Nebraska continues its road trip Wednesday evening, as the Huskers are in Piscataway, N.J., as the Huskers take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Tipoff at the Rutgers Athletic Center is set for shortly after 5 p.m. (MT) and Wednesday’s tilt between the Huskers and Buckeyes will be televised nationally on BTN with Brandon Gaudin and Stephen Bardo 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 Ben McLaughlin 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 (14-8, 5-4 Big Ten) had a golden opportunity to knock off No. 13 Ohio State on Monday, but the Buckeyes used a late 7-0 spurt in the final minutes to earn a 64-59. Nebraska used an 8-0 lead to take a 49-46 lead in the final 10 minutes and was within one and going to the foul line with 3:29 left, but could not pull the upset against the conference leaders.
James Palmer Jr. put on show in the loss to the Buckeyes, finishing with a career-high 34 points, including personal bests in field goals (11) and 3-pointers (five). His 34 points not only set a Value City Arena opponent record, but was the highest single-game total in Big Ten play this season. Palmer, who earned Big Ten Co-Player of the Week earlier Monday, was the only Husker to finish in double figures against the Buckeyes, as Nebraska shot just 39 percent.
Nebraska continued its strong effort on the defensive end, holding Ohio State to just 44.2 percent shooting, including just 2-of-14 from 3-point range, after OSU entered the game leading the Big Ten in field goal percentage in conference play. The Huskers have now held their last eight opponents under 45 percent shooting.
Rutgers is 12-9 on the season following a 62-47 loss at No. 23 Michigan on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights, under the direction of second-year coach Steve Pikiell, have been tough at home. Rutgers has Big Ten wins over Wisconsin and Iowa, as well as a non-conference win over then-No. 16 Seton Hall. Junior guard Corey Sanders’ 14.2 points per game paces three Scarlet Knights in double figures.
34 – Points that James Palmer scored at No. 13 Ohio State Monday. It was not only his first 30-point effort of his career, but the highest-scoring effort in a Big Ten Conference game this season. Palmer is also the seventh Husker to have a 30-point game under Tim Miles.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1.22 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio which is on pace to be one of NU’s best in more than 20 years. In fact, the last time Nebraska had more assists than turnovers was in 2009-10. Nebraska has had 10 or fewer turnovers in each of its last four games dating back to Jan. 12.
124 – Nebraska’s 124 blocked shots is the most blocked shots in a season since 2005-06 and is just six shy of 10th place on NU’s single-season charts (130, 2005-06). Last season, NU blocked 116 shots in 31 games.
70 – Nebraska is 13-2 when scoring 70 or more points and 2-6 when held to under 70 points. Nebraska’s only two losses when scoring 70+ points was a one-point loss to Kansas and a two-point OT loss at Penn State.
Rutgers has made significant strides under second-year coach Steve Pikiell. A former player at UConn, Pikiell spent the previous 11 seasons at Stony Brook, leading the program to six postseason appearances in seven years, including an NCAA bid in 2016. Rutgers went 15-18 in his first season, including a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament. This season, the Scarlet Knights are 12-9 on the season with all 12 wins coming at home. During non-conference play, Rutgers went 10-3, including a 71-65 win over then-No. 16 Seton Hall. During Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights have home wins over Wisconsin and Iowa and took Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing. Rutgers has been off since a 62-47 loss at Michigan on Sunday.
The Scarlet Knights have been very good on defense, holding opponents to 39 percent shooting and 62.1 points per game. Rutgers also forces an average of 15 turnovers per game and is among the nation’s leaders in offensive rebounding. Junior guard Corey Sanders is the catalyst, as he leads the team in both scoring (14.3 ppg) and assists (3.3 apg). He is one of three players who average double figures. Junior Deshawn Freeman is at 11.6 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game while freshman Geo Baker averages 11.5 points per game. Issa Thiam and Baker have 63 of the team’s 97 3-pointers.
Wednesday’s matchup will be the ninth all-time meeting with the Scarlet Knights. Nebraska, which leads 5-3, saw its five-game win streak over the Scarlet Knights snapped last year. The Huskers won the first five meetings, including all three meetings in the 2015-16 campaign. Prior to the Scarlet Knights joining the Big Ten, 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 Rutgers win at the 1999 Hoop and Quill Classic in St. Charles, Mo.
LAST MEETING VS. RUTGERS
Corey Sanders finished with 25 points, including an offensive putback with 1.0 seconds remaining, as Rutgers edged Nebraska, 65-64, on Jan. 21, 2017.
Nebraska led by one with 9.8 seconds remaining, and got Sanders, who was 11-of-18 from the field, to miss his first attempt off the backboard, but the Rutgers guard got the rebound and hit the game-winner off the glass. Nebraska was unable to get a final shot in suffering its second straight loss in the last second.
Nebraska trailed 57-55 with 3:35 left before Jack McVeigh took over. The sophomore hit a trio of 3-pointers in a two-minute span, the last of which gave the Huskers a 64-59 lead with 1:31 left. McVeigh had all 12 of his points in the second half, as NU shot 48 percent in the second half after shooting just 22 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
Rutgers chipped away, as a basket by C.J. Gettys made it a three-point lead with 1:15 left. After a Husker turnover, Deshawn Freeman hit two free throws with 40 seconds left to make it a one-point game and set up the finish. NU had a chance to put the game away, but another costly turnover gave the hosts a final opportunity they would not waste.
