Nebraska MBB: Huskers Host Spartans on #AveryStrong Day

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Game Notes: Links to Video, Radio, Live Stats and Coach Miles’ presser later today (http://www.huskers.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=100&ATCLID=209861290)

Video: Avery Harriman Feature (http://go.unl.edu/averyvideo)

Game #19 Michigan State
Date: Saturday, Jan. 24
Time: 3:10 p.m. (CT)
Arena: Pinnacle Bank Arena
Capacity: 15,000

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2014-15 Record: 11-7, 3-3 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 45-38 (Third year)
Career Record: 328-258 (20th year)

Michigan State Spartans
2014-15 Record: 13-6, 4-2 Big Ten
Head coach: Tom Izzo
Record at Michigan State: 481-193 (20th year)
Career Record: Same

Broadcast Information
Television: ESPN
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich
Online: WatchESPN

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 (113), XM (195)

Live Stats: Huskers.com

Huskers Host Spartans on #AveryStrong Day
The Nebraska men’s basketball team looks for their fourth win in the last five games Saturday afternoon, as the Huskers welcome Michigan State to Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tipoff is set for 3:10 p.m. (central) and is already an advanced sellout, although a handful of returned tickets may be available at the PBA box office when gates open at 1:30 p.m.

Saturday’s game will be nationally televised on ESPN with Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich on the call. Saturday’s 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 37-station 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.

As part of NABC Suits and Sneakers Awareness Week, the Huskers are teaming with the American Cancer Society to promote #AveryStrong Day…Bone Marrow Donor Drive to Fight Cancer! The #AveryStrong movement highlights the fight of Avery Harriman, the son of Husker assistant coach Chris Harriman who has been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Avery has undergone two bone marrow transplants and had no signs of leukemia during his most recent biopsy earlier this month. Fans attending Saturday’s game can learn more about the National Marrow Donor Program and to expand the bone marrow registry.

The Huskers (11-7, 3-3 Big Ten) are coming off a 52-49 win over Minnesota Tuesday night. In that game, Shavon Shields scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and added seven rebounds and three assists. The 6-foot-7 junior forward ranks first or second on the team in scoring (16.4 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and assists (2.3 apg). Nebraska also relied on another strong defensive effort, holding Minnesota to season lows in points and field goal percentage (.308).

Michigan State (13-6, 4-2 Big Ten) comes off a 66-60 victory over Penn State on Wednesday evening when the Spartans had five players finish in double figures. MSU, which is making their first-ever trip to Pinnacle Bank Arena, featured three players averaging in double figures, including Branden Dawson, who averages 11.5 points per game and leads the Big Ten with 9.6 rebounds per game.

Numbers 2 Know
.378 – Field goal defense for the Huskers this year, which is on pace to be the Huskers’ best since the 1960-61 season (.367). That defense leads in the Big Ten entering Saturday’s action.

7.1 – Rebounds per game for Walter Pitchford over NU’s last 10 contests, including a season-high 11 in Tuesday’s win over Minnesota.

47.0 – Average points allowed by the Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena in their last three games (Rutgers, Illinois, Minnesota).

1994 – Nebraska’s last home win against MSU, as the Huskers are 0-2 in Lincoln against the Spartans since joining the Big Ten. NU is 5-4 all-time against the Spartans in Lincoln.

188 – Days it took for Leslee Smith to return to action from a torn left ACL suffered on July 3. Smith had four points, two assists and two rebounds in eight minutes vs. Minnesota Tuesday evening.

Scouting Michigan State
Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans have been one of the flagship programs in the Big Ten. The Spartans have made six Final Fours in the last 16 seasons and made 17 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Izzo, who is in his 20th year at MSU, lost three starters, including a pair of first-round draft picks, from a team which reached the Elite Eight.

This season, Michigan State comes into Saturday’s game with a 13-6 record despite having several players miss time with injuries. MSU is sixth in the Big Ten at 73.4 points per game while leading the conference in 3-point percentage (.398). As is often the case, the Spartans are exceptional on the glass, leading the Big Ten in rebounding margin at +7.6 per game, while ranking second in field goal defense (.383).

