Nebraska MBB: Huskers Look for Season Sweep of Illinois

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Game #29 at Illinois
Date: Wednesday, March 4
Time: 9:06 p.m. (CT)
Arena: State Farm Center
Capacity: 16,618

Nebraska Cornhuskers
2014-15 Record: 13-16, 5-11 Big Ten
Head coach: Tim Miles
Record at Nebraska: 47-46 (Third year)
Career Record: 330-266 (20th year)

Illinois Fighting Illini
2014-15 Record: 18-11, 8-8 Big Ten
Head coach: John Groce
Record at Illinois: 61-39 (Third year)
Career Record: 146-95 (Seventh year)

Broadcast Information
Television: BTN
Play-by-play: Eric Collins
Expert Analysis: Shon Morris

Online: BTN2Go

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 (Ill Feed): Sirius (135), XM (195)

Live Stats: Huskers.com

Huskers Look for Season Sweep of Illinois

Nebraska begins the month of March on the road, as the Huskers travel to Champaign, Ill., for a matchup with the Fighting Illini Wednesday evening.

Tipoff from the State Farm Center is set for 9:06 p.m. and the contest will be televised nationally on BTN with Eric Collins and Shon Morris on the call. Wednesday’s game is also available online and on mobile devices on the BTN2Go app. It is the third game of a BTN tripleheader on Wednesday.

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 is available on the Huskers’ app on iOS or android devices, as well as on TuneIn Radio and on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

Nebraska (13-15, 5-11 Big Ten) wraps up a stretch where seven of the last 10 games have been away from home. The Huskers had their longest break since the start of Big Ten play, as Nebraska has been off since a 81-57 loss at Ohio State on Thursday evening. In that game, the Buckeyes shot 54 percent, including 11-of-19 from 3-point range, and put four players in double figures.

Freshman Tarin Smith was one of the highlights for the Huskers in the loss to the Buckeyes, scoring a career-high 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including all three of his 3-pointers. Smith has become more of an offensive threat in the last month, averaging 6.2 points per game on 57 percent shooting over Nebraska’s last six contests. He has shot 50 percent or better in all six games dating back to Feb. 7.

Junior Terran Petteway had 12 points and three assists while David Rivers came off the bench for 10 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. Rivers’ 10-point effort was his highest total since scoring 12 points in the season opener.

The Huskers are in a tie for 11th place entering the last week of the season, one game back of Minnesota, in hopes of avoiding the first-round game in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.

Illinois is 18-11 on the season and 8-8 in Big Ten play following an 86-60 win over Northwestern Saturday evening. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Illini. Rayvonte Rice led five Illinois players with 19 points, as the Fighting Illini went 14-of-29 from 3-point range in the victory.

Numbers 2 Know

4 – Tarin Smith’s 13-point effort marked the fourth player to lead NU in scoring in 2014-15. It was the first time since March 14, 2013, that a freshman topped NU in scoring.

6 – Rebounds that Shavon Shields needs to reach 500 for his career. He would become the 14th player with 1,000 career points and 500 rebounds at Nebraska.

503 – Terran Petteway points this season, as he is 53 points away from 10th (Marvin Stewart and Aleks Maric) on NU’s single-season list.

12.0 – Walter Pitchford is averaging 12.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game over his last four contests. He has been in double figures in three of NU’s last four contests.

1994-95 – The last time that Nebraska had two players average more than 15.0 points per game in a season (Jaron Boone, 17.5; Erick Strickland, 16.3). That is the only time in the last 30 years that Nebraska has had two players average 15 points per game in the same season.

Scouting Illinois
Illinois is 18-11 on the season and 8-8 in the Big Ten heading into the final week of the season. The Illini are coming off an 86-60 win over Northwestern on Saturday night, a victory which snapped a three-game losing streak. In that game, Illinois went 9-of-16 from 3-point range in the first half in building a 22-point halftime lead. Senior guard Rayvonte Rice led Illinois with 19 points and added seven rebounds to place five players in double figures.

Illinois, which went 20-15 and reached the second round of the NIT last season for third-year coach John Groce, had four returning starters, but have been without senior guard Tracy Abrams, who has missed the entire season following knee surgery. The Illini opened the year with six straight wins, including a 62-54 victory over Baylor in the Las Vegas Invitational, before faltering with three losses in a four-game stretch, including to then-nationally ranked Miami and Villanova. In Big Ten play, Illinois has been streaky over the last month, stringing together four straight wins, including victories over Michigan State and Michigan before a three-game losing streak.

