Date/Time -Thursday, January 15, 8 p.m. Central
Arena –Kohl Center (17,279)
Television -ESPN2 (Rece Davis and Seth Greenberg)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Nebraska leads 11-10 (Wisconsin leads 6-2 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Nebraska won, 77-68, on March 9, 2014 in Lincoln, Neb.
Wisconsin Probable Starters
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.2 ppg)
15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 12.4 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 7.5 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 4.9 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 16.9 ppg)
Off the Bench
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 2.8 ppg)
13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 6.2 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Guard, 3.0 ppg)
Nebraska Probable Starters
2 David Rivers (6-7 Senior Forward, 5.4 ppg)
3 Benny Parker (5-9 Junior Guard, 6.1 ppg)
5 Terran Petteway (6-6 Junior Guard, 18.9 ppg)
31 Shavon Shields (6-7 Junior Guard, 17.1 ppg)
35 Walter Pitchford (6-10 Junior Forward, 7.7 ppg)
Off the Bench
0 Tai Webster (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 4.1 ppg)
11 Tarin Smith (6-2 Freshman Guard, 3.8 ppg)
12 Moses Abraham (6-9 Senior Center, 3.0 ppg)
LINCOLN, Neb. - Allowing No.9 Wisconsin to hover around 50 percent heading into the second half, Nebraska turned up the defensive intensity to see UW miss 14 of its final 19 shots, a big key in helping Nebraska end the Badgers’ eight-game winning streak with a 77-68 victory at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway each scored 26 points for Nebraska (19-11, 11-7), which won for the 10th time in 12 games to clinch fourth place in the Big Ten for their highest conference finish since 1997-98. Nebraska also registered its first win over Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6 Big Ten) since joining the Big Ten before the 2011-12 season.
UW put four players in double figures, led by Frank Kaminsky’s 14 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists, but the Badgers shot 34.4 percent in the second half after shooting 54.2 percent in the first half, putting a major dent in UW’s hope for a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Josh Gasser had 11 points and nine rebounds while Nigel Hayes scored 12, but went 2-for-7 from the line.
The Badgers led by as many as seven points in the second half and retook the lead with 12:33 remaining following a Kaminsky’s 3-pointer. From that point the three themes of the night all reared their head.
For starters the offense vanished, as Wisconsin went 0-for-6 from the field on a 13-4 Nebraska run that UW never recovered from. Three of those misses on that stretch came from Sam Dekker, who finished 3-for-9 shooting, scored only six points (his third straight game in single digits after having only four such games previously) and spent half of the second half on the bench despite one personal foul.
“You know, I never pick apart a player in a press conference,” said Ryan of Dekker. “He's got things to work on like a lot of our other guys.”
The Badgers entered the regular season finale ranking second in the conference in free throw percentage, shooting 75.3 percent on the season, but shot 52.2 percent (11-for-21) Sunday, their lowest since going 1-for-4 against Jan.14. On the decisive run, UW finished 2-for-7, including missing the front end of a bonus situation.
“They regrouped and shut down some things and they hit some shots,” said Ryan, as UW also committed 11 turnovers that turned into 17 Nebraska points. “Playing from behind we had a couple chances there, biting into their lead and missed a few free throws.”
Shields scored all 20 of his points inside the perimeter and six from the free throw line while Pettway scored 12 from two-point range and 11 from the free throw line. Nebraska shot better than 50 percent in each half and 52.6 percent for the game.
Last Time Out
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Frank Kaminsky on the bench turned out to be a big problem for the University of Wisconsin.
Without the 7-foot center’s presence in the middle of the lane, Rutgers – the worst shooting team in the conference - shot 66.7 percent in the second half to erase a double-digit deficit to shock the fourth-ranked Badgers, 67-62, at the RAC Sunday night.