The Spartans are led by a trio of veterans in Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Branden Dawson. Valentine leads MSU with 13.8 points per game while averaging 5.8 rebounds and shooting 43 percent from long range. Trice, who is one of the Big Ten’s most improved players, is at 13.6 points and 5.6 assists per game to rank second in the Big Ten. Dawson is at 11.5 points per game while pacing the Big Ten with 9.6 rebounds an outing. In conference action, he is averaging 12.7 points and 11.3 rebounds a game.

NU-Michigan State Series History
Michigan State leads the all-time series, 12-7, that dates back to February of 1920, and has won four of the five meetings since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011-12. Saturday’s matchup will be the first time in 10 meetings dating back to 1989 where NU has not faced a ranked MSU squad.

  • Nebraska won the first two meetings on consecutive days, posting a 43-26 win on Feb. 13, 1920, and a 39-20 win the following day.
  • The teams played six times between 1988 and 1994, splitting the six contests. Nebraska’s three wins in the span came by a total of 11 points.
  • Nebraska’s last win vs. MSU in Lincoln came on Dec. 10, 1994, as the Huskers posted a 96-91 overtime win over the No. 15 Spartans. Nebraska rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 46 seconds of regulation to force overtime, as Tom Wald hit three free throws with one second left. Nebraska took control in overtime, scoring the first seven points and never trailed. Jaron Boone’s 23 points led five Huskers in double figures, while Shawn Respert had 37 points in a losing effort for Michigan State.

Last Meeting
Nebraska 60, Michigan State 51 (Feb. 16, 2014): Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford combined for 41 points, as Nebraska topped No. 9 Michigan State in East Lansing. The win was NU’s first road win over a top-10 team since 1997, and snapped a 21-game losing streak to ranked teams on the road. The Huskers jumped to a 13-4 lead and led 32-25 at the break, as Pitchford had 12 of his then career-high 18 points in the first half. Petteway delivered the big shot after MSU got within 51-49, hitting a contested 3-pointer with 2:32 left to spark a 9-2 run to close the game. Petteway had seven of NU’s nine points in the closing stretch and finished with a game-high 23 points. The Huskers held MSU to 34 percent shooting, including 5-of-24 shooting from 3-point range.

#AveryStrong Day Set for Saturday
As part of the NABC Suits and Sneakers Awareness Week, the Nebraska men’s basketball program is teaming with the American Cancer Society to promote #AveryStrong Day…Bone Marrow Donor Drive to Fight Cancer! Several activities are taking place to help fight cancer and support Avery Harriman, the 7-year-old son of NU assistant Chris Harriman, who has been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia since he was 2-years old.

  • To honor the fight that Avery has gone through, the first 1,500 students at Saturday’s game will receive a special #AveryStrong shirt provided by the Husker Sports Radio Network, turning the Red Zone gold on this special day. Gold is the color of pediatric cancer and orange is the color for leukemia symbolizing Avery’s battle.
  • Avery and other children battling pediatric cancer will be in attendance on Saturday and recognized during pregame ceremonies.
  • Fans between the ages of 18 and 44 can sign up on Saturday to join the bone marrow registry, as volunteers will be on hand to take the test to be a potential bone marrow match. In addition, information will be available to fans about the National Marrow Donor Program.
  • The Husker coaching and support staff will be participating in Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers™ Awareness Week, a collaborative initiative of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and the American Cancer Society, which runs Jan. 19-25, 2015. During this week, more than 4,000 high school and college men’s basketball coaches, including Nebraska head coach Tim Miles and the Nebraska staff, will swap their dress shoes for sneakers for Saturday’s game to demonstrate their support for the American Cancer Society’s efforts to finish the fight against cancer.
  • American Cancer Society volunteers and University of Nebraska students will be on hand passing out information on UNL’s Relay for Life event later this April to raise awareness for the continued fight against cancer.

