Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports

Nebraska looks to knock off Big Ten leaders

The Nebraska men's basketball team hosts the Big Ten leader on Thursday evening, as No. 7/5 Wisconsin visits Pinnacle Bank Arena.

NU MEDIA RELATIONS: 

The Nebraska men's basketball team hosts the Big Ten leader on Thursday evening, as No. 7/5 Wisconsin visits Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tipoff is set for 8:06 p.m. and a limited number of tickets are available by visiting Huskers.com/Tickets or calling 800-8-BIGRED. In addition, any remaining tickets will be available for sale at the Pinnacle Bank Arena box office beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The game between the Huskers and Badgers will be televised nationally on BTN with Dave Revsine and Stephen Bardo on the call. The game is also available on the BTN2GO app for tablets and mobile devices and on BTN.com.

Fans can listen to Thursday's game and all of the action throughout the 2016-17 season on the Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison on the call, including on Huskers.com, the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and SiriusXM Radio. The broadcast starts 60 minutes before tipoff and a complete list of HSN affiliates is on page 5 of the release.

The Huskers (10-13, 4-7) were short-handed, but gave Iowa all it wanted before falling, 81-70, on Sunday. With Ed Morrow Jr. out and Glynn Watson limited because of a groin injury, the Huskers were within 67-64 with 3:57 left before Iowa pulled away late. Jack McVeigh, who had not started since non-conference play, led Nebraska with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while Tai Webster and Jordy Tshimanga added 14, and 10 points, respectively. Webster also had six assists and six rebounds, while Tshimanga grabbed eight boards in just 17 minutes because of foul trouble.

McVeigh has played well over the last three weeks, averaging 13.0 points per game over the last five contests. The sophomore forward is shooting 49 percent in that stretch, including 41 percent from 3-point range, in giving the Huskers another scoring threat besides Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr.

Wisconsin (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) comes into the week riding a seven-game win streak following a 65-60 win over Indiana on Sunday. The Badgers have won seven straight games and sit in first place in the Big Ten standings with a 9-1 mark. Ethan Happ paces a balanced Badger attack with 14.7 points and a team-high 9.1 rebounds per game.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
1,001 - Tai Webster became Nebraska's 28th career 1,000-point scorer in Sunday's loss to Iowa. He has been in double figures in NU's last 24 contests dating back to last season. 

.457 - In Nebraska's four Big Ten wins, the Huskers are shooting nearly 46 percent from 3-point range. In conference losses, that number dips to .292.

.667 - Nebraska is 6-3 this season in games decided by five points or less. Two of the three losses came with 1.0 seconds left or less (vs. Ohio State; at Rutgers).

8.5 - Freshman Jordy Tshimanga's scoring average over the last six contests. He is also shooting 58 percent and averaging 4.3 rebounds per game in that stretch.

1.9 - Glynn Watson Jr. is averaging 2.0 steals per game, which is on pace to be the most since Cookie Belcher averaged 2.7 steals per game in 2000-01.

5 - With five assists vs. Wisconsin, Tai Webster's season total would be the highest by a Husker since Lance Jeter in 2010-11.

23 - Tai Webster has reached double figures in all 23 games this season and is the only Big Ten player to reach double figures in every game this season.

SCOUTING WISCONSIN
Under second-year coach Greg Gard, the Badgers come to Lincoln with a 20-3 record and riding a seven-game win streak following a 65-60 win over Indiana on Sunday. In that game, Ethan Happ's 20 points and seven rebounds led three Badgers in double figures. Wisconsin held Indiana to 43 percent shooting, but also got to the foul line 31 times against the Hoosiers.

The Badgers are a veteran club that won 23 games last year and returned not only its starting five, but its top nine scorers from last year. UW has also stayed healthy this season, rolling out the same starting lineup in all 23 contests. Third-year sophomore Ethan Happ paced Wisconsin's attack with 17.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals from the center spot, while Nigel Hayes is averaging 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists. The third Badger scoring in double figures is senior Bronson Koenig, who averaged 14.0 points per game and leads the Badgers with 62 3-pointers.

SERIES HISTORY
Thursday’s matchup is the 26th meeting between the two programs, and Wisconsin holds a 13-12 all-time lead. The series dates back to the 1903-04 season, as Nebraska won the first meeting, 25-22 over the Badgers in Lincoln before Wisconsin took five of the next six meetings from 1907 to 1955. Nebraska then won eight straight games before the Badgers won the next five meetings, including the first four in Big Ten play.

The Huskers are 2-7 against Wisconsin since joining the Big Ten (1-7 in regular season; 1-0 in Big Ten Tournament), as the teams split a pair of meetings last season. Wisconsin won the first meeting 72-61 in Madison on Feb. 10, while the Huskers earned a 12-point win in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Wisconsin has been ranked in the top-10 in four of the last six meetings, including Thursday's contest. Thursday's meeting is the only regular-season meeting between the Huskers and Badgers.

