The Nebraska men’s basketball team returns to the road for the second time this week, as the No. 24/23 Huskers travel to Iowa City, Iowa, for a matchup with the No. 25/20 Iowa Hawkeyes.
Tipoff at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for 4:30 p.m. (central) and the matchup will be televised nationally on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call. Sunday’s game will also be available on BTN.com and the BTN2Go and Fox Sports Go apps with cable authentication.
Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Ben McLaughlin on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, on the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and the TuneIn Radio app and on XM radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff on many of the Husker Sports Network affiliates (affiliate list on page 7 of the game notes).
The Huskers (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) look to rebound following a tough 74-72 loss at Maryland on Wednesday. Jalen Smith’s basket with 3.8 seconds left was the difference in a game that saw nine lead changes and 11 ties. In the loss, James Palmer Jr. led the Huskers with 26 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists to pace three Huskers in double figures. Palmer has been on a tear as of late with four 20-point efforts in his last five games for the Huskers dating back to Dec. 8.
For the Huskers, who are ranked 24th in this week’s AP poll, Sunday’s game with the No. 25 Hawkeyes will mark the first time that both teams were ranked at game time. In addition, it has been 16 years since NU played a game as a ranked team against another ranked foe.
The Huskers defense, which ranks in the top-20 nationally in field goal percentage and scoring defense, will be challenged by an Iowa attack which is among the nation’s best at getting to the foul line. Iowa averages nearly 30 attempts per game and shoots nearly 75 percent from the line, a big reason why the Hawkeyes average 82 points per game.
The Hawkeyes (11-3, 0-3 Big Ten) ran into a buzzsaw at Purdue, losing 86-70, on Wednesday evening. Junior forward Tyler Cook led Iowa with 24 points and six rebounds, while Isaiah Moss and Ryan Kriener added 13 and 10 points, respectively. The loss snapped Iowa’s five-game winning streak. Cook leads four Hawkeyes in double figures with 17.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
13.2 – Isaiah Roby has played some of his best basketball in recent weeks, averaging 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game over his last five games.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1.40 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio, which is on pace to be one of the best marks in school history. Last season, NU had a 1.23-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Both Glynn Watson Jr. and Thomas Allen have 3.0-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratios.
10.4 – Nebraska’s 3-pointers per game over the last five contests. The Huskers are shooting 46 percent from long range in that stretch. On the season, NU is shooting 38 percent from long range.
14 – The Huskers have had 17 runs of at least 10-0 in 2018-19, including a 22-0 run against Southeastern Louisiana. The Huskers have allowed three double-figure runs this season.
20.1 – Scoring average for James Palmer Jr. The senior is bidding to become the first Husker since Tyronn Lue (1998) to average 20 points per game.
Iowa is 11-3 on the season following an 86-70 loss at Purdue on Thursday evening. Under Coach Fran McCaffery, the Hawkeyes won their first six games, including neutral-site wins over Oregon and UConn, before opening conference play with losses to nationally ranked Wisconsin and at Michigan State. Since then, Iowa had won five straight, including a 14-point win over Iowa State, to wrap up non-conference play with a perfect 11-0 mark.
The Hawkeyes’ strength is an offensive attack that is shooting 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range to rank second in the Big Ten in scoring at 82.2 points per game. Iowa is among the nation’s best at getting to the foul line, as they make an average of nearly 22 free throws per game while ranking second in the conference in free throw percentage (.746).
The Hawkeyes are one of the most experienced teams in college basketball, as they returned all five starters from a year ago. Junior forward Tyler Cook has been the Hawkeyes primary threat, as he paces the squad in scoring (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg). The Hawkeyes have been without starting center Luka Garza for the last three games (12.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), but he could return to Sunday’s game.
In the backcourt, two-year starters Jordan Bohannon (10.4 ppg, 30 3-pointers) and Isaiah Moss (8.9 ppg) are joined by freshman Joe Weiskamp, who is averaging 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
Sunday’s game is the first of two meetings, as the Hawkeyes will visit Pinnacle Bank Arena in the regular-season finale.
