The Husker men’s basketball team begins the postseason Wednesday afternoon, as Nebraska takes on Rutgers in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Tipoff from the United Center is set for 5:36 p.m. (central) and the game will be televised nationally on BTN with Brandon Gaudin, Shon Morris and Mike Hall on the call. The matchup will also be available on the Fox Sports App and BTN2Go 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 Jake Muhleisen 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 both Sirius and XM Radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff on many of the Husker Sports Network affiliates.
The Huskers (16-15, 6-14 Big Ten) look to build momentum following an improbable 93-91 win over Iowa in the regular-season finale Sunday afternoon. The Huskers, who had just seven scholarship players available against Iowa, not only overcame a 16-point second-half deficit, but trailed 74-65 with 50 seconds left before outscoring Iowa, 16-7, to get to overtime. In the extra period, Amir Harris scored the go-ahead basket with 10.8 seconds left, while Thorir Thorbjarnarson blocked Jordan Bohannon’s 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to preserve the win.
Nebraska has relied on its two senior guards in James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr., as both players look to extend their careers in Chicago. Palmer, a third-team All-Big Ten pick by both the coaches and media, averages a team-high 19.1 points and 3.1 assists per game. He averaged 28.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals last week, including a 30-point effort against No. 9 Michigan State. Watson is averaging 13.0 points and 2.9 assists per game and has scored 20+ points in three of his last four games.
Rutgers (14-16, 7-13 Big Ten) have been one of the surprises of the Big Ten this season. The Scarlet Knights own wins over Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State and Iowa, knocking off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City on March 2. Rutgers has dropped its last two, including a one-point setback to Penn State on Wednesday. Rutgers won the only meeting with NU on Jan. 21, posting a 76-69 victory.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will play fifth-seeded Maryland Thursday at 1:30 p.m. or 25 minutes following the conclusion of the Indiana-Ohio State matchup.
20.8 – Scoring average for Glynn Watson Jr. over the Huskers’ last four contests, including three games vs. nationally ranked foes. Watson had 23 points, including seven 3-pointers, in Sunday’s win over Iowa.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
7- Points that James Palmer Jr. needs to be the sixth Husker to score at least 600 points in a season and the first since Tyronn Lue in 1997-98. Palmer currently sits seventh on NU’s single-season scoring list with 593 points.
26 – Number of 20-point games for Husker players in 2018-19. James Palmer Jr. has 15 while Isaac Copeland Jr. (three), Isaiah Roby (four) and Glynn Watson Jr. (four) also enjoyed 20-point games this season.
68 – Number of 3-pointers for Glynn Watson Jr., which ties for eighth on NU’s single-season list. He is two away from seventh place (Jaron Boone, 70, 1994-95).
238 – Number of free throws James Palmer Jr. has shot this year, a total which is ninth nationally as of March 11. Palmer holds NU’s single-season record in free throw attempts and will set the school mark with his first made free throw on Wednesday. He is currently tied with Jack Moore (184, 1979-80).
2007- The last time Nebraska had three players with 20+ points in a game before it happened against Iowa with James Palmer Jr. (27), Isaiah Roby (23) and Glynn Watson Jr. (23).
Rutgers has made significant strides under third-year coach Steve Pikiell. A former player at UConn, Pikiell spent the previous 11 seasons at Stony Brook, leading the program to six postseason appearances in seven years, including an NCAA bid in 2016. Rutgers went 15-18 in his first season, including a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament and followed up with 15 wins and a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal appearance last season.
This season, the Scarlet Knights are 14-16 on the season and looking to snap a two-game losing streak. Rutgers was 3-7 away from home in non-conference play with wins at Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa. Rutgers was 1-6 in Big Ten play when Eugene Omoruyi returned to the lineup in late January and was 6-7 after his return with all three road wins in Big Ten play. He leads Rutgers in both scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg), as the Scarlet Knights used a 10-man rotation during the season. The Scarlet Knights feature a young lineup with two freshmen starting. Sophomore Geo Baker is averaging 12.3 ppg and is among the Big Ten leaders at 4.1 apg, while freshmen Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. average 8.7 and 7.8 points, respectively.
