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Huskers Close Non-Conference Slate With Mustangs | KTIC Radio

Huskers Close Non-Conference Slate With Mustangs

Huskers Close Non-Conference Slate With Mustangs
The Huskers are back in action Saturday afternoon against Southwest Minnesota State. Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

The No. 23 (coaches) Nebraska men’s basketball team closes out the non-conference portion of the schedule on Saturday afternoon, as the Huskers host Southwest Minnesota State at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tipoff at PBA is set for shortly after 1 p.m. and while Saturday’s game is already sold out, any returned tickets, if available, will go on sale at the PBA Box Office at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Saturday’s game is available online at BTN Plus and on Flosports.com with Brad Hilligoss and Alec Rome on the call. A subscription is required for either service.

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 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 return from the holiday break with a 10-2 record following an 86-62 win over Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 22. In that game, James Palmer Jr. (23 points) and Isaiah Roby (20) combined for 43 points, as the

Huskers put four starters in double figures. Glynn Watson Jr. guided the attack with 10 points and a career-high 10 assists, helping the Huskers to its sixth win in the last seven contests. Defensively, NU held the Titans to 38 percent shooting, including 4-of-21 from 3-point range.

While the 24-point win extended the Huskers’ home win streak to 18 games, Nebraska fell out of the AP Top 25 and fell one spot in the USA Today coaches poll released earlier this week.

With a win on Saturday against Southwest Minnesota State (7-4), the Huskers would finish non-conference play with a 10-1 mark. It would be the first time since the 2003-04 season and just the fourth time since World War II (10-1, 2003-04; 12-1, 1991-92; 11-1, 1977-78) that Nebraska would finish the non-conference portion of its slate with one loss.

Southwest Minnesota State has several connections for Nebraska Coach Tim Miles. First, he coached at the school for four seasons (1997-98 to 2000-01), compiling a 78-39 record, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2001. Second, SMSU Head Coach Brad Bigler was the starting point guard under Miles for three seasons, including the 2000-01 team that finished with a 28-7 record.