The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series, 19-11 in a series that dates back to 1907. It is NU’s third-oldest series against a Big Ten foe, as only NU’s series with Minnesota and Wisconsin have been around longer. The teams had not met since 1976 before NU joined the Big Ten in 2011-12. Nebraska is 4-7 against the Hawkeyes since joining the Big Ten, but has won two of the past three meetings. Iowa has won five of the last six meetings against the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
LAST MEETING VS. IOWA
James Palmer Jr. led the Huskers with a game-high 28 points, and Nebraska made 11 3-pointers and shot nearly 58 percent on the way to a 98-84 victory over Iowa.
Isaac Copeland Jr. scored 23 points and added 11 rebounds to post his second double-double of the season. Isaiah Roby scored a career-high 17 points, while Jordy Tshimanga rounded out four Huskers in double figures with a season-high 11 tallies.
Nebraska finished the game 11-19 from behind the arc, including four 3-pointers from Copeland and three from Palmer. Nebraska’s 98 points were its most since scoring 104 points in a 104-94 win over UTSA on Dec. 20, 2017. The Husker output was its most in a conference game since scoring 99 points in a 99-82 win over Kansas State on Feb. 9, 2002.
After the Huskers took a 46-34 lead into the locker room at halftime, NU was slow to start the second half as Iowa went on a 20-8 run to start the half to cut the Nebraska lead to 56-54. Palmer led an 11-0 run with back-to-back threes, while Roby knocked in a triple of his own to give the Huskers a 67-54 advantage and the Big Red never looked back as Iowa would not cut the lead to single digits for the rest of the game.
LAST TIME OUT
Jalen Smith’s basket with 3.8 seconds remaining lifted Maryland to a 74-72 win over No.24/23 Nebraska Wednesday evening at the XFINITY Center.
Smith, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, broke the deadlock with a jumper in the lane to give Maryland the lead for good. Smith scored Maryland’s final seven points in a see-saw contest which saw 11 ties and nine lead changes.
Nebraska had one final opportunity and inbounded the ball to Thomas Allen, who got it to halfcourt and found Isaiah Roby going to the hoop, but Roby, who was battling contact, was unable to haul in the pass and get the shot off as the buzzer sounded.
James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 26 points, seven rebounds and five steals, while Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaiah Roby had 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 19 points, while Bruno Fernando added 18 points and 17 rebounds, as the Terrapins outrebounded Nebraska, 38-28, including 14 offensive boards that led to 14 second-chance points.
The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday that Nebraska’s upcoming home game against Penn State on Thursday, Jan. 10, will be televised on ESPN2. The TV for that game had been listed as TBA. It will be the Huskers’ fourth of six appearances on an ESPN family of networks, as Nebraska will also appear on ESPN or ESPN2 during its game at Michigan (Feb. 28) and Michigan State (March 4).
- The Huskers’ 11-3 mark is its best 14-game record since the 2010-11 team opened the year with a 12-2 mark after 14 games.
- Sunday’s game at Iowa will be just the ninth time in program history where two ranked teams have squared off and the first since a loss to Michigan’s “Fab 5” at the 1992 Rainbow Classic. NU is 3-5 all-time in those matchups, while the matchup with Michigan was the only previous time NU has played a Big Ten team when ranked.
- Sunday’s game features two of the highest-scoring attacks in Big Ten play. Nebraska is third in the Big Ten at 79.6 points per game while the Hawkeyes are second at 82.2 points per game. It is the Huskers’ highest scoring average after 14 games since the 1995-96 season (88.1 ppg). During the previous six seasons under Head Coach Tim Miles, NU’s highest points per game after 14 games was 76.1 ppg set last season.
- Nebraska is one of seven teams in Division I ranked in the top 25 nationally in field goal defense, 3-point defense and scoring defense through Jan. 2, a list which also includes Virginia, Texas Tech, Houston, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Oregon.
- The Big Ten is well represented in the latest NET released on Jan. 3, as 10 teams are ranked in the top 50, including six teams in the top 21 (Michigan-3; Michigan State-9; Nebraska-13; Ohio State-16; Indiana-20, Wisconsin-21). In all, 12 of the 14 Big Ten teams are in the top 75 nationally.
- Nebraska has taken good care of the basketball throughout the season. The Huskers are 13th nationally in turnover margin (+4.8) and turnovers per game (10.6). NU has committed 10 or fewer turnovers in seven of the last nine contests dating back to Nov. 24. On the season, the Huskers’ four primary ball handlers (Glynn Watson Jr., Thomas Allen, James Palmer Jr. and Amir Harris) are a combined 2.1-to-1 in assist-to-turnover ratio.
