The Nebraska men’s basketball team returns to Big Ten action Friday night, as the Huskers welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Lincoln. Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 7 p.m. and a limited number of tickets are available for purchase by visiting Huskers.com/Tickets or at the Pinnacle Bank Arena box office beginning 90 minutes prior to tipoff.
Friday’s matchup will be carried nationally on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call. The game can also be streamed via the web, smartphones, tablets and connected devices through the Fox Sports app.
Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, the Huskers app and TuneIn radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff.
Nebraska (6-7, 1-1 Big Ten) comes off a solid defensive performance in a 73-52 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29. In that game, the Huskers held the Islanders to 32 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers which led to 24 Husker points. Nebraska used a 22-4 first-half run to take control and put the game away in the second half with an 11-0 spurt after the visitors pulled within 10 points.
Senior guard Haanif Cheatham paced four Huskers in double figures with 17 points, including 8-of-9 shooting from the foul line, while freshman Yvan Ouedraogo added 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for his first career double-double. Cheatham leads the Huskers in scoring at 13.1 points per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. Ouedraogo is pulling down a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game, including 9.5 per game over the Huskers’ last four contests.
Rutgers (10-3, 1-1) comes to Lincoln on a four-game win streak after a 94-49 win over Caldwell on Monday night. The Scarlet Knights shot 52 percent, including 10-of-23 from 3-point range, and put five players in double figures. Jacob Young came off the bench for a game-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and added eight rebounds and six assists. On the season, sophomore Ron Harper Jr. leads a balanced attack at 11.8 points per game, while the Scarlet Knights have six players averaging at least seven points per game.
Senior Matej Kavas has reached double figures in each of his last two games. The 6-foot-8 guard is averaging 11.0 points per game on 57 percent shooting, including 54 percent from 3-point range, in NU’s last two contests.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
.459 – Thorir Thorbjarnarson is fifth in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage entering January. He is 17-of-37 from long range this season after going a combined 6-of-28 behind the 3-point stripe in his first two years.
2 – Nebraska has out-rebounded its last two opponents, and if the Huskers can out-rebound Rutgers, it would be the first time since the opening three games of the 2018-19 campaign.
+2.8 – Nebraska enters the new year tied for the Big Ten lead in turnover margin at +2.8 per game. NU has committed 12 or fewer turnovers in each of the last five contests.
3 – Double-figure assist games for Cam Mack, which is the most by a Husker since Brian Carr had five in the 1985-86 season.
6.4 – Rebounds per game for freshman Yvan Ouedraogo, which is fourth among all Big Ten freshmen. His rebounds per game is on track to be the highest by a Husker freshman since Aleks Maric grabbed 6.3 rebounds per game in 2005-06.
8 – Nebraska has had eight of its nine eligible scholarship players reach double figures this season. The Huskers have three players currently averaging double figures.
50- Returning point total from last season, all by Thorir Thorbjarnarson. That is the lowest by any power conference team since the 2009-10 season.
Rutgers has made significant strides under fourth-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 won 15 games in each of
Pikiell’s first two years and reached the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Last year, the Scarlet Knights tied for 10th with a 7-13 conference mark. This season, Rutgers won six of its first seven games before dropping consecutive road games at Pittsburgh and No. 11 Michigan State. Since then, Rutgers has won four straight games, including a win over Wisconsin and a 20-point victory over No. 22 Seton Hall.
The Scarlet Knights feature a young lineup with only one senior and three sophomores. Junior guard Geo Baker is a three-year starter and averages 11.5 points while ranking among the Big Ten leaders in assists (4.0, sixth) and steals (1.8, first). Sophomores Ron Harper Jr. (11.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Myles Johnson (9.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Montez Mathis (7.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg) all return after playing significant roles last year.
Series History: Friday’s matchup will be the 13th all-time meeting with the Scarlet Knights. Nebraska leads the all-time series 8-4 and has won seven of the nine meetings since Rutgers joined the Big Ten. Last year, the two teams split their matchups with Rutgers winning in Piscataway before the Huskers rallied for a 68-61 win in the Big Ten Tournament. NU is 4-0 all-time in Lincoln, including 3-0 at PBA. 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: Behind an opportunistic defense and a big second half from James Palmer Jr., a depleted Nebraska men’s basketball team rallied for a 68-61 victory over Rutgers in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago. Palmer scored 27 second-half points, including five points during a game-changing 15-0 run that turned a five-point Husker deficit with six minutes to play into a 61-51 lead with 1:30 remaining. Palmer finished with 34 points, tying his career high and one-point shy of the Big Ten Tournament scoring record.
LAST TIME OUT
Haanif Cheatham’s 17 points led four Huskers in double figures, while Yvan Ouedraogo became the first Husker freshman since 2013 to post a double-double, as Nebraska closed non-conference action with a 73-52 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Sunday afternoon.
Cheatham, who went over 1,000 career points on Sunday, helped set the tone early, scoring seven of 11 first-half points in a 22-4 NU run that helped the Huskers take control.
The Huskers, who improved to 6-7 on the season, held the Islanders to one field goal over a span of nearly 11 minutes in building an early 18-point lead.
NU, which shot just 33 percent in the first half, took advantage of opportunities when the shots weren’t fall, going 13-of-19 in the first half, including 5-of-5 from Cheatham in that stretch. The Huskers also clamped down defensively, holding the Islanders
to 25 percent shooting, including 3-of-14 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
In addition to Cheatham, Ouedraogo finished with career bests in both points (11) and rebounds (14) to become the first Husker freshman since Shavon Shields in 2013 to record a double-double, while Cam Mack and Matej Kavas added 10 points apiece for the winners.
