Preview: Wisconsin at Nebraska

After outlasting Penn State Thursday, Wisconsin looks to win its eighth road conference opener in its last nine tries by taking on Nebraska Sunday afternoon in Lincoln.

Wisconsin (10-4, 1-0 Big Ten) at Nebraska (9-5, 0-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Sunday, January 6, 3:30 p.m. Central

Arena – Devaney Center (15,595)

Television - Big Ten Network (Justin Kutcher and Tim Doyle)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt LePay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Nebraska leads 10-8 (Nebraska leads 6-2 in Lincoln)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 50-45, on January 15, 2012 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Junior Guard, 11.9 ppg)

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Senior Forward, 11.6 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 4.8 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Senior Forward, 7.4 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Senior Forward, 13.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 George Marshall (5-11 Freshman Guard, 5.2 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-7 Freshman Forward, 9.2 ppg)

32 Zak Showalter (6-2 Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Sophomore Forward, 5.2 ppg)

Nebraska Probable Starters

3 Benny Parker (5-9 Freshman Guard, 3.9 ppg)

13 Brandon Ubel (6-10 Senior Forward, 12.6 ppg)

15 Rayes Gallegos (6-2 Junior Guard, 13.1 ppg)

24 Dylan Talley (6-5 Senior Guard, 13.6 ppg)

32 Andre Almeida (6-11 Senior Center, 7.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

2 David Rivers (6-7 Sophomore Guard, 5.5 ppg)

12 Mike Peltz (6-2 Junior Guard, 1.2 ppg)

31 Shavon Shields (6-6 Freshman Guard, 5.0 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON (BadgerNation) - Beginning the long conference road Thursday night, Wisconsin appeared to be one of the fortunate ones. A team in search of momentum all season, the Badgers were given the two teams picked to finish at the bottom of the league before starting a challenging 11-game schedule against nine ranked teams.

As Penn State proved, however, nothing is going to come easy in the Big Ten this year.

Senior Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans and junior guard Ben Brust all scored 13 points each, as Wisconsin hung on after almost blowing a double-digit lead to win its 10th straight Big Ten opener with a 60-51 victory over the Nittany Lions.

"You can say we closed this one out," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "It might not have looked pretty, but we closed it out. The league is going to be tough this year."

Despite trailing by as many as 14 in the second half, Penn State (8-5 0-1) made it a game, going on an 20-10 run that cut the lead to two after junior Jermaine Marshall (game-high 19 points) knocked down a jumper with 2:52 left.

Wisconsin (10-4, 1-0) never trailed in the second half, but never felt comfortable until Berggren slammed the door. Clinging to a 54-51 lead with 1:15 to go, Brust found Berggren open at the free throw line. Berggren spun away from his defender and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk to put the Badgers up 56-51 with 1:06 to go.

The dunk gave the Badgers the momentum they needed to finish, as Bruesewitz hit all four of his free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Until that point, UW was shooting only 9-for-22 from the line. Wisconsin shot 50 percent and is shooting 63 percent from the free throw line on the year.

"It's a mental thing that has to be overcome," Ryan said.

Wisconsin survived by shooting 38.6 percent from the floor and 3-for-17 from three-point range by playing stronger defense. Wisconsin forced 15 turnovers that resulted in 17 points. UW also turned the ball over only four times, including just once in the first half.

The Badgers got double digit points from four of their five starters and improved to 10-1 when it has three or more players score in double digits.

Last Meeting

MADISON (BadgerNation) - While struggling from the floor offensive, Wisconsin kept clicking defensively to shutdown Nebraska's offense in a 50-45 victory.

"We found a way to win, which is important in the Big Ten," said Jordan Taylor, who led the team with 19 points (11 coming on free throws) but didn't have an assist or a turnover. "It's a marathon, not a sprint and we're happy to have the win."

The Badgers shot only 31.3 percent (including only six made buckets in the second half for a season-low 21.4 field goal percentage), but limited Nebraska (9-8, 1-5) to just 35.2 percent shooting, outrebounded the Huskers 42-28 (including 17-9 on the offensive glass) and went 18 of 24 from the free throw compared to the 2-2 performance from the visitors.

"You're not going to win on the road very many games with the discrepancy of 22 free throws," said Nebraska coach Doc Sadler. "We've got to do much better than that … Obviously they are just an unbelievable defense team to not foul. We've just got to be tougher with the ball."

Tough could be the best word to describe what transpired late, as hustle play after hustle play seemed to find its way into the hands of Wisconsin. Trailing by as many as 11 in the second half, Nebraska, which lost to UW by 24 in the conference opener Dec.27, pulled within 47-45 with 17.5 seconds left.

Taylor was fouled with 17 seconds left and made the first free throw. He missed the second, but Bruesewitz tipped the ball out and Taylor retrieved it by ripping it out of the arms of guard Dylan Talley.