- The Huskers finished non-conference action with a 10-1 mark, including wins over Seton Hall, Clemson, Creighton and Oklahoma State. It marked just the fourth time since World War II that the Huskers finished non-conference play with one loss (10-1, 2003-04; 12-1, 1991-92; and 11-1, 1977-78).
- A win at Iowa would snap the Huskers’ five-game losing streak in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. NU’s lone win in the building came during the 2011-12 campaign, its first in the Big Ten. NU did not play at Iowa in 2017-18.
- Glynn Watson Jr. comes into the Iowa game in 17th place on NU’s career scoring list with 1,230 points. He is 25 points shy of passing Chuck Jura (1,255) for 16th place on NU’s scoring list. Watson is also three steals shy of sixth place on NU’s steals list (Brian Carr, 159).
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE
For Nebraska, the biggest thing over the last two seasons – a stretch where the Huskers are 33-14 – has been improvements on the defensive end.
Last season, NU went from 13th to sixth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense and from 14th to second in 3-point percentage defense. NU ranked in the top-75 nationally in both field goal defense (74th) and 3-point percentage defense (32nd) last season. That has continued during the 2018-19 season.
- After 14 games, Nebraska ranks in the top-25 nationally in scoring defense (57.8 ppg, seventh), field goal defense (.374, 11th) and 3-point defense (.254, fifth). The Huskers also lead the Big Ten in steals (8.5 spg) and are third in blocked shots (4.9 bpg).
- Only one opponent has shot over 50 percent against Nebraska in the last 39 games dating back to last season. In 2018-19, NU has held 13 of its 14 opponents under 50 percent shooting.
- NU limited nine of its 14 opponents to under 0.85 points per possession. Mississippi Valley State and Southeastern Louisiana were held to 0.47 points per possession, the lowest number in Tim Miles’ seven years at NU. On the season, the Huskers are 37th in Kenpom’s adjusted defense through Jan. 3.
- The Huskers have held six opponents to their lowest offensive total of the season.
- Under Miles, the Huskers are 49-5 (.907) when holding opponents under 60 points.
HUSKER OFFENSE GETS INTO HIGH GEAR
Nebraska comes into the Iowa game averaging 79.6 points per game after averaging 72.3 points per game last year. NU has scored at least 70 points in 12 of 14 contests, including six games of at least 80 points.
- Nebraska is 11th nationally in offensive efficiency according to KenPom through Jan. 3. In the KenPom era, only the 2003-04 team (25th) ranked in the top-50 nationally in offensive efficiency.
- Nebraska’s 79.6 points per game would rank seventh in school history and is on pace to be the Huskers’ highest single-season average since 1995-96 (80.2 ppg). Nebraska has averaged 80+ points six times in school history, all coming in a seven-year span under Danny Nee.
- The Huskers scored 106 points in the opener against Mississippi Valley State. It was the Huskers’ highest total since scoring 107 against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 19, 2005.
- Nebraska opened the season with four straight games scoring at least 80 points, marking the first time NU has accomplished that since the 1996 NIT.
- Nebraska scored 94 points in the win over Creighton, its third-highest total in 52 meetings in the series.
- NU has already had seven players score in double figures, including six against Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 11, while four players – James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr., Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaiah Roby – have recorded 20-point performances.
The quick start is not surprising based on what the Huskers brought back from last year’s team that went 22-11, as Nebraska brought back its top four scorers for the first time in 15 years, including three players who averaged double figures.
- Nebraska returned three double-figure scorers (James Palmer Jr., 17.2, Isaac Copeland Jr., 12.9 and Glynn Watson Jr., 10.5) for the first time since the 1992-93 season (Eric Piatkowski, 14.3; Derrick Chandler, 12.3; Jamar Johnson, 11.2).
- Nebraska returned 73 percent of its scoring and 72 percent of its assists from last season. It marked the third time in the last 15 seasons that Nebraska returns at least 70 percent of its scoring from the previous season.
NEW NUMBER, SAME GAME FOR PALMER
While senior guard James Palmer Jr. switched from No. 24 to No. 0 in the offseason, the All-American candidate continues to produce at a high level. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 20.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
- He is among the Big Ten leaders in scoring (second), steals (sixth) and free throw percentage (.818, 12th), while he is also second on NU in assists.
