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Huskers Look to Build Momentum at Penn State | Rural Radio Network

Huskers Look to Build Momentum at Penn State

Huskers Look to Build Momentum at Penn State
Evan Taylor and the Huskers take on Penn State Friday evening. Photo by Stephanie Carpenter/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska hits the road for a rare Friday night conference game, as the Huskers travel to State College to meet the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Tipoff from the Bryce Jordan Center is set for 6 p.m. (central) and will be televised nationally on BTN with Brandon Gaudin and Jon Crispin on the call. The game is also available on BTN.com, BTN2Go and the Fox Sports Go app.

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.

Nebraska (12-6, 3-2 Big Ten) has won five of its last six games following a 63-59 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday night. The Huskers, whose 18-game start is the best in eight seasons, held Wisconsin to 42 percent shooting and enjoyed a 34-32 advantage on the glass to pick up its first regular-season win over the Badgers since 2014.

While James Palmer Jr. led the Huskers with 18 points, including 8-of-9 from the foul line, the performances of Jordy Tshimanga and Thomas Allen were critical in NU’s victory over the Badgers. Tshimanga, who was averaging 3.2 points per game, scored seven of his season-high nine points in the second half and added six rebounds, while Allen had eight points off the bench in 15 quality minutes, as Nebraska’s bench outscored Wisconsin’s 20-3.

Nebraska will need its depth, as it is in the midst of playing four games in a 10-day stretch. Friday’s game at Penn State will be NU’s third road game in the last four games, providing an opportunity to pick up a crucial road win and build on its resume.

Penn State (12-6, 2-3 Big Ten) looks to rebound following a 74-70 loss at Indiana on Tuesday. Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens combined for 48 points, while Mike Watkins had 10 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort. Carr has emerged as one of the best guards in the Big Ten, as he is averaging 18.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while guiding an attack which has five players in double figures. The Nittany Lions have been a tough out at home, going 9-2 with both losses coming by one point.

OPENING NUMBER

4 – Four of the last five meetings between Nebraska and Penn State in State College have been decided by four points or less.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
1.24 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio which is on pace to be NU’s best in more than 20 years. In fact, the last time Nebraska had more assists than turnovers was in 2009-10.

.389 – NU has held its last five opponent to a combined .389 shooting percentage and 63.6 points per game.

18 – Nebraska has used the same lineup in every game this season, as the Huskers and Purdue are the only Big Ten teams to do that in 2017-18. If Nebraska starts the same lineup on Friday at Penn State, the 5-man group of Watson, Taylor, Palmer, Copeland and Tshimanga would be the most-played starting lineup in Tim Miles’ six seasons.

SCOUTING PENN STATE
Under seventh-year coach Patrick Chambers, Penn State comes into Friday’s game with a 12-6 record and is 2-3 in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions have a veteran lineup, returning four starters from a year ago, and have five players averaging double figures. Sophomore point guard Tony Carr leads the attack, as he is second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.9 ppg), fourth in assists (4.7 apg), fifth in 3-point percentage (.478) and sixth in free throw percentage (.841). Sophomore forward Lamar Stevens averages 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while Josh Reaves (10.8 ppg, .429 from 3-point range) and Shep Garner (10.0 ppg, .395 from 3-point range) give the Nittany Lions a pair of dangerous shooters. Mike Watkins handles the interior, as he is second in the Big Ten in rebounding at (9.6 per game), field goal percentage (.692) and blocks per game (3.2).

SERIES HISTORY
Friday’s game is the 16th meeting between the Huskers and Nittany Lions, and Penn State holds an 8-7 advantage. The teams have split the 12 meetings since the Huskers joined the Big Ten (NU is 6-4 in regular season; 0-2 in Big Ten Tournament) prior to the 2011-12 season.  The teams played three times before Nebraska joined the Big Ten, a home-and-home series in 1980 and 1981 and in the second round of the 1995 NIT.

Friday’s matchup is the first of two meetings this season, as the two teams will meet in Lincoln on the final day of the regular season.

LAST MEETING VS. PENN STATE
Nebraska overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation, but Shep Garner scored seven of his 16 points in overtime, lifting Penn State to a 76-67 win over Nebraska in the first round of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament.

Nebraska trailed 55-46 with 5:11 left in regulation, but held Penn State without a field goal until overtime, allowing the Huskers to come back. Nebraska used a 12-3 spurt to knot the score at 58-all after a Glynn Watson Jr. 3-pointer.

Penn State regained the lead on a pair of free throws from Tony Carr with 35.4 seconds left, but Watson found Ed Morrow Jr. for a layup with 21.4 seconds left to tie the score at 60-all. The Huskers had one final opportunity in regulation, but Watson’s half-court attempt at the buzzer was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.

The Nittany Lions took control in overtime, using a 12-2 spurt to start the extra period, including 3-pointers from Lamar Stevens and Garner, who beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer that gave PSU a 68-62 lead.

The Huskers pulled to within seven after a 3-pointer from Jack McVeigh with 58 seconds left, but Josh Reaves and Stevens combined to go 4-for-4 from the line to hold the Huskers at bay.

