highland Prep in 2013 and 2014 and at Winter Park in 2012.

COPELAND BREAKS OUT
For Isaac Copeland, Sunday’s breakout game had nearly been a year in the making. Copeland, who transferred to Nebraska from Georgetown in January, had gotten off to a slow start offensively, averaging 7.0 points on 32 percent shooting in NU’s first three games. Against North Dakota, Copeland eclipsed that total in the first half, hitting eight of his first nine shots to score 19 first-half points as part of his 30-point effort. The performance marked Copeland’s second career 30-point effort, as he scored a career-high 32 points against Marquette during the 2015-16 campaign.

While Copeland’s shot wasn’t falling early, he was making contributions in other ways. The 6-foot-9 forward has led NU in rebounding in each of the past three games. He is second on the team with 7.0 rebounds per game while also ranking second on the team with seven blocked shots

COPELAND TIMELINE
*-Dec. 4: Plays final game at Georgetown, five minutes off the bench against Elon
*-Jan. 9: Arrives at Nebraska for the spring semester after spending two and a half years at Georgetown.
*-Feb. 23: Undergoes back surgery for a herniated disc and was sidelined until August recovering from the injury. Copeland received a medical hardship because of the injury and subsequent surgery
*-Sept. 12: Receives waiver from NCAA declaring him eligible for the start of the season

GILL RETURNS TO ACTION
On this Thanksgiving week, senior guard Anton Gill is thankful to be able to return to the court healthy. After a junior season where he battled a pair of knee injuries, including a ruptured right patella tendon on Christmas night, Gill’s return was delayed by a groin injury that forced him to miss NU’s first two games. The 6-foot-3 guard totaled seven points and a pair of rebounds at St. John’s before putting together his best performance as a Husker against North Dakota. Gill totaled a career-high 16 points off the bench, matching his career bests in 3-pointers (four), field goals (six) and assists (three) in 24 minutes of work.

WATSON KEYS HUSKER ATTACK
Glynn Watson Jr. may be one of the most underrated guards in the Big Ten Conference. Last year, the 6-foot junior averaged 13.0 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game in 2016-17. He is ninth among all Big Ten returnees in scoring and third in steals.

This season, Watson comes into the AdvoCare Invitational averaging 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He opened the season with a game-high 21 points and three assists in the 72-68 win over Eastern Illinois. It was his eighth career 20-point effort. After being held to five points against St. John’s, Watson rebounded with 13 points, five boards and three assists on Sunday.

  • With 750 points entering Thursday’s game, Watson sits in 60th place in NU’s career scoring list and could climb quickly with a strong week. With 25 points this week, Watson could climb from 60th to 52nd while he needs 44 points to move into 50th place.
  • He is on pace to be NU’s 29th 1,000-point scorer later this season and would become NU’s fourth 1,000-point scorer in Tim Miles’ six seasons at Nebraska. He would also be the third Husker from Winchester St. Joseph to reach 1,000 points at Nebraska, joining Carl Hayes (1900-92) and Clifford Scales (1988-91). All three played for legendary coach Gene Pingatore, who is in his 49th season at the school.
  • Watson’s 13.0 points per game was the second-highest returning average by a Husker guard in the last decade, trailing only All-Big Ten performer Terran Petteway’s 18.1 ppg entering the 2014-15 season.
  • Watson had 21 double-figure performances as a sophomore, including a career-high 34 points in a double-OT win over Iowa. His 34-point effort tied for 10th on NU’s single-game scoring list, while his seven 3-pointers was the second-highest single-game total in school history.
  • Last season, he had three games with five steals (vs. Dayton, Clemson and at Indiana) and finished third all-time among Husker sophomores with 50 steals. Only Cookie Belcher (75) and Erick Strickland (60) had more as sophomores.
  • Watson has always been in the clutch, as he shot 40 percent from 3-point range, 85 percent from the foul line and had a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last four minutes and OT last season. In the opener, Watson went 5-of-6 from the foul line in the last four minutes, including four straight in the final 11 seconds to preserve the win.