OPENING NUMBER
23.2 – James Palmer Jr. is averaging 23.2 points per game over Nebraska’s last five games. Palmer is shooting 58 percent from 3-point range and 89 percent from the foul line over that stretch.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
6 – Glynn Watson was the sixth Husker in the last 20 years to record at least 10 assists per game, joining Lance Jeter, Cookie Miller, Charles Richardson, Jake Muhleisen and Cookie Belcher.
10 – Number of 20-point games for Husker players this season. James Palmer Jr. has six while Isaac Copeland Jr. (two), Glynn Watson Jr. (one) and Isaiah Roby (one) also have accomplished the feat.
14 – The Huskers have had 14 runs of at least 10-0 in 2018-19, including a 22-0 run against Southeastern Louisiana and a 19-0 run against Western Illinois. The Huskers have allowed three double-figure runs this season.
59.5 – Nebraska is 11th nationally in scoring defense, holding teams to 59.3 points per game. NU has held five of its 12 opponents to their lowest total of the season.
80.2 – Nebraska’s scoring average is the highest after 12 games since the 1995-96 team averaged 89.9 ppg over its first 12 games. That team was the last NU squad to average more than 80 points per game for an entire season.
SCOUTING SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE
Southwest Minnesota State begins a busy weekend, taking on the Huskers in Lincoln before traveling to Sioux Falls on Sunday in a Northern Sun Conference game. The Mustangs are 7-4 on the season, but have been off since a 75-63 win over Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 15. Saturday’s game is an exhibition contest for Southwest Minnesota State. Under 10th-year Coach Brad Bigler, the Mustangs are coming off a pair of NCAA postseason appearances, reaching the regional finals in 2017 and the semifinals last season while going 25-9. Bigler was a four-year performer for SMSU, finishing his career eighth on the school’s assist list and played for Tim Miles for three seasons, as well as a redshirt campaign.
SMSU has been a consistent offensive team, averaging 82.7 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent from the foul line.  The Mustangs have topped 90 points in five of their 11 contests. The Mustangs, who feature four double-figure scorers, are led by senior guard Ryan Bruggeman, as he is the school’s all-time scoring leader with 1,650 points. A two-time first-team all-Northern Sun performer, he is averaging 23.2 points and 6.1 assists per game, ranking in the top-20 nationally in both scoring and assists per game.
The only other meeting between the schools came prior to the 2014-15 season when Nebraska posted an 83-61 win over Southwest Minnesota State in an exhibition game. In that game, Shavon Shields and 29 points and nine rebounds to pace four Huskers in double figures.
LAST TIME OUT
Glynn Watson Jr. recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, as No. 25/22 Nebraska improved to 10-2 on the season with an 86-62 win over Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 22.
Watson guided a Husker attack that went over 80 points for the seventh time this season, while setting up a pair of 20-point scorers for the Big Red. Watson’s points-assists double-double was the first by a Husker since 2011, and helped NU to its 18th straight home win, the longest home win streak in over 50 years.
James Palmer Jr. finished with a game-high 23 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, while Isaiah Roby chipped in a career-high 20 points and a team-high eight boards. For Palmer, it marked his third straight 20-point effort.
As a team, the Huskers dished out 18 points and committed a season-low seven turnovers, while forcing 16 Cal State Fullerton miscues that led to 20 Husker points.
Nebraska put four players in double figures, as senior Isaac Copeland Jr. added 12 points to complete the quartet, while Nana Akenten and Thomas Allen also added nine each, as Nebraska continued its best start since the 1994-95 season.
WORTH NOTING
  • With a win on Saturday, Nebraska would post its best 13-game record since the 1991-92 season when the Huskers opened the year with a 12-1 mark. NU went 11-2 four times since 1991-92 (2010-11, 2007-08, 1994-95 and 1993-94).
  • If the Huskers win Saturday, NU would finish non-conference play with a 10-1 mark, including wins over Seton Hall, Clemson, Creighton and Oklahoma State. It would be 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; 11-1, 1977-78).
  • Nebraska looks to extend its home win streak to 19 games on Saturday. If the Huskers beat Southwest Minnesota State, it would be Nebraska’s longest home win streak since winning a school-record 20 games spanning 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons and tie for the second-longest streak in school history.
  • James Palmer Jr. has scored 20 or more points in each of the last three games, the first time a Husker has accomplished the feat since Terran Petteway in 2013-14. The last Husker with four straight 20-point games was Aleks Maric in the 2006-07 season.
  • Nebraska is 100-12 (.893) in non-conference home games since the start of the 2006-07 season, including 37-7 (.841) since Pinnacle Bank Arena opened in 2013.
  • Glynn Watson Jr. comes into the Southwest Minnesota State game in 19th place on NU’s career scoring list with 1,202 points. He is just three points shy of passing Jack Moore (1,204) for 18th place on NU’s scoring list. With 152 steals, he is also two shy of eighth place (154, Tyronn Lue) in that category.
  • Nebraska enters Saturday’s game averaging 80.2 points per game. During the previous six seasons, NU’s highest points per game after 12 games was 73.1 ppg in 2015-16.
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE
For Nebraska, the biggest thing over the last two seasons – a stretch where the Huskers are 32-13 – 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 in the early stages of the 2018-19 season.
  • After 12 games, Nebraska ranks in the top-25 nationally in scoring defense (59.5 ppg, 11th), field goal defense (.379, 15th) and 3-point defense (.266, ninth). The Huskers are also second in the Big Ten in steals (8.5 spg) and third in blocked shots (5.3 bpg).
  • 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 Dec. 27.  The seven schools are Nebraska, Virginia, Texas Tech,  Houston, San Francisco, Murray State and VCU.
  • Only one opponent has shot over 50 percent against Nebraska in the last 37 games dating back to last season. In 2018-19, NU has held 11 of its 12 opponents under 50 percent shooting.
  • NU limited eight of its 12 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 29th in Kenpom’s adjusted defense through Wednesday’s games.
  • The Huskers have held five opponents to their lowest offensive total of the season.
  • Nebraska held its first two opponents this season under 40 points, the first time the Huskers held consecutive foes under 40 points since 1949.
  • Under Miles, the Huskers are 48-5 (.906) when holding opponents under 60 points.

HUSKER OFFENSE GETS INTO HIGH GEAR
Nebraska comes into the Southwest Minnesota State game averaging 80.2 points per game after averaging 72.3 points per game last year.  NU has scored at least 70 points in 10 of 12 contests, including six games of at least 80 points.