Last in the league in scoring (54.0), field goal percentage (38.1) and 3-point percentage (28.8) and free throw percentage (59.7), Rutgers (10-7, 2-2 Big Ten) shot as high as 78.6 percent in the second half, made five straight 3-pointers after halftime and scored 20 points on its first 11 possessions.
The Scarlet Knights also were clutch from the free throw line in shooting 80 percent, helping them outscore Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1) 44-27 in the second half.
And while Rutgers continued to stay hot, the Badgers couldn’t buy a bucket. UW went nearly seven minutes without a field goal during the last half of the second half and shot 23.8 percent from 3-point range for the game, including missing five of its final six 3-point attempts.
“We started to score inside and that left our 3-point shooter open,” said UW coach Bo Ryan. “I’d love to have those shots again. I thought we had more wide-open shots in this game than any other Big Ten game.”
That couldn’t be truer of senior Josh Gasser and junior Sam Dekker. Gasser led the Badgers shooting 45.1 percent from 3-point range and Dekker was second at 37.5, but the duo combined to go 0-for-9 from 3-point range.
“You can’t get on the road in the Big Ten and get away with something like that,” said Ryan.
The Badgers also didn’t cash in from the free throw line to disrupt Rutgers’ momentum, going 9-for-16 for the game and 6-for-12 in the second half.
“We left a lot of points at the line,” said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. “We don’t shoot it well in the second half, or really for the game. That was a chance to get some separation and hold them at bay.”
After being held of practice Friday and Saturday, Kaminsky traveled with the team but was ruled out prior to the game. Believing to have sustained a concussion during UW’s win over Purdue Wednesday, Kaminsky started developing concussion-like symptoms Thursday.
“You play with what you have,” said Ryan. I thought we were battling in there.”
That was just part of the Badgers problems. Dekker tied Nigel Hayes with a team-high 15 points, but didn’t score in the final 10:41 and didn’t attempt a shot in the final 6:10. Gasser was saddled with foul trouble and fellow senior guard Traevon Jackson missed the final 12:33 after breaking his foot, sidelining him for the next 4-to-6 weeks.
Bronson Koenig – making his first career start for Kaminsky – finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Wisconsin defended Myles Mack well in the first half, holding the senior to 1-for-6 shooting, but couldn’t contain him in the second half in scoring 19 of his game-high 21 points. Kadeem Jack added 20 – making them the only two players in double figures to help the score register the biggest upset in school history, surpassing its win over No. 6 West Virginia in 1982.
UW has won five of the last six meetings with Nebraska, including four of five since the Huskers joined the Big Ten.
In the two Big Ten games between the Badgers and Nebraska played in Madison, the Huskers have averaged just 45.5 ppg. In fact, Nebraska has failed to reach 50 points in four of the five meetings over the last three seasons.
The 2014 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, Nigel Hayes, has expanded his game in 2014-15. Hayes is 3rd on the team in points (12.2) and ranks 4th in the Big Ten with 7.1 rebounds per game. He is also 2nd on the team in blocks (11) and fourth in steals (13). He also leads the team shooting 56.4 percent from the field, which ranks 7th in the Big Ten.
This year UW is averaging 73.5 points per game and ranks 9th in the nation in offensive efficiency, averaging 1.18 points per possession.
Wisconsin’s guard trio of seniors Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser and sophomore Bronson Koenig have combined for 111 assists and just 45 turnovers (2.5 ratio).
As a team, the Badgers rank fourth in the nation with a 1.57 assist-to-turnover ratio (221-to-141).
The Badgers have held 13 of their 17 opponents to 60 points or less this season, something they did 13 times in 2013-14.
Nebraska looks for its second straight road win against a ranked team dating back to last season, as NU topped ninth-ranked Michigan State, 60-51 on Feb. 16, 2014. That snapped a 21-game road losing steak to ranked teams dating back to 2008.
Huskers field goal defense is .377 percent this year, which is on pace to be the Huskers’ best since the 1960-61 season (.367).