Rice, who missed nine games because of injury and suspension, tops the Illini in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg) and is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range. Illinois has a trio of double-figure scorers in sophomores Malcolm Hill (14.3 ppg) and Kendrick Nunn (11.4 ppg). Both players are shooting over 38 percent from long distance, as the Illini are shooting 37 percent from 3-point range as a team.

Nebraska-Illinois Series History
Illinois leads the all-time series, 11-5, over Nebraska in a series that dates back to 1921. The Illini have won four of the seven matchups since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. The home team has won the last four meetings and six of the seven contests since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011-12. Prior to Nebraska joining the conference, the Huskers and Illini had played only once since 1976 – a 100-73 Husker victory in the 1990 San Juan Shootout. Nebraska is 1-8 in Champaign and has not won there since a 30-25 Husker victory on Jan. 1, 1921 – the first-ever meeting between the schools.

Last Matchup: Nebraska 53, Illinois 43 (Jan. 11)
Nebraska put together its best defensive effort in the Tim Miles era, holding Illinois to 27 percent shooting in a 53-43 win over the Fighting Illini. Nebraska held Illinois to 15-of-55 shooting, including 6-of-29 from 3-point range. The shooting percentage was the lowest by a Husker foe in conference play in over nine years.

Terran Petteway led the Huskers with 18 points and four assists, while Shavon Shields added 11 points, eight rebounds and matched his career high with five assists for the victors. Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn led Illinois with 12 points apiece.

Nebraska took control midway through the first half, using a 9-1 run to erase an early deficit, as the Huskers held Illinois to just one field goal in a nine-minute stretch. NU took a six-point lead into the break and stretched it to 10 after a pair of Terran Petteway 3-pointers. Illinois cut the deficit to six several times, but could not get closer, as the Huskers kept the Illini at bay.

Last Time Out
Freshman Tarin Smith had a career-high 13 points, but a hot-shooting Buckeye squad was too much, as Nebraska fell 81-57 Thursday evening.

Smith hit 5-of-6 shots from the field, including a trio of 3-pointers, to pace a trio of Huskers in double figures. David Rivers had his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds while Terran Petteway had 12 points for Nebraska (13-15, 5-11 Big Ten).

Ohio State (20-8, 9-6 Big Ten) shot 53 percent from the field, including 11-of-19 from 3-point range. Jae’Sean Tate led all players with 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds to pace four Buckeyes in double figures. Sam Thompson added 15 points, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, while Shannon Scott and D’Angelo Russell chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Ohio State, which has lost just once at home this season, used a blistering shooting performance in the first half to take a 42-24 lead at the break. OSU shot 59 percent from the field, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range, in the opening first half. Tate led OSU with 14, hitting all six shots from the field, while Thompson added 10 points as he hit all four shots from the field.

Notes from the Ohio State Game

  • Tarin Smith finished with a career-high 13 points, topping his previous season high of eight points. He had eight points on three previous occasions, most recently at Penn State on Feb. 7. Smith’s three 3-pointers are also a season high.
  • Smith’s 13 points marked just the fourth different player to lead the Huskers in scoring this season, and he became the first Husker freshman since Shavon Shields at the 2013 Big Ten Tournament to lead NU in scoring.
  • David Rivers had his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his highest total in a Big Ten game. Rivers also had his first 3-pointer of the season tonight.
  • Rivers became the fourth Husker to post a double-double this season, joining Shavon Shields, Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford.
  • Ohio State’s 81 points and .538 shooting percentage were both season highs for a Husker opponent. NU had held its last 15 road opponents to 70 points or less, dating back to Feb. 5, 2014.