  • Nebraska is 17th nationally in offensive efficiency according to KenPom through Wednesday’s games. In the KenPom era, only the 2003-04 team (25th) ranked in the top-50 nationally in offensive efficiency.
  • Nebraska’s 79.7 points per game would rank sixth 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.
  • Nebraska’s 3,432 returning points ranked 13th nationally entering the 2018-19 season. Among Big Ten programs, only Iowa, which has 4,246 returning points, had more.
NEW NUMBER, SAME PRODUCTION FOR PALMER
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 19.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
  • He is first or second on the Huskers in scoring (first) and assists (second), while he ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring.
  • Palmer is challenging to be the first Husker to average 20.0 ppg since Tyronn Lue in 1997-98.
  • Palmer has shown the ability to get to the free throw line often, as he ranks in the top-25 nationally in both free throws (77, 10th) and attempts (93, 16th).
  • His Husker career scoring average of 17.9 points per game is eighth among all power conference players over the last two seasons. The Big Ten has three of the top eight with Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ.
  • Palmer has reached double figures in 42 of 45 career games at Nebraska.
  • Since the loss to Texas Tech on Nov. 20, Palmer has been on a tear, averaging 22.1 points per game over the Huskers’ last seven contests, including 49 percent from 3-point range and 89 percent from the free throw line.
  • 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 effort against the Bluejays, he became just the 16th player in school history to record multiple 30-point games.
  • Palmer opened Big Ten play against Illinois with a game-high 23 points, including 12-of-14 at the foul line, and a team-high four assists.
  • 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.
  • He is one of only five returning power conference players who averaged 17.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.0 apg last season.
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 Southwest Minnesota State game averaging 13.4 points per game on 46 percent shooting, including 42 percent from 3-point range. He is also averaging career bests in assists (4.1 apg), rebounds (4.1 rpg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.1-to-1).
  • Watson’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.06-to-1 this season is one of the best by a Husker guard in recent memory.
  • Watson has been in double figures in 10 of 12 contests and comes off his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists in the win over Cal State Fullerton.
  • 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 2.17-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has more steals (152) than turnovers (147) 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 his numbers across the board in 2018-19, as he averages 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field.
  • Copeland has reached double figures 11 times in 12 games, including a pair of 20-point efforts.
  • 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 Southwest Minnesota State game averaging 10.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
He leads the Huskers in blocked shots and rebounding and is second on the team in steals. Roby is the only Big Ten player in the top-10 in blocks and steals while he is one of only six players nationally 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 13.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game over his last four contests. Roby has tied or set season bests in points in three of the last four games.
  • He comes off one of his best efforts of the year, a career-high 20-point effort 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.
  • While Roby had just five points vs. Oklahoma State, he led the Huskers in rebounding (seven) and steals (four), matching his career best in that category.
  • 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 21-6 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 8.7 points per game on 51 percent shooting while chipping in 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
  •  He has been playing well over the last five contests, averaging 11.6 points per game on 67 percent shooting along with 2.8 rebounds per game.
  •  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 the last two games and is averaging 6.0 points per game on 43 percent shooting. He is among the Big Ten leaders in 3-point percentage (.429) and has two double-figure performances.
  • He had a career-high 18 points off the bench against Missouri Valley State, inluding 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.
FILLING UP PINNACLE BANK ARENA
Pinnacle Bank Arena will be full once again in 2018-19, as the NU Athletic Ticket Office announced on September 25 that general public season tickets were sold out for the 2018-19 season.
In all, nearly 15,000 season tickets have been sold for the 2018-19 season, including the Red Zone student section. Most of the available single-game tickets for the entire season have been sold as well.
Since moving into PBA in 2013-14, the Huskers have ranked in the top-15 in attendance nationally all five years, and are one of only nine schools in the country to average 15,000+ fans per contest in that span.
PROTECTING THE VAULT
The Huskers have been strong at protecting its home court at Pinnacle Bank Arena since it opened in 2013-14.
  • NU has won its last 18 games at home following the 86-62 win over Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 22. The win streak is the longest among power conference schools and fifth-longest home win streak nationally. It is NU’s longest home win streak since a school-record 20-game streak spanning the 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons.
  • Of the 18 wins in the current streak, 13 have come by double-digits, including all seven in 2018-19.
  • NU has posted a 67-24 (.733) record in Pinnacle Bank Arena since it opened in 2013.
  • Nebraska went a perfect 9-0 at home in Big Ten play in 2017-18, the first time NU went unbeaten in conference play at home since the 1965-66 season.
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