Wednesday’s matchup will be the 12th all-time meeting with the Scarlet Knights. Nebraska, which leads 7-4, has won six of the eight meetings since Rutgers joined the Big Ten. Nebraska won the first four meetings before Rutgers posted a 65-64 win in 2016-17. Nebraska swept both meetings during the 2017-18 season before Rutgers won this year’s meeting at the RAC. This is the second time NU has faced Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament, as NU posted an 89-72 win in the first round of the 2016 Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Prior to the Scarlet Knights joining the Big Ten, the two teams split a home-and-home series in 2006 and 2007, including a 63-51 win at the Devaney Center on Dec. 9, 2006. The only other meeting was a 19-point Rutgers win at the 1999 Hoop and Quill Classic in St. Charles, Mo.
LAST MEETING VS. RUTGERS
A series of runs cost the Nebraska men’s basketball team in a 76-69 road loss at Rutgers on Jan. 21.
The Scarlet Knights strung together four runs of 8-0 or greater, including scoring eight straight points after Nebraska had tied the game at 67 with 2:02 to play. Nebraska led by as many as 13 in the first half and eight in the second half, but every time the Huskers tried to pull away, Rutgers responded.
In the first half, the Scarlet Knights had an 8-0 run to erase a six-point deficit and a 15-0 run to erase a 13-point Husker lead. Then in the second half, an 8-0 Rutgers run wiped out an eight-point Nebraska lead, and the Scarlet Knights used a 7-0 run to erase a one-point deficit and take the lead for good with less than 10 minutes to play.
James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 22 points before fouling out. Isaac Copeland Jr. added 16 points and eight rebounds, but he was held to just two points in the second half. Glynn Watson Jr. chipped in 14 points for a Nebraska team that shot just 41.7 percent from the field, including hitting only 10-of-28 shots in the second half. The Huskers were also just 10-of-18 from the free-throw line on the game and committed 12 turnovers.
LAST TIME OUT
It was a memorable Senior Day for the Nebraska men’s basketball team on Sunday, as the Huskers erased a 16-point second-half deficit and scored 16 points in the final 47 seconds of regulation to force overtime in an eventual 93-91 victory over Iowa in front of 15,821 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Seniors James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. combined for 15 points in the final minute of regulation, helping Nebraska erase a nine-point deficit. NU trailed 74-65 with 50 seconds remaining, but Palmer and Watson hit four 3-pointers over the next 38 seconds, with a Watson three bringing Nebraska to within 80-79 with 23 seconds left. After Iowa connected on 1-of-2 free throws, Palmer tied the game with a driving layup with 12 seconds remaining, and Nebraska withstood an Iowa 3-point attempt in the closing seconds.
Already missing starter Thomas Allen Jr., who sat out the game with an injury, Nebraska played the entire overtime period without two more starters – Isaiah Roby and Tanner Borchardt – who both fouled out as the Huskers made their comeback. But even without three starters, the Huskers operated efficiently on the offensive end, going 5-of-6 from the field in overtime. Nebraska grabbed its first lead since midway through the first half when Thorir Thorbjarnarson hit a layup 32 seconds into overtime. Iowa responded by scoring five of the next seven points to take a one-point lead. The Hawkeyes led by two following a Joe Wieskamp 3-pointer with 2:26 to play, but Nebraska would hold Iowa to just two points the rest of the way.
Palmer and Watson scored the next four points to give Nebraska a two-point advantage and after Iowa tied the game, it was freshman Amir Harris, who delivered the game-winner with a layup with 10 seconds remaining. Thorbjarnarson then blocked Ryan Bohannon’s potential game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.
NEBRASKA CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT HISTORY
While this marks Nebraska’s eighth Big Ten Tournament appearance, the Huskers are 19-41 all-time in conference tournaments dating back to the start of the Big Eight Conference tournament in 1977. NU’s only conference tournament title came in 1994, when the Huskers beat Oklahoma, No. 3 Missouri and No. 23 Oklahoma State en route to the Big Eight title.
Nebraska is 3-7 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament, reaching the quarterfinals in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
In 2013, Tim Miles became the first Husker coach to win a conference tournament game in his first season. Miles is 3-5 in five Big Ten Tournament appearances.
Nebraska’s last semifinal appearance came in the 2006 Big 12 Tournament when the Huskers defeated Missouri and Oklahoma before falling to eventual tournament champion Kansas.
TWO HUSKERS HONORED BY BIG TEN
James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby were honored by the Big Ten Conference, as the annual awards were announced on March 11. Palmer earned All-Big Ten honors for the second straight season, as he was a third-team selection by both the league coaches and media, while Roby was Nebraska’s nominee for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. Palmer is the third Husker under Coach Tim Miles to be a two-time All-Big Ten performer, joining Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields.