Worth Noting

  • For the Huskers to break into the win column on Wednesday, they will have to clamp down on the defensive end. Iowa and Ohio State have combined to shoot 51.8 percent over the last two games, after the Huskers held their first 26 opponents to a combined 39.3 percent shooting and had held 37 straight opponents under 50 percent shooting until Iowa accomplished the feat on Feb. 22.
  • The biggest culprit of Nebraska’s offensive struggles have been at the 3-point line, where the Huskers are last in the Big Ten and 334th nationally in 3-point percentage (.288). Last year, NU was seventh in the conference at .333 from long range. In Big Ten play, the Huskers have made five 3-pointers or less 10 times in 16 games and have a 2-8 record in those games.
  • With 494 rebounds, Shields is only six boards away from 500 for his career and would become only the 14th player with 1,000 points and 500 career rebounds.
  • Another freshman who has seen more time in the last two weeks is freshman Nick Fuller, who is averaging 6.3 points per game in the last three contests, compared to just 1.3 points per game in NU’s first 25 games.
  • Five of Nebraska’s 27 1000-point scorers have come from Illinois (Jerry Fort, Andre Smith, Marvin Stewart, Clifford Scales and Carl Hayes). Both Scales and Hayes attended Westchester St. Joseph, the same school as Husker signee Glynn Watson Jr.
  • Petteway enters the final week of the regular season with 503 points and needs 53 points to move into NU’s top-10 list for season. Against Ohio State last Thursday, he became the seventh Husker to post back-to-back 500-point seasons.
  • Terran Petteway (1,082) and Shavon Shields (1,067) both are in range of becoming the 24th and 25th player in school history to reach 1,100 career points.
  • The Husker bench has had more scoring punch since adjusting the lineup three games ago. NU’s reserves are averaging 23.3 points and 16.3 rebounds per game and had a season-high 36 at No. 16 Maryland on Feb. 19.
  • Nebraska has been better with the basketball in Big Ten play, averaging just 11.1 turnovers per game after averaging 15.0 in non-conference action. In Big Ten play, NU is sixth in turnover margin at +0.6 per game. NU has had 10 or fewer turnovers in Big Ten play in eight of 16 games.
  • The Huskers are 5-4 in Big Ten play when shooting over 40 percent from the field, but are winless (0-7) when shooting at or below that percentage.
  • Nebraska had two players reach 1,000 points at Nebraska earlier this month in Shavon Shields (vs. Northwestern) and Terran Petteway (at Penn State). It marked the first time since the 1998-99 season (Cookie Belcher and Venson Hamilton) that two Huskers have reached 1,000 points in the same season. The other seasons are 1967-68 (Stuart Lantz and Tom Baack), 19 78-79 (Carl McPipe and Brian Banks), 1990-91 (Rich King and Clifford Scales) and 1994-95 (Erick Strickland and Jaron Boone).
  • Nebraska is 10th nationally in average attendance with an average of 15,550 per game. With one home game left, the Huskers are on track to break their single-season attendance average for the second straight year after averaging 15,419 in 2013-14.

Shields Earns Academic All-America Honors
Nebraska’s Shavon Shields became the first Husker men’s basketball player to earn first-team academic All-America honors, as the Capital One Academic All-America┬« Division I basketball teams as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) were announced on Feb. 26.

Shields earned the accolade, as he was one of five players selected to the first team. The junior forward carries a 3.73 GPA in biologicial sciences. Shields has been a five-time member of the UNL Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll and served for two years on the NU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He is also active in the Huskers’ Life Skills program, serving as a keynote speaker for the Sportsmanship Pep Rally, as well as a volunteer for Husker Heroes, Ollie Webb and Nebrasketball Buddies Clinics among other activities. Last year, he was one of 16 national finalists for the 2014 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.

Shields becomes the sixth Husker to be a CoSIDA Academic All-American in basketball (a combined seven times), and the first since Beau Reid in 1991. His selection increases Nebraska’s nation-leading total to 315.

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 in 2014-15, combining for 32.9 points per game and ranking among the Big Ten’s top 10 scorers entering Wednesday’s game against Illinois.

  • They are the Big Ten’s top scoring duo, just ahead of Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. (32.2 ppg).
  • It could be the first time since 1994-95 that Nebraska has had two players average more than 15 points per game in a season, and the highest average by a Husker duo since Dave Hoppen (23.5 ppg) and Curtis Moore (13.5 ppg) since 1984-85.

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.

Despite an offense that is close to 300th in offensive efficiency, the defense has kept Nebraska in most games this season. NU is fifth in scoring defense (62.7 pgg) and sixth in field goal defense (.402).

  • NU is 22nd nationally and first in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com entering the Illinois game.
  • Nebraska’s field goal defense is on pace to be one of the best in recent history. 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).
  • Under Miles, NU is 30-10 over the past three seasons when holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting.
  • Nebraska is 11-3 this season when holding opponents to under a point per possession and 2-12 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 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 and 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 in 2014-15. The 6-foot-6 junior has raised his numbers across the board, as he averages 18.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. He is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and ranks among the Big Ten leaders in 3-pointers per game (seventh), assists (14th) and blocked shots (14th).

