Breakdown: No.9 Wisconsin at Nebraska

The only meeting between Wisconsin and Nebraska in the regular season finale has a lot on the line for both teams, as the Badgers are fighting for a top seed in the NCAA tournament while the Huskers are fighting just to get in the field. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.9 Wisconsin (25-5, 12-5 Big Ten) at Nebraska (18-11, 10-7 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Sunday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. Central

Arena –Pinnacle Bank Arena Center (15,000)

Television -Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris)

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

Series – Series tied 10-10 (Nebraska leads 6-3 in Lincoln)

Last Meeting -Wisconsin won, 77-46, on February 26, 2013 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.9 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 13.1 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.4 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 7.8 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.5 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)

Nebraska Probable Starters

O Tai Webster (6-4 Freshman Guard, 4.3 ppg)

2 David Rivers (6-7 Junior Forward, 2.9 ppg)

5 Terran Petteway (6-6 Sophomore Guard, 6.6 ppg)

31 Shavon Shields (6-7 Sophomore Guard, 12.2 ppg)

35 Walter Pitchford (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 9.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Benny Parker (5-9 Sophomore Guard, 2.2 ppg)

21 Leslee Smith (6-8 Junior Forward, 5.9 ppg)

Last Time Out

Combining for 49 points, juniors Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Frank Kaminsky helped No.9 Wisconsin avenge last year's senior day with a 76-70 triumph over Purdue Wednesday night.

Wisconsin (25-5, 12-5 Big Ten) swept the Boilermakers for the first time since 2005 and extended its conference winning streak to eight games, its longest since winning its final 11 games in the 1940-41 season.

"Last year was kind of tough sending the seniors out on a sour note," said Kaminsky, who finished with a game-high 22 points. "We didn't want that to happen again. We wanted to do that for them."

Not trailing for the final 38:20 was just what Wisconsin needed to give all three seniors their due. Brust checked out of the game with 21.9 seconds left to a standing ovation, finishing with nine points and four rebounds. Bohannon and Anderson checked in shortly thereafter, each playing a couple possessions before they came out to the same kind of treatment.

It was a far different scene a year ago when UW players were forced to sit through a lengthy tribute video after missing its final 18 3-pointers in a 13-point loss.

"It was nice to have everyone smiling in the locker room and smiling after the game," said Brust. "It makes it much better for everyone and the seniors included."

The first 10 points by Wisconsin were scored by five different players, leading to a 12-4 run out of the gates, and the offense just kept coming, especially from the two juniors.

Jackson and Kaminsky were a combined 6-7 on that opening stretch, building a lead to as many as 15 points. Both in double figures by halftime, the duo were responsible for nine of UW's 14 made buckets in the first half, while Kaminsky continued to take advantage of a mismatch inside against Purdue's A.J. Hammons to shoot an efficient 8-for-11 overall.

"We were just taking what they were giving us," said Jackson (14 points). "It was good to get some shots going down."

It was a stark turnaround from last year's senior day when the Badgers sent off five seniors on a loss for the first time in 12 years under Ryan. On that night a sub.500 Boilermakers team used tough defense, aggressiveness on the glass and the ability to snag loose balls to outscore UW by 18 in the second half.

That tenacity wasn't on display this time, as this year's Boilermakers (15-15, 5-12) had as many turnovers (four) as made shots in the first 19 possessions and missed their first 11 3-point attempts, not making their first one until the 6:07 mark in the second half.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

MADISON - Making seven of its first 10 3-point attempts, No.17 Wisconsin had little trouble rolling over Nebraska, 77-46, Tuesday night at the Kohl Center to draw even closer to the top spot in the Big Ten.

Sam Dekker scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in a first half to help Wisconsin shoot 59.2 percent and score 44 points, the most the Badgers had registered in a half since scoring 47 points against Samford Dec. 29.

Ryan Evans added 14 points (6-for-13), seven rebounds and went 2-for-2 on his jump-shot free throws. Ben Brust added 13 points, his seventh straight game with double-figure scoring, and Jared Berggren added four blocks, surpassing Rashard Griffith as the school's all-time block leader (126).

Wisconsin has won three-straight Big Ten games by 20+ points for the first time since the 1911-12 season and shot 48 percent from 3-point range Tuesday, a stark turnaround after going 19 of 64 from 3-point range (29.7 percent) in last three games combined.

After Nebraska (13-15, 4-11) took a two-point lead, the Badgers unloaded with a 27-4 run over 8:16 that included points from six different players, 3-pointers from four players and 11 points from Dekker. Wisconsin finished the first half with 13 assists to only three turnovers, and never looked back.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

Sunday's game marks the 21st meeting between Wisconsin and Nebraska, in a series dating back to 1904. Wisconsin has won each of the last five meetings with Nebraska, including all four since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011-12.

In the four meetings since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, the Badgers have held the Huskers to just 43.0 ppg and 23.6 percent from 3-point range. Nebraska has never surpassed 46 points in that span. Nebraska has not shot better than 37% in any of those 4 contests.

Wisconsin is 10-2 in regular-season finales under Bo Ryan, that includes a mark of 4-2 when that game falls in a road venue. Ryan's teams are also 8-4 in their final regular- season road game.

? Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers have won 8 straight regular-season Big Ten games, the team's longest conference win streak since UW won its final 11 games in 1940-41.

Wisconsin boasts its most productive offense in 19 years, but is also fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (63.8 ppg), first in the nation in fewest TOs (8.1 per game) and first in the NCAA in fewest fouls (14.7 per game).