Walter Pitchford is averaging seven rebounds over the last eight contests. In NU’s first eight games, he averaged 2.9 rebounds per outing.
Petteway and Shield are combining for 36 points per game this season. Only nine schools have two players combining for at least 35 points per game this season, and Nebraska’s duo is eighth nationally and leads all power conference duos at 36.0 ppg. Oklahoma State’s tandom of Phil Forte and Le’Bryan Nash is second among power confeence pairs at 35.3 points per game.
NU has held nine of its first 16 opponents under 40 percent shooting, including seven of the last eight foes.
Sitting on the end of the bench Sunday night, Frank Kaminsky felt helpless as he watched Wisconsin succumb on the road to a low-scoring Rutgers team that seemingly couldn’t miss without his big 7-foot presence standing in the middle of the lane.
Helplessness turned to disappointment with the news that starting point guard Traevon Jackson broke a bone in his foot and would be on the shelf to at least mid-February, maybe longer.
Throw everything together and it made the flight home from Piscataway, N.J., very long and very quiet.
“It was tough. We went in there, regardless of who was playing, expecting to win the game,” said Kaminsky. “We had a 12-point lead at halftime and to have such a bad second half, it was definitely frustrating. Everyone was mad. Losing Trae made it way worse. It was one of those trips where nobody said much on the way home.”
Wisconsin was 3-0 to start Big Ten play last year, but what happened after that derailed the team’s chances at winning a Big Ten title. Following a 25-point home win against Illinois to improve to 16-0, the best start in school history, Wisconsin dropped five of six, including a surprising three straight at home – a first in the Bo Ryan era.
Wisconsin regrouped to go 12-6 in the league, but the learning lessons from that frustrating stretch yielded benefits last year during UW’s first Final Four run in 14 years and have carried over to this week.
“We learned last year that one game could turn into more than one game,” said Kaminsky, as UW gave up 75, 77 and 81 points in the three straight losses at the beginning of the slide. “We know that we had a bad loss, we have to learn from it and we have to move on from it. We can’t live in the past. We can take a lot of things from the Rutgers game going forward, but we can’t hang our hats on that game and let it affect two or three games.”
Although it’s hard to replace Jackson’s experience and leadership on the court, Wisconsin players are confident that Koenig can keep the offense clicking in Jackson’s absence. The first real test for Koenig will be tonight against a Huskers team that is on an upswing.
Struggling through the nonconference schedule and the early portion of its Big Ten schedule, Nebraska has won its last two games and returns virtually the same lineup that shot 52 percent from the floor, including 54.5 percent from 3-point range, in a 9-point win over UW in Lincoln last season. The Badgers also committed 11 turnovers compared to just five by the Huskers in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
On Sunday Wisconsin let Rutgers’ two leading scorers get some confidence in the second half, allowing the Scarlet Knights to take over the game and erase UW’s double-digit lead. The same is easily repeatable here with Petteway and Shields, both of whom torched the Badgers last season are averaging a combined 36 points per game.
“They’ve got the same team, they’ve got two great scorers in Terran and Shavon,” said Kaminsky. “It will be difficult to game plan for those two guys, but we’ll be ready for whatever they bring at us.”
Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska has struggled playing in Madison, losing by an average of 22.5 points per game. Nebraska coach Tim Miles said it comes down to have a fighter’s mentality, which he said is the same approach Iowa and Purdue have used to have some success at the Kohl Center. It’s also to a degree the same approach Wisconsin has to take.
“You just keep doing what you’ve been doing, you just try to do it better,” said assistant coach Gary Close. “I think that will be our approach. There’s not too much time to do it anything different…In this league they just keep coming, so you can’t dwell on (the losses) very long. ”
It probably won’t be easy, but I’d be surprised if Wisconsin turns out two consecutive poor performances, especially with Kaminsky back in the lineup. Badgers by 10 at home.
Worgull's Record: 15-2
Points off Prediction: 135 (7.9 per game)