- Palmer is challenging to be the first Husker to average 20.0 ppg since Tyronn Lue in 1997-98, and only the sixth Husker player to average 20.0 in a season.
- Palmer has shown the ability to get to the free throw line, as he ranks in the top-20 nationally in both free throws (90, fifth) and attempts (110, 10th), while shooting a career best 81.8 percent from the foul line. Entering this year, Palmer was a career 72 percent shooter.
- His Husker career scoring average of 18.1 points per game is eighth among all power conference players spanning the last two seasons. The Big Ten features three of the top eight with Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ.
- Palmer has reached double figures in 44 of 47 career games at Nebraska, including 15 20-point efforts and a pair of 30-point performances.
- Since the loss to Texas Tech on Nov. 20, Palmer has been on a tear, averaging 21.9 points per game over the Huskers’ last nine contests, including 44 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free throw line.
- Palmer led NU with 26 points at Maryland while adding seven rebounds, four assists and a career-high five steals.
- Palmer shouldered the scoring load in the win over Oklahoma State with a game-high 29 points, including 14-of-15 shooting from the foul line.
- Palmer enjoyed one of the best performances of his career, scoring 30 points against Creighton. The effort included a career-high six 3-pointers. With that performance against the Bluejays, he became just the 16th player in school history to record multiple 30-point games.
- He turned in a strong performance in the Huskers’ win at Clemson, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the second half and also snaring a career-high nine rebounds.
- Finished with 29 points against Seton Hall, the third-highest scoring night in his career, as he scored 18 of his points in the second half.
Last season, Palmer averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in leading the Huskers to a 22-11 record and an NIT berth. Palmer reached double figures in 31 of 33 games in his first season at Nebraska, including eight 20-point efforts. Palmer’s junior year was highlighted by a career-high 34-point effort at Ohio State. Palmer joins Purdue’s Carsen Edwards as returning first-team All-Big Ten selections by the conference coaches.
- Palmer averaged 18.8 points per game in Big Ten play last year, which is the highest average in conference play since Aleks Maric averaged 18.9 ppg in 2006-07. It is also the most by a returning Big Ten player since Tim Frazier in 2012-13.
WATSON KEYS HUSKER ATTACK
Senior Glynn Watson Jr. is in his fourth year as Nebraska’s starting guard and is putting together his best season as a Husker. He comes into the Iowa game averaging 13.5 points per game on 47 percent shooting, including 45 percent from 3-point range. He is also averaging career bests in assists (4.1 apg), rebounds (4.3 rpg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0-to-1).
- Watson’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0-to-1 this season is one of the best by a Husker guard in recent memory.
- Watson has been in double figures in 12 of 14 contests, including his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists in the win over Cal State Fullerton.
- His on-ball defense has been instrumental in Nebraska ranking among the national leaders in field goal and scoring defense.
- He guided the Husker attack in the win over Creighton with 13 points, five assists and a season-high three steals, while holding Creighton’s Ty-Shon Alexander to just 2-of-10 shooting.
- Watson led NU with 20 points and a career-high nine boards against Western Illinois.
- He showed his playmaking ability by dishing out eight assists and totaling 14 points in the win over Seton Hall.
- Watson has a career 2.18-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has more steals (156) than turnovers (150) in his career.
- His older brother Demetri McCamey was an All-Big Ten guard at Illinois during the 2009-10 season.
- Watson is one of three alumni of St. Joseph to reach 1,000 points at Nebraska, joining Carl Hayes (1,136, 1990-92) and Clifford Scales (1,136, 1988-91). All three played for legendary high school coach Gene Pingatore, who is in his 50th year as coach at St. Joseph and has won over 1,000 games at the school.
ISAAC MAKES IT TOUGH FOR OPPONENTS TO COPE
Isaac Copeland Jr. is back to make the most of his senior year. The 6-foot-9 forward joined the program in January of 2017, but then was unable to practice because of a herniated disc that eventually required surgery.
Despite not being able to practice until school started, Copeland finished second on the team in scoring (12.9 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.0 bpg), setting personal bests in all three areas and earning honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors.
Copeland has improved many of his numbers in 2018-19, as he averages 14.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field.
- Copeland has reached double figures 12 times in 14 games, including a pair of 20-point efforts. He saw his streak of seven straight double-figure games – the longest of his career – snapped with his eight-point effort at Maryland.