Webster led four Huskers in double figures with 14 points, while Glynn Watson Jr. and McVeigh added 12 apiece.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite a career-high 34 points from James Palmer Jr., No. 13 Ohio State edged Nebraska, 64-59, Monday evening at Value City Arena.
Palmer set an opponent arena record with his 34-point effort, as he went 11-of-18 from the field, including five 3-pointers, topping his previous best of 25 against UTSA on Dec. 20.
Keita Bates-Diop led four Buckeyes in double figures with 20 points, as OSU improved to 18-4 overall and 9-0 in the Big Ten.
Nebraska trailed 46-41 with just over nine minutes remaining when Glynn Watson Jr. started an 8-0 Husker run before Palmer hit two straight 3-pointers to put the Huskers up 49-46 and forced the Buckeyes to take timeout.
OSU went to Bates-Diop, who had 14 of his 20 points in the second half, for two straight baskets to put the Buckeyes ahead before Evan Taylor’s basket put NU up by one. The teams traded 3-pointers, as Anton Gill’s 3-pointer put NU ahead 54-53 with 4:36 remaining before Bates-Diop’s basket gave the Buckeyes the lead for good with 4:09 left.
Trailing by one, Isaiah Roby was fouled with 3:29 left, but was unable to convert the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity. OSU took advantage was Jae’Sean Tate was fouled and hit both free throws to extend the lead to 57-54. Moments later, C.J. Jackson’s 3-point play with 2:26 left capped the 7-0 run and gave the Buckeyes a 60-54 lead.
*-NU comes into Wednesday’s game with a 14-8 record, NU’s best 22-game record during the Big Ten era and best since starting the season 15-7 through 22 games in 2010-11.
*-The Huskers are 5-4 at the halfway point in conference play, the first time NU has been above .500 after nine games in the Big Ten era and the best nine-game record since 2007-09 (5-4).
*-James Palmer Jr. enjoyed one of the most prolific scoring performances in school history at No. 13 Ohio State with his 34-point effort. It marked the second-highest scoring effort in a road game in school history and one of just seven times a player scored at least 34 points away from Lincoln.
*-Of Nebraska’s last five losses dating back to Dec. 9, NU lost twice in the last 30 seconds (vs. No. 13 Kansas, at PSU) and had two others where NU was within a point in the last four minutes (at Creighton, at No. 13 OSU).
*-Nebraska’s defense has been its calling card in Big Ten action. The Huskers are fourth in field goal defense (.392) and held their last eight opponents to under 45 percent shooting. On Monday, the Huskers limited Ohio State to its lowest scoring total and second-lowest shooting total in Big Ten action.
*-While Nebraska is 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 69.4 points per game, a closer look shows that Nebraska already played five teams that are in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense (Michigan State, Purdue, Creighton, Kansas). NU held three of the four teams at least 10 points below their scoring average.
*-The Huskers are averaging 72.8 points per game and is on track for one of the best offensive seasons in recent years. NU’s 72.8 points per game marks only the fifth time in the last 22 years that NU has averaged at least 72.0 points per game through the first 22 games. The Huskers are 12-2 this year when scoring at least 70 points, including six games of at least 80 points (6-0).
*-Nebraska’s biggest offensive strength has been a balanced attack with three players averaging double figures, led by James Palmer Jr., who averages a team-high 16.6 points per game to lead all Big Ten newcomers in scoring. Palmer is currently on track to enjoy one of the top first-year seasons in school history, as the top three first-year scorers have been in Tim Miles’ six seasons at Nebraska.
*-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 20 times, including a season-high 34 points at No. 13 Ohio State on Jan. 22, and is third in assists (2.5 apg). Copeland leads the Huskers in rebounding at 6.3 per game and is second in both scoring (12.1, second) and blocked shots (26, second). He 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 138 attempts through Monday’s games. Among conference guards, he is second only to Maryland’s Anthony Cowan (149) in getting to the foul line this season.
*-Junior Glynn Watson Jr. is in his third season guiding the Husker offense and is among NU’s leaders in both scoring (11.2 ppg, third), assists (3.1, first) and steals (1.6, first). The 6-foot guard will make his team-high 68th career start on Wednesday and has a 2.1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. Watson is just 57 points from 1,000 for his career and is 12 steals away from 10th place on Husker career charts.
*-Nebraska has been getting strong performances from its bench throughout the season, averaging 21.7 points per game, but has gotten just 8.0 ppg in the last two games. The eight points against Michigan on Jan. 19 snapped a streak of 15 straight double-figure efforts from the Husker bench.
*-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 have made strides in both areas, especially on the defensive end. NU has limited Michigan (four) and Ohio State (two) to season lows in 3-pointers in the last two games.
Offensively, 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.
*-Nebraska regained the services of Jordy Tshimanga against Michigan. Tshimanga, who started the first 18 games, had three rebounds and an assist after missing the previous two games with a personal issue and had four points and four boards in the loss at Ohio State.
*-A win Wednesday would be Tim Miles’ 90th at Nebraska and move him past Barry Collier for fifth place on the Huskers’ career wins list.