Evan Taylor led three Huskers in double figures with 16 points, while Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. added 12 and 11 markers, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT
James Palmer Jr. had 18 points and Nebraska opened up a double-digit lead early in the second half then held off three Wisconsin surges to take a 63-59 win Tuesday night.

Nebraska led by as many as 13 early in the half, but saw the lead shrink to five as Wisconsin made five of six field goals. The Huskers went back up by 10 at 50-40 when Thomas Allen hit a pair of free throws after a Wisconsin technical foul with 7:22 left. The Badgers’ Ethan Happ then scored seven straight against one Nebraska free throw to cut the lead to 51-47 with 4:45 left. Three Nebraska free throws and a Palmer jumper, the Huskers’ last field goal of the game, put Nebraska back up by nine.

The Huskers led 62-53 after Isaac Copeland’s free throw with 11 seconds left. But Wisconsin’s Brevin Pritzl bombed in a long 3-pointer with just over 2 seconds left, Nebraska turned the ball over and Brad Davison hit another long-range 3 to pull Wisconsin to 62-59 with a second left. Evan Taylor’s free throw then sealed the win for Nebraska.

Nebraska won the game at the free-throw line. The Huskers were 21 of 28 from the line, including 18 of 24 in the second half. Isaac Copeland had 12 points for Nebraska. Happ had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Wisconsin. Davison had 15 points and Pritzl scored 10.

ABOUT NEBRASKA
*-NU comes into Friday’s game with an 12-6 record with five of the losses coming to teams in the top 70 of the RPI.

*-The Huskers’ 12-6 start is the team’s best record after 18 games since the 2010-11 season when NU had a 14-4 mark.

*-According to J.D. Hamilton at the NCAA, the Huskers are one of only five Division I programs to start the same lineup in every game this season, joining Purdue, Temple, UNLV and UTSA.  Last year, Nebraska started six different lineups with no lineup together for more than 10 games.

*-The Huskers’ scoring average dropped to 74.0 points per game following Tuesday’s 63-59 win over Wisconsin, but is still on track to be one of the highest averages in recent seasons. The Huskers are 11-1 when scoring at least 70 points, including six games of at least 80 points. Tuesday’s win was NU’s first of the season when being held under 70 points.

*-While Nebraska is 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 70.4 points per game, a closer look shows that Nebraska already faced three of the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten (Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota) as well as three other teams (Creighton, Kansas and UTSA) ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense. NU held five of the six teams below their current scoring average, including four at least 10 points below their average. Of those six teams, only UTSA eclipsed its season average against the Huskers.

*-Nebraska’s defense has been its calling card in Big Ten action. The Huskers are second in field goal defense (.387) and have held their last four opponents to under 45 percent shooting.

*-Nebraska’s biggest strength has been a balanced attack with three players averaging double figures, led by James Palmer Jr., who averages a team-high 15.8 points per game to pace all Big Ten newcomers in scoring. Palmer and Michigan’s Charles Matthews are the only Big Ten newcomers averaging at least 13 points per game. Palmer is currently on track to enjoy one of the top first-year seasons in school history. Of NU’s top three first-year scorers, all are transfers under Tim Miles.

*-Nebraska relies on a pair of transfers in James Palmer Jr. (Miami) and Isaac Copeland (Georgetown), as the duo combines for more than 28 points per game. Palmer has reached double figures 17 times in 18 contests, including a season-high 25 points against UTSA on Dec. 20, and is third in assists (2.6 apg). Copeland leads the Huskers in rebounding at 6.4 per game and is among the team leaders in scoring (12.2, second) and blocked shots (23, second). Copeland posted his first double-double of the season at Creighton on Dec. 9 with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

*-Palmer has shown the ability to get to the foul line, as he ranks third in the Big Ten with 112 attempts. Among conference guards, he is second only to Maryland’s Anthony Cowan in getting to the foul line.

*-Junior Glynn Watson Jr. is in his third season guiding the Husker offense and is among NU’s leaders in both scoring (12.1 ppg, third), assists (3.3, first) and steals (1.6, first). The 6-foot guard will make his team-high 64th career start on Friday and has a 2.0-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.

*-Nebraska has been getting strong performances from its bench throughout the season, averaging 23.2 points per game, including 27.0 points per game over the last seven games.  Senior guard Anton Gill tops all Big Ten reserves at 9.8 points per game while sophomore Isaiah Roby averages 6.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

*-Anton Gill ranks fourth among all power conference players who have not started a game in 2017-18 with 9.8 points per game. Gill is averaging 10.8 points per game on 46 percent shooting, including 52 percent from 3-point range, over NU’s last six games.

*-One of the main emphasis for Tim Miles and his staff in the offseason was improving the Huskers’ 3-point efforts on both ends of the court. Last year, NU was in 300th or worse in both 3-point shooting and 3-point defense. This season, the Huskers are currently in the top half of the conference in both 3-point percentage and 3-point defense. NU has six players with at least 10 3-pointers, and that does not include Jack McVeigh, who was second on the team in 3-pointers last year. In 2016-17, NU had just four players hit 10-or-more 3-pointers in 31 games.

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