COPELAND, PALMER TRANSFER INTO HUSKER STARTERS
While Watson is a two-year starter for the Huskers, a pair of transfers add experience and scoring punch. Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. look to continue the success of transfers who have enjoyed success under Miles. Copeland and Palmer look to join Andy Ogide (CSU, 2009), Terran Petteway (NU, 2014) and Andrew White III (NU, 2016), as players who earned all-conference recognition in their first season under Miles.

Copeland 49 games in two-plus seasons at Georgetown, helping the Hoyas to the 2015 NCAA Tournament. In his last full season in 2015-16, Copeland started 33 games, averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. A former top-20 recruit, Copeland was a preseason All-Big East selection last year before he was sidelined with his back injury. This season, Copeland is second on the Huskers in scoring (12.8 ppg), rebounding (7.0 rpg), blocks (1.8 bpg) and third in steals (1.0 spg).

Palmer Jr. has quickly made his mark in his first season of action at Nebraska, averaging 12.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He is second on the team in scoring and paces the team in both assists and steals (1.3 spg). He had a career-high 18 points, including 11 points in NU’s game-opening 25-2 run, against North Texas and has been in double figures three times. In his last season at Miami, Palmer was in double figures just twice in 34 games.
A former top-100 recruit, Palmer played at the University of Miami for two seasons, averaging 3.4 points on the Hurricanes’ Sweet 16 team in 2015-16.

ROBY EMERGES AS STAT STUFFER
After serving as a role player as a freshman, Isaiah Roby spent the summer bulking up to prepare for the rigors of the season. Now, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound sophomore has the strength to match his skillset.

  • He enters this week’s tournament averaging 10.3 points and team-highs in both rebounds (7.5) and blocked shots (2.5) per game.
  • Roby joins Michigan State’s Miles Bridges as the only Big Ten players averaging 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. Only 13 players in Division I have reached those averages in 2017-18.
  • Roby has reached double figures three times in four games after hitting double figures once as a freshman.
  • He opened the year with the best performance of his career, an 11-point, 13-rebounds, six-block performance against Eastern Illinois, setting personal bests in all three categories. His six blocks were the most by a Husker since 2011.
  • Roby had 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in the win over North Dakota.

ROBY COMPARISON
Player MPG PPG FG Pct. RPG BPG APG
Roby (Fr.) 15.2 3.1 .394 2.9 0.8 0.7
Roby (So.) 22.3 10.3 .520 7.5 2.5 2.0

TRANSFERS BRING WINNING BACKGROUNDS
One common trait among Nebraska’s four Division I transfers is postseason experience. Isaac Copeland, Anton Gill, James Palmer Jr., and Duby Okeke have all been parts of NCAA Tournament teams at their respective schools. Gill played on Louisville’s Elite Eight team in 2015, while Palmer helped Miami to an NCAA Sweet 16 berth in 2016.

NCAA EXPERIENCE
Player Previous School Postseason Experience
Isaac Copeland Georgetown NCAA (2015)
Anton Gill Louisville NCAA (2014, 2015)
James Palmer Jr. Miami NCAA (2016); NIT (2015)
Duby Okeke Winthrop NCAA (2017)

LIVING AT THE LINE
One of the axioms that Tim Miles loves to say is "Like the 3, Love the Rim" and Nebraska has shown the ability to get to the line in its first four games. The Huskers lead the Big Ten and rank among the NCAA leaders in getting to the foul line, averaging 31.5 attempts per game.

Nebraska guards Evan Taylor and James Palmer Jr. have been vital cogs in Nebraska’s offensive attack. While Palmer was expected to be a focal point, Taylor’s development has provided a new dimension. A 6-foot-5 senior, Taylor has gotten to the line 26 times in the Huskers’ first four games after getting to the line just 37 times during his first season at Nebraska.