Taylor was fouled again and made both free throws to close the scoring, as Wisconsin – which made its final eight free throws Thursday to ice its win over Purdue – went 6-for-7 from the free throw line in the final 80 seconds.

The Badgers also converted their 17 offensive rebounds into 17 second chance points and improved their nation's best scoring defense to 48.5 points per game.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin swept the season series with Nebraska last season in the Huskers' first season in the Big Ten. UW defeated Nebraska 64-40 in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27, 2011. Ryan Evans scored a career-high 22 points as UW erased an early 7-0 deficit with a 19-2 run to take control.

UW is just 2-6 in games played in Lincoln, Neb., however all but last season's game took place prior to 1992.

During the Badgers' 3-game win streak over NU, the Huskers have averaged just 42.0 ppg.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin is looking for its first 2-0 start to Big Ten play since the 2009-10 season. UW has also won seven of its last eight Big Ten road openers, including a 64-40 victory at Nebraska last season.

When Wisconsin and Nebraska meet on the hardwood this season, both teams will be wearing special adidas "White Out" uniforms. The first such meeting comes this Sunday in Lincoln, Neb.

Similar to the adidas jerseys worn by NBA teams on Christmas day, UW's uniform will be completely white uniform with white lettering and numbers accented by red trim. The Huskers will wear a red-on-red variation.

Wisconsin is also scheduled to wear the white-on- white jerseys when Nebraska makes a return trip to the Kohl Center on Feb. 26.

The Badgers have won 7 of their last 8 Big Ten road openers, including last season's 64-40 win at Nebraska on Dec. 27, 2011.

UW is 9-0 when holding opponents below 45.0 percent shooting from the field and 1-4 when foes hit more than 45.0 percent. Dating back to last season, the Badgers have won 15 straight when holding foes below 45.0 percent. (Last such loss was a 58-52 decision vs. Ohio State on 2/4/12).

Nebraska Notes:

The Huskers have found ways to win the close ones, going 3-0 in games decided by five points or less, including the four-point win over Jacksonville State on Dec. 18. Last year, NU won just four of seven games decided by five points or less.

Nebraska has three players averaging at least 12.5 points per game, which would mark the first time that the Huskers have had three players average double figures in a season since 2005-06.

Ubel came into the 2012-13 season as the Huskers' most known quantity and NU's most experienced player - by a wide margin. Ubel came into this season with 59 career starts at Nebraska, while the remaining seven returnees had combined for seven career starts for the Cornhuskers.

Nebraska has been strong on its home court since the Bob Devaney Center opened in 1976. Nebraska has a 443-143 (.756) record in 37 seasons. Nebraska has enjoyed 36 consecutive winning seasons in the building, as the Huskers are celebrating their final season in the Devaney Center in 2012-13. The Huskers are 7-2 at the Devaney Center in 2012-13 and have been solid defensively, holding six of its nine foes to under 60 points this season.

Prediction

With four new starters from last season and an eight-player rotation which includes only two players who saw action last season, there have been some bumps as the Huskers install a new offensive system under first year coach Tim Miles.

The big bump came Wednesday, as Nebraska shot just 30.4 percent while No.8 Ohio State closed the half on a 16-2 surge to take control. Of the eight Huskers who played Wednesday, five were making their Big Ten debut, but Miles wasn't happy about the lack of effort at times in a 26-point loss.

The Huskers opened Big Ten play ranked ninth in field goal percentage, ninth in three-point percentage and eighth in free throw percentage. Miles' team ranked in the top-10 nationally in both free throw and three-point percentage last year at Colorado State.

While Nebraska's offense has been in transition, the Huskers have improved slowing tempo and controlling things on the defensive end. The Huskers are eighth in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 61.5 points per game. NU has held 10 of its first 13 foes under their 2012-13 scoring averages, while four teams have been held to season lows, including Creighton and Oregon, which both rank among the top-25 nationally in scoring offense.

Nebraska has regularly used only an eight-man rotation this season, but that depth could be put into question Sunday. Senior center Andre Almeida suffered an ankle sprain in the first half of Wednesday's loss to Ohio State, and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. NU was without junior guard Mike Peltz at Ohio State, as he is battling tendonitis. He is listed as doubtful for the Huskers' game with Wisconsin.

That means Nebraska will have to rely even more on its starters. Through the early part of the season, Gallegos and Talley rank first and third, respectively, in the Big Ten in minutes per game while NU has three players averaging over 31 minutes per night.

Entering Sunday, Wisconsin has nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. As a result of the fresher legs, eight different players have posted double-digit scoring games. In fact, 5 players: Jared Berggren, Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, Ryan Evans and Frank Kaminsky have all scored at least 15 points in a game.

Nebraska is going to play hard, especially at home, with Miles as the head coach. Wisconsin didn't do much convincing of doubters with Thursday's average performance, but the Badgers should be able to take advantage of a wounded Huskers team. Wisconsin wins by 12.

Worgull's Record: 10-4

Points off Prediction: 155 (11.1 per game)


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