Last Meeting (Nebraska 70, Wisconsin 58; March 10, 2016): Shavon Shields scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead 11th-seeded Nebraska to a 70-58 victory over No. 6 seed Wisconsin in the second round of the 2016 Big Ten Conference tournament.

The Cornhuskers avenged a 72-61 loss to Wisconsin on Feb. 10. Shields missed that game because of injury. The Huskers, who held Wisconsin to 30 percent shooting, used an 11-4 run early in the second half to overcome a two-point deficit and never trailed again. Wisconsin got to within three at 55-52 with 5:39 but got no closer, as Nebraska ran off six straight points to extend the lead to nine.

Glynn Watson Jr. added 16 for the Cornhuskers, while Benny Parker added 12 for the winners. Ethan Happ led Wisconsin with 17 and Vitto Brown had 16.

LAST TIME OUT
Jack McVeigh’s 16 points led three Huskers in double figures, but Iowa made the plays down the stretch to earn an 81-70 win.

Nebraska (10-13, 4-7 Big Ten) cut an eight-point deficit to 67-64 after a 3-point play from Evan Taylor with 3:57 left, but would get no closer, as Iowa used a 9-2 run to pull away, capped by a 3-pointer from Brady Ellington that made it 76-66 with 1:23 remaining.

Ellington had 11 off the bench for Iowa, as the Hawkeyes (14-10, 6-5) placed four in double figures in recording their third straight win.

McVeigh scored 11 of his 16 in the first half, while Tai Webster and Jordy Tshimanga added 14 and 10, respectively. Webster’s 14 points put him over 1,000 career points, as the senior added six rebounds and six assists. Tshimanga, plagued by foul problems, had 10 points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes before fouling out.

Jordan Bohannon led Iowa with 15 points, including four 3-pointers, as Iowa went 9-of-19 from 3-point range, compared to 3-of-20 for the Huskers.

WORTH NOTING

·         Tai Webster is one of only three power conference players in the country currently averaging 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. The other two - Washington's Markelle Fultz and NC State's Dennis Smith Jr. - are currently two of the top four prospects on Draft Express' 2017 draft board. To put Tai Webster's season averages (18.0 ppg; 5.0 rpg; 4.0 apg) in prospective, only one other Big Ten player - Michigan's Derrick Walton Jr. - is currently averaging 14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.0 apg this season.

·         Nebraska is 2-0 in Big Ten play against ranked teams heading into Thursday's game with Wisconsin. They knocked off No. 16 Indiana in Bloomington back in December, as well as No. 20 Purdue on Jan. 29. The last time NU knocked off a top-10 team was No. 9 Wisconsin on March 9, 2014. The last time NU knocked off more than three ranked teams in a season was in 1998-99.

·         A win over Wisconsin would mark NU's third win over a top-25 team this season, which would match the most by a Husker team since the 1999-2000 season (NU also won three in 2007-08, 2010-11 and 2013-14). Only Purdue, which has a trio of top-25 wins, has more currently than Nebraska.

·         Eight of the Huskers' 11 Big Ten games this season have been decided by eight points or less, including six games by four points or less. In six of its seven Big Ten losses, Nebraska has been within five points in the last five minutes.

·         Nebraska is averaging 73.0 points per game in conference play, the Huskers' highest average since averaging 87.1 points per game in the Big Eight in 1993-94.

·         Nebraska's strength of schedule leads the country according to the NCAA (also top 4 in both KenPom and Sagarin) as of Monday. The Huskers have already played 11 games against teams in the top 50 of the RPI, a total which is second nationally. In addition, NU has played 16 games against teams currently rated in the top-100 nationally. Only Vanderbilt-18; Florida State-17; Butler-17 and Virginia-17 have played more. Every remaining team on NU's regular-season schedule is in the top-100 of the RPI.

·         Tai Webster has reached double figures in 24 straight games dating back to last year. Over the last two decades, the only Huskers with longer double-figure streaks are Tyronn Lue (36, 1996-97 and 1997-98) and Terran Petteway (30, 2013-14 and 2014-15).

·         The Huskers could be without Ed Morrow Jr. for the eighth straight game because of a right foot injury. Morrow is third on the team in scoring (10.1) while leading the Huskers in rebounding (7.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.5 bpg). In addition, the Huskers are also without reserve guard Anton Gill, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 25.

·         The nine-point deficit NU overcame against Purdue on Jan. 29 was the third time in Big Ten play the Huskers have come back from trailing by at least seven points (7 at Indiana; 13 at Maryland; 9 vs. Purdue). 
The Jan. 1 comeback over Maryland marked the fifth time that Nebraska has overcome a double-digit deficit under Tim Miles, but the first one on the road. The 13-point deficit NU overcame was its largest away from home since overcoming a 13-point deficit at Texas Tech in a 61-59 win on Feb. 6, 2007. That is the only other time in the last 15 years NU has overcome a double-digit deficit on the road.