- Copeland had 16 points, five rebounds and a pair of assists in the win over Oklahoma State, keying the Huskers’ comeback in the first half with five straight points as part of an 11-2 run.
- He topped NU in points (17) and rebounds (seven) at Minnesota, including hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
- The senior carried NU to a win at Clemson with 16 points, six boards and three assists while his biggest play was a blocked shot which led to James Palmer’s dunk after Clemson closed to within five.
- He earned a spot on the Hall of Fame Classic All-Tournament Team, averaging 21.5 points per game on 61 percent shooting, 7.5 blocks and 3.0 assists per game. He was in double figures in both contests, including a season-high 23 points against Missouri State and 20 points and eight boards against Texas Tech.
- Copeland collected his fifth career double-double in Nebraska’s win over Seton Hall with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He had one during his redshirt year at Georgetown (2016-17) and three in 2017-18.
- He has 11 career 20-point games (7 at Nebraska, 4 at Georgetown), including a pair of 30-point games. Copeland had 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting against North Dakota last year and a career-high 32-point night against Marquette during his sophomore year at Georgetown.
- A top-20 recruit coming out of high school, his 2014 Brewster Academy team also featured Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte) and Jonah Bolden (Philadelphia).
- Copeland earned his undergraduate degree in sociology last May and is working on his Master’s Degree. He comes from a basketball family, as his father (Ike) played collegiately at East Carolina. As a senior, he helped East Carolina make the NCAA Tournament.
ROBY FILLS STAT SHEET
Isaiah Roby compliments the Husker attack with a unique skill set. The 6-foot-8 junior comes into the Iowa game averaging 10.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. Roby leads the Huskers in blocked shots and rebounding and is second on the team in steals. He is the only Big Ten player in the top-10 in blocks and steals while he is one of only seven players nationally, and three in power conferences, to average 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
- Among Big Ten players since 1992, only two other players (Purdue’s Brad Miller and Minnesota’s Damian Johnson) averaged 1.5 steals and blocks per game.
- Roby has played some of his best basketball in recent games, averaging 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game over his last five contests.
- Roby returned to action after missing the Southwest Minnesota game with an injury. He finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots against the Terrapins.
- He scored a career-high 20 points against Cal State Fullerton. Roby topped his previous best of 18 points set as a sophomore at Minnesota, while also topping the Huskers with eight rebounda and two blocked shots.
- Roby put together his most complete game in the win over Creighton, setting season highs in points (15), rebounds (eight) and assists (four) along with a pair of blocks against the Bluejays.
- Roby played well in the loss at Minnesota, finishing with 15 points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
- His dunk against Seton Hall on Nov. 14 marked the fourth time he’s had a top-10 play on SportsCenter at NU, including highlight dunks vs. Rutgers (2018) and at Indiana (2016).
- Nebraska is 22-6 since moving Roby into the starting lineup midway through Big Ten play last season. Roby has all four of his career double-doubles in that stretch.
Roby is one of only two returning power conference players to total 50 blocks and 50 assists last season, joining Missouri’s Jontay Porter, who will miss the 2018-19 season with a torn ACL. Roby is also one of four Huskers to have 50 blocks and 50 assists in a season, joining Aleks Maric, Venson Hamilton and Rich King.
THE A TEAM: ALLEN AND AKENTEN
One of the biggest questions entering the season was who would emerge as the Huskers’ fifth starter. Sophomores Thomas Allen and Nana Akenten have shared the duties and provided the Huskers with an offensive punch.
- Allen has started most of the season and is averaging 8.6 points per game on 40 percent shooting, including 41 percent from 3-point range, while chipping in 2.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
- Allen is third in the Big Ten in steals per games and is tied for the team lead with a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- He has been playing well over the last seven contests, averaging 10.7 points per game on 58 percent shooting along with 2.0 assists per game. He also has a 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in that stretch.
- Allen had a career-high 18 points, five assists and four rebounds against Creighton and had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Oklahoma State after missing most of the week with an illness.
- Akenten has started twice and is averaging 5.7 points per game on 42 percent shooting. He is shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range and has given the Huskers a pair of double-figure efforts.
- He had a career-high 18 points off the bench against Missouri Valley State, including five 3-pointers, in just 13 minutes. He also had 11 points in the win over Missouri State and nine points in a start against Cal State Fullerton.