Worth Noting

  • Saturday’s matchup is the only one of the season between the two teams, and Nebraska will be looking for consecutive wins over Michigan State for the first time since the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
  • Nebraska is 10th nationally in average attendance with an average of 15,488 per game. The Huskers are on track to break its single-season attendance average for the second straight year after averaging 15,419 in 2013-14.
  • There have been 14 overtime games involving Big Ten teams as of Jan. 21, and seven of them have involved Nebraska (three) or Michigan State (four).
  • Nebraska is 23-4 (.851) at home since moving into Pinnacle Bank Arena, including 11-2 (.846) in Big Ten games. Two of the Huskers’ four losses have been by one point.
  • A pair of Huskers will make their 50th career starts on Saturday, as senior David Rivers and junior Walter Pitchford have made 49 starts at NU. Pitchford has started every game but one over the last two seasons, while Rivers, who has started all 18 games this season, was a part-time starter the previous two years. Rivers’ first career start came at Michigan State during his sophomore season, when he scored 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting.
  • Nebraska forward Walter Pitchford attended East Lansing (Mich.) Summit Christian Academy as a postgraduate student in 2010-11, averaging 17.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game. Pitchford hails from Grand Rapids, Mich., although he spent most of his early childhood in Chicago.
  • Nebraska is now 3-1 since getting backup post players Leslee Smith (torn left ACL) and Moses Abraham (broken right hand) back from injuries. In those games, NU is holding opponents to 35 percent shooting and just 52.8 points per game.
  • NU has done a much better job with turnovers in recent games, averaging 10.6 turnovers per game in the last eight contests dating back to Dec. 23, after averaging 15.5 turnovers in the first 10 contests. In Big Ten play, the Huskers are third in the conference at 10.0 turnovers per game, trailing only Wisconsin (6.0) and Michigan (9.6).
  • The Wisconsin game on Jan. 15 was the only time this season where Nebraska did not have a second-half lead. In five of its seven losses, the Huskers have been within one possession in the final two minutes of regulation or in OT, while NU trailed by five points with 2:00 left at Iowa.
  • As juniors Shavon Shields (945) and Terran Petteway (920) 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.

Last Time Out
Shavon Shields scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, while Nebraska withstood a trio of 3-point attempts in the final seconds to hold on for a 52-49 victory over Minnesota Tuesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Shields led the Huskers (11-7, 3-3 Big Ten) with 15 points, including 7-of-11 from the foul line, and added seven rebounds and three steals to lead a pair of Huskers in double figures. Terran Petteway added 11 points and five rebounds, as Nebraska held Minnesota (12-8, 1-6 Big Ten) to just 31 percent shooting, including 29 percent in the second half.

After Benny Parker hit a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left to give the Huskers a 52-49 lead, Minnesota got a good look for Andre Hollins, who led all scorers with 21 points, but he missed the initial shot before Carlos Morris and DeAndre Mathieu missed attempts in the waning seconds, giving Nebraska a three-point win.

The Huskers, who were shaky from the line in the first 34 minutes, were at their best down the stretch, hitting 11 of their final 12 shots from the line, including a perfect 6-of-6 from Parker and 5-of-6 from Shields. In all, NU went 14-of-21 from the line, compared to just 9-of-19 for Minnesota.

Notes from the Minnesota Game

  • Nebraska picked up its third-straight win against Minnesota, matching the Huskers’ longest streak in the series which dates back to 1902. NU also won three straight between 1934 and 1936.
  • Terran Petteway reached double figures for the 29th consecutive game dating back to last season. In addition, he also went over 1,000 career points with his first 3-pointer of the night. Including his season at Texas Tech, Petteway now has 1,008 career points.
  • Walter Pitchford reached double figures in rebounds for the third time this season and fifth of his career. Pitchford finished with a season-high 11 rebounds.
  • Nebraska improves to 14-6 in games decided by five points or less under Tim Miles.
  • Nebraska held Minnesota to season-lows in points (49) and field goal percentage (.308), as the Gophers came into Tuesday’s game averaging 79.0 points per game. The Huskers have now held three of their last four opponents to under 50 points.

Petteway and Shields Carry HuskerAttack
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 during the first half of 2014-15, combining for 35.3 points per game and ranking among the Big Ten’s top seven scorers entering Saturday’s game with Michigan State .

  • Only 14 schools in Division I have two players averaging at least 16 points per game, and of those 14, only three are from major conferences (Nebraska, Arkansas’ Michael Qualls & Bobby Portis and Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte and Le’Bryan Nash). Nebraska’s duo is the only power conference duo averaging at least 35 points per game.
  • In Nebraska’s 119-year history, only five duos have combined to average more than 36 points per game for a season and none since the 1983-84 season.

Hanging Their Hat On Defense
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. The Huskers have been their best since the loss to Incarnate Word on Dec. 10, holding its last nine opponents to a combined 35.8 percent shooting and just 57.2 points per game. NU is now up ninth nationally in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com entering Saturday’s game with Michigan State.