Bo Ryan owns 699 wins over his 30-year career and he is poised to become just the 40th coach in college basketball history to reach the 700-win plateau. He would also be just the fifth active Div. I coach with 700 wins (Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and Bob Huggins).

UW is 11-2 away from home (8-2 in true road games, 3-0 in neutral games), posting 4 of those win against teams current ranked. The Badgers' 11 regular-season wins away from home is a new school record.

Nebraska Notes

Nebraska is 11-2 (.846) in games decided by five points or less in the past two seasons under Tim Miles.

Nebraska has swept two conference foes for the first time since the 1998-99 season (Indiana, Northwestern).

Nebraska will look for their 11th conference win of the season, the first time that has happened since the 1965-66 season. NU has won 11 or more conference games three times in school history and two of them were before WWII.

A win would assure the Huskers no worse than a fourth- place conference finish, which would be only the third time in the last 20 years that has occurred at Nebraska (1993-94, 1997-98).

Prediction

Picked to finish last in the Big Ten, Nebraska enters the final day of the Big Ten conference season with a chance to clinch a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, an incredible turnaround in the second year of the Tim Miles era.

Starting out 0-4 in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers have won seven of its last eight games, culminating with a 70-60 win at Indiana Wednesday. Sophomores Pitchford and Shields combined for 34 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Huskers to their first-ever win at Assembly Hall. Although averaging just 63.6 points over the last eight games, the Cornhuskers are back in the NCAA tournament picture because they've held opponents under 40 percent shooting on that stretch.

"This team really bought in about midseason that they could be a good defensive squad if they put in the effort," said Josh Harvey, Nebraska publisher of BigRedReport.com. "When you are constantly holding opponents field goal shooting percentage in the 30s, you will win basketball games. By playing better defense, this team has also been able to get out in transition more, which is an area they seem to thrive in. It's created a lot of easy points and minor runs. At home, they are really playing a more entertaining style of basketball, which has gotten the crowd into it. The crowd has fueled the offense at times."

Nobody has entertained the Huskers fans more than Petteway and Shields. Third in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.8 points per game, Petteway, a Texas Tech transfer, is the only Big Ten player with multiple 30-point games and has led the Huskers in scoring 19 times.

Shields is second to Petteway in scoring (12.2 ppg), but leads the Huskers with 5.9 rebounds per game, is third in assists and has scored in double figures 18 times this season. Shields has also eclipsed the 30-point plateau, scoring a career-high 33 points against Illinois, which included 15-for-15 from the free throw line.

It's a coin flip as to who is more valuable to the Huskers, but Harvey sides with Petteway.

"He's the Huskers offense late in the game and he usually guards the opposing team's best player – regardless if they are a guard or forward," said Harvey. "When Petteway struggles, this team has a hard time winning. Shields has struggled to score at times, but I don't know how much it has affected the loss column."

While Petteway might be the most important piece to the Nebraska puzzle, the presence of Frank Kaminsky in the post could provide the toughest matchup for the Huskers to counter.

Over UW's last six games, Kaminsky is averaging 17.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg, including three 20-point performances. One of the most improved players in the Big Ten, Kaminsky has increased his scoring by 9.1 ppg and his rebounding by 4.5 rpg from 2012-13.

"Nebraska's Walter Pitchford is athletic enough and big enough to defend Kaminsky when he pops out on the perimeter, but in the post it's a different story," said Harvey. "If he tries to work down there, expect Nebraska to drop a guard on the double-team. The Huskers are one of the best teams in the country when it comes to double-teaming the post, but Wisconsin is also one of the best offensive teams in the country."

Huskers are touting tonight's game as biggest in 15 years, expecting to push the attendance to around 16,000 with a sold-out crowd and no standing room tickets available. Nebraska enters the final week of the season 4-10 away from Lincoln (3-8 on the road) and 3-7 against the RPI top 50, but the Cornhuskers are in the NCAA tournament discussion based on their 14-1 record at home, with the lone loss being a one-point setback to Big Ten champion Michigan.

Penn State coach Pat Chambers called it one of the best home-court advantages in the Big Ten, and it's hard to argue considering what the Cornhuskers have done in their first season in their new arena.

"When 15K fans a game are entertained, they are loud, which has really fueled this team at times," said Harvey. "I really can't describe the level of excitement around the program right now. The Huskers' new arena was sold out before the season anyway, with the level of giddiness high due to second-year head coach Tim Miles, but now the fans have a reason to come out. Everyone loves a winner and it's just really snowballed for the good this year. There are a few games this season that without the Nebraska crowd, they weren't winning."

With a win Nebraska could pick up its 11th conference win for only the third time in school history and first since the 1965-66 season, and the Huskers likely need it to enhance their profile enough to make their first NCAA tournament since 1998. If Nebraska loses, the Huskers will likely need to win at least two games – one over a lower seed – to pick up a quality win. If they win tonight and don't get in, the selection committee would be leaving out the fourth-best team in arguably the best conference in the country.

Josh Gasser said if the Badgers win this game it might be the best win of the year considering everything on the line. Wisconsin has a chance to move up to the No.1 line heading into the final week of the season and clinch a No.2 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

UW is playing good basketball, but I feel the Huskers, behind a raucous home crowd and desperately needing to win this game, get a five-point victory.

Worgull's Record: 20-10

Points off Prediction: 268 (8.9 per game)


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