Palmer put together a strong senior year, as he enters the Big Ten Tournament averaging 19.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The 6-foot-6 guard from Upper Marlboro, Md., is third in the Big Ten in scoring and ranks among the conference leaders in steals (fifth), assists (10th) and free throw percentage (.783, 10th). He reached double figures in 29 of 31 games, including 15 games with at least 20 points. Palmer had a season-high 30 points on two occasions, against Creighton and No. 9 Michigan State. In conference play, he was fourth in the conference in scoring at 18.6 points per game while also ranking fourth in steals (1.6 spg) and sixth in assists (3.4 apg),
Roby was chosen for his work in the community in the Huskers’ Life Skills program. He has helped with Make-a-Wish as well as helped with a coat drive for Everett elementary school in Lincoln. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior, and each school submits one nominee.
Nebraska is 52nd in the NET rankings released on March 11. NU has played 23 of its 30 Division I games against teams in Quadrants 1-2. In all, 18 of Nebraska’s 20 Big Ten games were against teams in the top two quadrants.
According to Kenpom, Nebraska’s strength of schedule is fifth nationally as of March 11, as 11 of the 20 toughest schedules are by Big Ten teams. Since joining the Big Ten in 2010-11, this year could mark the fifth time in eight years that Nebraska has had a top-20 schedule according to the Kenpom rankings (2011-12; 2012-13; 2013-14; 2016-17; 2018-19).
11 of Nebraska’s 15 losses have been to teams who have been ranked in the top-15 at some point in the season (Texas Tech, Maryland-2x, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue-2x and Michigan). In all, Nebraska has faced nine ranked teams this season, one off the school record for a season.
Nebraska had a trio of 20-point scorers against Iowa with James Palmer Jr. (27), Glynn Watson Jr. (23) and Isaiah Roby (23). It marked the first time since 2007 that Nebraska had three players score 20+ points.
James Palmer Jr. has posted 15 20-point games this season, a total that is the most by a Husker since Tyronn Lue had 16 20-point games in 1997-98. The school record for 20-point games in a season is 21 by Dave Hoppen in 1984-85. Palmer has a total of 23 games in his career with at least 30 points.
Palmer’s 30-point performance at Michigan State on March 5 was the third 30-point game of his career at Nebraska. Only eight players have had more 30-point games in a career than Palmer. His 30-point outburst vs. MSU was the most by a Spartan opponent since Brad Davison of Wisconsin had 30 in February of 2018.
Glynn Watson Jr. is one of only six players in school history with at least 1,400 points and 300 assists, joining Eric Piatkowski, Jaron Boone, Erick Strickland, Tyronn Lue and Cookie Belcher.
Glynn Watson Jr. is one of six players currently on NU’s top-10 list in both assists and steals, joining Brian Carr (1984-87), Cookie Belcher (1997-2001), Tyronn Lue (1996-98), Erick Strickland (1993-96) and Clifford Scales (1998-91). Watson is currently in eighth place on NU’s assist list (361) and fifth on NU’s steals list (172).
Isaiah Roby is currently the only Big Ten player who ranks in the top 10 in both steals (1.3, eighth) and blocked shots (1.8, fifth). If he continues through the postseason, he will be just the fifth Big Ten player in the last 25 years to average at least 1.3 steals and blocks per game.
Isaiah Roby is the second Husker to record 50 blocked shots and 50 assists in consecutive seasons, joining Venson Hamilton (1997-98, 1998-99). In all, only four Huskers – Roby, Hamilton, Aleks Maric and Rich King – have had 50 blocks and 50 assists in a season.
Former walk-on Tanner Borchardt has stepped into a crucial role for the Huskers following Isaac Copeland’s injury. Borchardt is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last 12 contests and is averaging 27.7 minutes per game. Prior to Copeland’s injury, Borchardt averaged just 2.9 rebounds per game in 12.3 minutes per contest and had never played more than 20 minutes in a game in his college career.
Balance has been key for the Husker attack this season. When NU has at least three double-figure scorers, the Huskers are 14-10, but just 2-6 when less than three NU players are in double figures.
Nebraska has a 1.33 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season, a total which ranks 34th nationally. It is on pace to be the Huskers’ best assist-to-turnover ratio since the 1985-86 season (1.64-to-1).