  • Nebraska’s field goal defense is on pace to be the lowest by a Husker defense since the 1960-61 season. In fact, NU has finished a season with a field goal defense under 40 percent one other time in the last 50 years (.389 in 2010-11).
  • The Husker defense ranks 20th nationally in field goal percentage defense and 30th in 3-point defense entering Saturday’s game with Michigan State.
  • Under Miles, NU is 30-9 over the past three seasons when holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting.
  • Nebraska is 11-2 this season when holding opponents to under a point per possession and 0-5 when an opponent is above the mark.
  • Nebraska held Loyola Marymount to 42 points in the overtime win on Dec. 23. It was the lowest point total allowed by the Husker defense since the 2010-11 season.
  • The 49 points scored by Minnesota on Jan. 20, was not only thier lowest total of the season, but 30 points under season scoring average of 78.9 entering the contest. It was also their lowest point total in 31 games dating back to lasr Feb. 22, 2014.
  • The Huskers limited Illinois to 43 points on 27.3 percent shooting. It was the lowest field goal percentage by a Husker defense since 2010 and the lowest against a conference opponent since Kansas State shot 23.4 percent on Jan. 11, 2006.
  • Nebraska held Rutgers (49) and Illinois (43) under 50 points per game in consecutive conference games, the first time that has happened since Feb. 23-25, 1963, (Kansas, Oklahoma State).

Petteway Is Among Nation’s Best
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, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. He is second in the Big Ten in scoring and ranks among the Big Ten leaders in 3-pointers per game (sixth) and blocked shots (13th).

  • } Petteway is one of only 16 players nationally – and one of five from power conferences – averaging at least 18 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2014-15. The others are LaDontae Henton (Providence), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s) and Jahlil Okafor (Duke).
  • } Petteway was one of 25 players selected to the Lute Olson Award mid-season watch list earlier this week.
  • } Petteway has nine 20-point games in 2014-15, including a season-high 27 points at Wisconsin on Jan. 15, and now has 21 career games at NU with 20 or more points.
  • } Petteway has been in double figures in 28 consecutive games dating back to last year and 47 of 49 career games at Nebraska. That streak is the longest streak for a Husker since 1998 NBA first-round pick (and current Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach) Tyronn Lue posted 36 consecutive double-figure efforts spanning the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
  • Petteway’s 18.9 points per game is on pace to be the highest by a Husker since Tyronn Lue averaged 21.2 points per game in 1997-98.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • With 920 points over the last two years at Nebraska, his career scoring average of 18.4 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.
  • He was chosen for the Wooden Award Men’s Preseason Top 50 and was the first Husker on the list since Aleks Maric in the 2007-08 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 16.4 points on 47 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds per game heading into Saturday’s game with Michigan State. He is currently seventh in the Big Ten in scoring, eighth in free throw percentage (.839) and 10th in rebounding.

  • He is one of four players in the Big Ten who ranks in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding.
  • Shields is one of only 15 players in the country averaging at least 16.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game following entering this weekend’s games. He is one of only four players from power conferences on the list, joining Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin), Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) and Tyrone Wallace (Cal).
  • Shields has six 20-point games this season, which already topped his entire career total entering the 2014-15 season, most recently a 25-point effort at Iowa on Jan. 5.
  • His 35-point effort against Omaha on Nov. 22 is the second-highest total in the Big Ten this season and is 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 Terran Petteway – with multiple 30-point games in school history. Shields scored 33 points against Illinois on Feb. 14, 2014.
  • Picked up 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.
  • Shields also excels off the court, carrying a 3.73 GPA in biology and was a first-team Academic All-District selection in 2014. He was also one of 16 national finalists across all of Division I for the 2014 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.

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 a tough matchup, 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.

This season, Pitchford overcame a big slump where he averaged just 3.5 points per game on 21 percent shooting in his first four games. Since then, he is averaging 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The stretch was highlighted by a career-high 19 points, including six 3-pointers, against Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 28. More importanly, Pitchford has done a better job on the glass, averaging seven rebounds per game in the seven games that Moses Abraham was sidelined. Pitchford played his most complete game of the year against Cincinnati on Dec. 13 with nine points and 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. Against Minnesota on Tuesday, Pitchford grabbed a season-high 11 boards in NU’s 52-49 win. He has now grabbed at least five rebounds in nine of the Huskers’ last 10 games.