·         This year was the first time since the 1975-76 season that the Huskers have won three straight to open conference play and just the seventh time since the end of World War II that NU has gotten off to a 3-0 start or better in the league.

·         Nebraska added a player to its roster on Jan. 29, as sophomore forward Tanner Borchart returned to the program. A walk-on from Gothenburg, Neb., the 6-foot-8, 275-pound forward played in eight games laat year, totaling six points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. He will wear No. 41.

TAKING ON THE BEST
Wisconsin's Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes join a long list of Wooden Award semifinalists that the Huskers have squared off with this season. Including Thursday's game, NU will have played against 10 of the 25 players on the list this season.  In four previous games against Wooden Award candidate guards - Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Maurice Watson Jr. (Creighton) and Frank Mason III (Kansas) - Tai Webster has put up similiar numbers to the more heralded players.

Players

GP

PPG

FG Pct.

RPG

APG

APG

Webster

4

19.8

.446

4.3

5.3

2.0

Wooden Candidates

4

18.5

.472

3.8

6.0

0.3


YOUTH MOVEMENT
With seven freshmen and sophomores in the Huskers' nine-man rotation, it is not surprising that most of the scoring and minutes have come from the underclassmen this season. Entering Thursday's game with Wisconsin, 66 percent of NU's minutes and 65 percent of NU's points have come from the freshmen and sophomore classes. In Big Ten play, the Husker freshman have taken on an increased burden, managing 22 percent of NU's minutes and 19 percent of the team's scoring.

TAI 1K
Senior Tai Webster became the 28th member of the 1,000-point club on Sunday at Iowa. The 6-foot-4 guard became the third player under Head Coach Tim Miles to reach 1,000 points at Nebraska, joining Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway.

·         Webster is the second player from outside the United States to join the list, joining Aleks Maric.

·         Webster has accounted for most of his points in the past two seasons, as he had just 244 points in his first two seasons at Nebraska.

·         He has nine 20-point games in 2016-17, but has scored 25 or more points once in his career (at Michigan on Jan. 14).

TAI TAKES OVER
Senior Tai Webster has emerged as one of the Big Ten's top guards in 2016-17. The Auckland, New Zealand, native comes into the weekend averaging 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

·         He is one of seven players in Division I currently averaging 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Among power conferences, he joins Markelle Fultz (Washington) as the only players currently at those plateaus.

·         Webster is among the Big Ten leaders in scoring (third), steals (sixth) and assists (sixth).

·         Webster is the only Big Ten player in the top-10 in both scoring and assists and also one of only three in the top 10 in both steals and assists (Minnesota's Nate Mason and Maryland's Anthony Cowan).

·         Webster is making a strong bid to join an elite club of Big Ten players. Since 1993-94, only eight Big Ten players have finished the season averaging 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, a list which includes D'Angelo Russell, Michael Finley, Evan Turner and Denzel Valentine among others.

·         In Big Ten play, Webster is second in the Big Ten in scoring at 19.0 points per game, which is on pace to be the highest scoring average in conference play since Tyronn Lue averaged 21.8 points per game in 1997-98. In over 100 years, only five Huskers have led the league in scoring during conference action.

·         Webster has been exceptional against the Huskers best foes, as he is averaging 19.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game in NU's five games against ranked opponents (Kansas, UCLA, Creighton, Indiana and Purdue) this season.

·         He leads the Huskers with nine 20-point games, highlighted by career bests in both points (28) and rebounds (nine) at Michigan on Jan. 14. Prior to this season, he had just two 20-point games in three seasons.

·         He is the only Husker to score double figures in each of NU's 23 contests in 2016-17 and has been in double figures in 24 straight games dating back to last season.

·         Webster earned his first-ever Big Ten Player of the Week award on Jan. 2, as he averaged 19.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 rebounds per game in helping NU to wins over No. 16 Indiana and Maryland. He keyed NU's comeback at Maryland with 18 points, including the Huskers' final seven points, in a 67-65 win.

·         He turned in a strong performance at the Wooden Legacy, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in three games. Webster had 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists vs. No. 14 UCLA and had 23 points and eight rebounds against Virginia Tech.

WATSON IS POINT OF IT ALL
Glynn Watson Jr. has continued his emergence as one of the best young guards in the Big Ten. The 6-foot sophomore enters the Michigan State game averaging 14.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Watson comes from a basketball family, as his older brother Demetri McCamey was a first-team All-Big Ten performer at Illinois, but Watson has quickly made his own name at Nebraska.

