Completing the season sweep over Northwestern, Wisconsin will attempt to complete its third seep of the season when they travel to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. Since beating the Cornhuskers by 15 in the first matchup, Wisconsin (21-2, 9-1 Big Ten) has won six straight while Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) is 3-3, including dropping four of its last six.
Nebraska was able to find a way to beat Northwestern on Tuesday by 16 points but couldn’t find a way to win at Penn State, losing to the Nittany Lions by 13 points. With the Cornhuskers needing wins as they enter the final stretch of Big Ten play, they will look to try and find the magic that helped them upset Wisconsin at home last season, a victory that helped put them in the NCAA Tournament.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin as they play Nebraska and strive for its seventh straight win.
Lay up: Winning the offensive glass
In Wisconsin’s six game winning streak, the Badgers’ opponents are only averaging 6.8 offensive rebounds a game. Michigan was the only team to record double-digit offensive rebounds over that stretch, grabbing 11 in overtime. It’s an area that the Badgers can continue to attack against a Nebraska team that ranks last in the Big Ten in this category, as they only average 7.8 offensive rebounds a game.
The Cornhuskers were able to register eight offensive rebounds in the first meeting against the Badgers, but Wisconsin’s defense held Nebraska to just three second-chance points, big for Wisconsin considering it took away another offensive opportunity for both Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields (pictured). That is something that will have to continue on Tuesday. Nebraska will get its chances but it will be critical in limiting opportunities.
Holding opponents to only 8.8 second-chance points over the last six games, Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes need to make sure that either Moses Abraham or Walter Pitchford can’t get their hands on rebounds. Kaminsky and Hayes continue to prove that they are one of the best rebounding duos in the Big Ten, as they average 8.1 and 6.4 rebounds, respectively, and are the team’s top two defensive rebounders.
Mid-range jumper: Can Frank Kaminsky bounce back?
Northwestern’s 2-3 zone made life challenging for Wisconsin’s senior All-American, as the Wildcats typically collapsed multiple defenders on him as soon as he touched the ball. Kaminsky with 12 points on 3-for-7 shooting (a season low in shot attempts). Nebraska could easily follow the same path Northwestern did and force Kaminsky’s teammates to win the game.
Even if teams try and take Kaminsky away, the rest of Wisconsin’s team has shown that they can consistently step up when needed to. Kaminsky was able to score 22 points in the first matchup of the season against Nebraska, and he was able to show that he could score in a variety of ways. But it also wasn’t just Kaminsky who hurt Nebraska, as four other players for Wisconsin reached double digits in scoring.
The problem with playing zone against Wisconsin and Kaminsky is the team’s ability to hit 3-point shots. Kaminsky leads the starters in 3-point field goal percentage at 41.4 percent, which ranks 11th amongst Big Ten players. The Cornhuskers have defended the perimeter well (their 3-point percentage defense of 31.5 is third in the league), but Kaminsky making a couple 3-pointers early – he’s averaging 1.1 made 3s a game - could help open up the inside of Nebraska’s defense.
Kaminsky may not get many chances at shot attempts if Nebraska’s defense can be successful, as Nebraska is holding opponents to 39.1 percent overall from the field. Kaminsky’s interior play will be vital, per usual, with his ability to make low-post shots, draw fouls and get to the free throw line if he can be physical down low on the block. Pitchford doesn’t foul often so Kaminsky will have to try and make him fall for a fake while he is going up for a shot. If Kaminsky can consistently force Pitchford to draw a foul it will help create the size advantage in favor of Wisconsin.Even if Kaminsky isn’t scoring, he’s still finding ways to generate offense for Wisconsin with his passing abilities. Traevon Jackson’s absence has resulted in Kaminsky leading the team in assists with 2.5 a game, including perfect 5-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio against Northwestern. If Kaminsky can create other opportunities for his teammates, it should result in some opportunities for himself.
3-pointer: Slowing down Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields
Not much has changed since the first matchup between Wisconsin and Nebraska, as Petteway and Shields rank in the top two in either points, rebounds, and assists for the Cornhuskers. Josh Gasser, like he did in the first matchup, will draw the assignment of Petteway.
For Gasser, the first matchup against Nebraska was two different halves, as he allowed Petteway to score 20 points in the first half and seven in the second half. Gasser will need to do his best of not allowing Petteway to beat him off the dribble or create space for himself on shots like he did in the first matchup but instead make him settle for shots on the perimeter. Even that’s not a guarantee. Nebraska ranks last in 3-point field goal percentage (29.5 percent), but Petteway (33.5 percent) connected on four 3-pointers in Madison.
Consistent, pestering defense from Gasser should be able to disrupt Petteway’s rhythm and force turnovers, as he averages 3.4 turnovers a game. It’s a difficult task considering Petteway, averaged 14.5 shots per game, has reached double figures in four of the past five games and score a season-high 32 points against Michigan State in that stretch.
Shields struggled in the first matchup between the two teams (eight points), and Sam Dekker deserves a lot of the credit. Since Dekker held him to single digits, Shields has register double digits in the next six games as is averaging 14 points a game. Overall on the year Shields is averaging 15.9 points a game, is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and has been able to score efficiently with his 12 shots per game average since the Wisconsin game.
But if Gasser and Dekker, with the help of their teammates, can limit Petteway and Shields offensively, it will force Pitchford and the rest of Nebraska to beat Wisconsin, something Nebraska has struggled to do this year.
If you look at Nebraska’s most recent loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions were able to hold Petteway and Shields to a combined 25 points, which still ended up being a majority of the Cornhuskers 43 points. Most importantly the Penn State defense forced both Petteway and Shields to settle for perimeter shots. Seven of Petteway’s 12 shots were from 3-point range and six of Shields’ 13 shots were from the perimeter. Overall Penn State’s interior defense was effective and Nebraska’s perimeter shooting (2-for-20) was horrendous.Nebraska ranks 13th in the league in scoring offense (62.8 ppg) and 11th in field goal percentage (42.7 percent), meaning a solid defensive effort on Petteway (third in the league in scoring) and Shields (seventh) by the guards on the perimeter and the frontcourt in the low post should equal more success for Wisconsin.