  • Petteway was one of 15 players selected to the Julius Erving Award, presented to the nation’s top small forwards, last month.
  • Petteway is one of only 10 players nationally – and one of two from a power conference – averaging 18 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2014-15.
  • Petteway has 12 20-point games in 2014-15, including a season-high 32 points against Michigan State on Jan. 26, and 24 20-point games for his career. He has five 20-point efforts in Big Ten play, most recently against No. 5 Wisconsin on Feb. 10.
  • Petteway has been in double figures in 56 of 60 games as a Husker, including 31 of 34 Big Ten games in that span.
  • Petteway was one of 25 players selected to the Lute Olson Award mid-season watch list last month.
  • Petteway saw his streak of double-figure games reach 30 before it was snapped at Michigan on Jan. 22. It was the longest streak by 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.
  • He went over 1,000 points at Nebraska at Penn State on Feb. 7, reaching the plateau in just 55 games. Petteway was the fastest Husker to reach 1,000 points at Nebraska, eclipsing the previous mark of 58 games by Dave Hoppen. Petteway and Hoppen are the only Huskers to reach 1,000 points in their second season at Nebraska.
  • Petteway’s career scoring average of 18.1 points per game at NU is second only to Dave Hoppen (19.5 ppg).
  • He leads the Huskers with two double-doubles in 2014-15 (20 points, 12 rebounds vs. Omaha; 22 points, 10 rebounds vs. Ohio) and has four double-doubles in his NU career.
  • Petteway was held to eight points at No. 16 Maryland, but dished out a career-high nine assists – the most by a Husker since the 2011-12 season.
  • 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.
  • Petteway is bidding to become the first Husker to earn All-America honors since Carl McPipe during the 1977-78 season.

Throughout the season Petteway has been dealing with the health of his mother Joetta, who has been battling a rare form of bone cancer (follicular dendritic cell sarcoma). Terran talked to the team and the media about her ongoing battle late before the Purdue game in mid-February.

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, becoming 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
Shavon Shields may have been one 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 14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, ranking 10th in scoring, 15th in rebounding and sixth in free throw percentage (.823).

  • He has been in double figures in 23 of 28 contests this season, which already topped his entire 2013-14 total of double-figure games.
  • Shields has seven 20-point games this season, which already topped his entire career total entering the 2014-15 season, most recently a 21-point effort vs. Michigan State on Jan. 24. It was his third 20-point effort in Big Ten play, as he had 20 points against Indiana on Dec. 31 and 25 points 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 showed a well-rounded game against Northwestern with 11 points and a career-high eight assists.
  • Shields also excels off the court, carrying a 3.73 GPA in biological sciences and earned first-team Academic All-America honors last week. Last year, Shields was also one of 16 national finalists across all of Division I for the 2014 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.
  • Despite the loss at Minnesota, Jan. 31 was a memorable day for Shields, as his father, Will, was chosen to be a member of the Class of 2015 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The elder Shields will become the third Husker (joining Bob Brown and Guy Chamberlain) to be in both the Pro Football and College Football Hall of Fames when he is enshrined in August.

Pitchford Poses Problems for Opponents
Walter Pitchford gives the Huskers an intriguing matchup at center, as the 6-foot-10, 237-pounder is a skilled shooter who hit 41 percent from 3-point range in 2013-14. 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 in 2013-14, averaging 11.0 points per game on 53 percent shooting over the last 14 games.

This season, Pitchford is averaging 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, ranking third on the team in both scoring and rebounding. He has been in double figures nine times this season, matching his career high with 19 points at No. 16 Maryland on Feb. 19. He also had 19 points, including six 3-pointers, against Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 28. Pitchford had a string of three straight games in double figures end at Ohio State on Thursday, as he finished with seven points and seven rebounds.

He enjoyed a solid performance in Nebraska’s win over Northwestern on Feb. 3 with 14 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and had 12 points at Purdue on Feb. 15. He 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.

  • Nebraska is 11-4 over the last two seasons when Pitchford scores at least 12 points, including 2-2 this season.
  • Pitchford has three double-doubles in his career, most recently a 10-point, 10-carom effort at Hawaii on Dec. 22.
  • He has reached double figures in rebounds three times, including a season-high 11 vs. Minnesota on Jan. 20.