·         Watson is second on the team in scoring and assists and ranks among the conference leaders in scoring (14th) and steals (third).

·         In Big Ten action, Watson is 11th in the Big Ten in scoring (15.4 ppg) and is also among the Big Ten leaders in steals (1.9 3rd), 3-pointers per game (2.2, 9th) and 3-point percentage (.453, 13th). Most of Watson's numbers have improved since the start of conference action.

·         Reached double figures 16 times this season, including seven 20-point efforts. His most recent 20-point effort came at Michigan on Jan. 14, when he had 20 of his 22 points in the second half.

·         Saw a streak of six straight games in double figures end at Iowa, as he played just 18 minutes because of a groin injury. It was the longest streak of his career, as he had been in double figures in 11 of the previous 12 contests

·         Carried the Huskers with a career-high 34-point effort against Iowa on Jan. 5. In that game, Watson went 11-of-18 from the field, including a blistering 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. His seven 3-pointers was one off NU's single-game record, while his .875 percentage was the fourth-highest total in school history.

·         Keyed NU's win over No. 16 Indiana with 26 points, five steals and four assists, as he had 19 second-half points.

·         Paced NU with 20 points, matched his career high with six rebounds and added four steals and four assists at Clemson.

·         Scored a then-career high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting against No. 14 UCLA, scoring 21 of his 27 points in the second half as Nebraska rallied back and cut a 15-point deficit to two.

·         Keyed NU's win over Dayton with 20 points, a career-high five steals and three assists while hitting a pair of game-winning free throws with 8.8 seconds left when the Huskers trailed 78-77.

·         Opened the season with a then-career-high 23 points along with six assists and five rebounds in NU's win over Sacramento State on Nov. 13.

·         Has eight games with at least three steals, including three games where he had a career-high five steals (Dayton, Virginia Tech, Indiana).

·         If Watson can keep up this pace, he can threaten to become just the sixth Husker to average at least two steals per game, joining Cookie Belcher, Erick Strickland, Eric Johnson, Venson Hamilton and Brian Carr.
As a freshman, Watson played in all 34 games and made 16 starts for the Huskers. He averaged 8.6 points per game and was in double figures 15 times.

·         Watson was one of five Husker freshmen to finish his initial campaign on NU's top-10 list for both freshmen points and assists, joining Eric Piatkowski (1991), Tyronn Lue (1996), Cookie Belcher (1997) and Jake Muhleisen (2002).

·         His 2.44-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2015-16 was the best by a Husker guard in nearly a decade and the fourth-best over the last 30 years.

TAKING ON A CHALLENGING SCHEDULE
Nebraska has faced a daunting 2016-17 non-conference schedule. The Huskers are 10-13 on the season and have played the toughest schedule in the country according to the NCAA's RPI as of Feb. 6.

·         Nebraska's non-conference schedule ranks fifth nationally as of Feb. 6 and was the hardest in the Big Ten.

·         The Huskers' Division I opponents are a combined 285-147, as the .660 winning percentage is first nationally. NU's remaining schedule has a .619 winning percentage.

·         In December, Nebraska completed a week where the Huskers played consecutive top-10 teams in non-conference play for the first time in program history (No. 10 Creighton, No. 3 Kansas).

HUSKERS LOOK FOR OFFENSIVE CONSISTENCY
After the Gardner-Webb game in December, the Huskers have reworked their offensive playbook. Despite having one senior and one junior in the primary rotation, NU has averaged 73.7 points per game over the last 12 games despite injuries to Ed Morrow Jr. and Anton Gill.

·         Nebraska is sixth in scoring offense in conference play at 73.3 points per game after entering Big Ten play 13th in scoring offense.

·         Since the loss to Gardner-Webb on Dec. 18, the Huskers have averaged 73.7 points per game, cracking the 80-point mark five times.

·         For the Husker offense, 70 points has been a magic number in recent years, as Nebraska is 44-12 (.785) in Miles' four-plus seasons at NU, including 8-4 this season.

·         The Huskers are 21-3 under Miles when scoring at least 80 points following the 83-80 win over Purdue on Jan. 29. NU is 6-1 this season when scoring 80 points and are 14-2 over the last two years when reaching 80 points.

·         In 2015-16, Nebraska averaged 72.2 points per game, the highest total since the 1996-97 team averaged 72.9 points per game. It marked the first time since 2003-04 that Nebraska averaged over 70 points per game.

JACOBSON AND JORDY MAN INSIDE GAME
Without Ed Morrow Jr. for the past month, the Huskers have relied on sophomore Michael Jacobson and freshman Jordy Tshimanga to handle the bulk of the time on the interior.  Jacobson has started the last 48 games for the Huskers dating back to last season. In 2015-16, he became the first Husker freshman to start every conference game since Cookie Belcher in 1996-97. This season, Jacobson is averaging 6.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game.


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