DID YOU KNOW
• The matchup with Rutgers features three of the Big Ten’s top four steals leaders in Rutgers’ Geo Baker (first, 1.8 spg) and Nebraska’s Cam Mack (1.5, third) and Orange, N.J. product Dachon Burke Jr. (1.5, third).
• Friday’s game against Rutgers begins a stretch where Nebraska will play 15 of its final 18 regular-season games against teams in the top 55 of the NET. In all, 12 of the 14 Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 55 of the NET and in the Kenpom rankings.
• Yvan Ouedraogo’s 14 rebounds vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29 were the most by a Husker freshman since 2004 (15, Aleks Maric vs. UAB) and tied for the third-highest total in the last 20 years. Ouedraogo is the third Husker to have a double-double this season.
• The Huskers have already played three overtime games in the first 12 games of 2018-19, posting a 1-2 record. NU’s single-season record is four, set five times, most recently in 2007-08. As of Jan. 1, Nebraska has played in three of the Big Ten’s seven overtime games, while the Huskers’ three overtime games is third nationally and leads all power conference teams.
• Despite the longer 3-point line this season, Nebraska’s two returnees are shooting significantly better from beyond the arc than at any point of their career. Both players are averaging more than a 3-pointer per game, which are the highest rates of their career.
• One of the biggest points of emphasis for Hoiberg and his staff has been to shoot better from 3-point range, and that work has paid off. Over the last 10 games dating back to Nov. 22, NU is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and averaging 9.1 3-pointers per game after shooting just 23 percent in the first three games of the season.
• With three players averaging double figures, Nebraska has relied on its balance. In its first 13 games, NU has put at least four players in double figures 10 times. The Huskers put five players in double figures against Washington State on Nov. 25 and at Creighton on Dec. 7.
• It is not surprising that Nebraska has relied on its 3-point shooting, as Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams led the Big 12 in 3-pointers in four of his five seasons at the school. The Huskers are on pace to average 8.4 3-pointers per game, a total which would rank second in school history and be the most since the 2001-02 campaign.
• Cam Mack’s triple-double against Purdue on Dec. 15 was the first by a Husker in school history and the only one by a Big Ten player this season. As of Jan. 1, only 12 players have had a triple-double this season.
•- Cam Mack is the only Husker in the last 30 years to have multiple points-assist double-doubles in the same season as he had one against Southern Utah on Nov. 9 and at Indiana on Dec. 13 in addition to his triple double against Purdue. In fact, it is only the seventh time in the last 30 years that a Husker has had a points-assists double-double. His consecutive points-assists double-double was the first since Brian Carr in December of 1985 (vs. UC-Irvine and Creighton).
• Nebraska enters Friday’s game tied for first in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +2.8 per game. The Huskers have forced an average of 14.8 turnovers per game to rank third in the Big Ten while averaging 12.0 turnovers per game to rank fifth. During his tenure at Iowa State, Hoiberg’s teams ranked in the top three in the Big 12 in fewest turnovers per game in four of his five seasons at the school.
• Nebraska has 12 double-figure scoring runs this season, including a pair of double-figure runs against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
• Nebraska’s 14 first-year players on the roster matches TCU for the most in the nation in research done by the Utah SID John Vu. Only four teams (TCU-14, Nebraska-14, East Carolina-13 and Utah-12) have at least 12 newcomers on their 2019-20 rosters. Nebraska returns a national-low 1.9 percent of its scoring from last season and the 50 returning points is the lowest by any power conference team since 2009 according to noted statistician Ken Pomeroy.
THE CHASE FOR 1,000
Despite having only 50 points returning from last season, a third Husker this season is closing on 1,000 career points.
Junior guard Dachon Burke Jr. comes into Friday’s game with 978 points and needs 22 points to reach that plateau. Burke’s season high is 25 points at Indiana on Dec. 13. On the year, he is averaging 12.7, while shooting 41 percent from the floor, including 35 percent from 3-point range.
Haanif Cheatham went over 1,000 career points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29, while Matej Kavas reached that plateau against Southern on Nov. 22.
SETTING A FAST PACE
Not only are the Huskers adjusting to a whole new roster, but playing at a significantly faster pace than in previous years. The Huskers are 14th nationally in offensive tempo, as their average possession is 15.1 seconds per possession entering 2020.
• In his five seasons as a college coach, Hoiberg’s teams have ranked in the top 20 in offensive tempo four times, including top-10 rankings in both 2014 and 2015.
• Hoiberg’s first Iowa State team in 2010-11 jumped from 67th to 20th nationally in offensive pace and ranked in the top 40 nationally in adjusted tempo in four of his five seasons in Ames, including top-15 nationally in his last two campaigns.
• In the KenPom era (1997-present), only one Husker team has ranked among the top 100 nationally in adjusted tempo – the 1999-2000 Huskers under Danny Nee. The Huskers’ quickest offensive tempo in the last decade was in 2017-18 when the Huskers were 140th in offensive tempo.
JUCO STANDOUTS MACK AND GREEN STEP INTO LINEUP
Two of the cornerstones of the Huskers’ recruiting class were junior college transfers Cam Mack and Jervay Green. Mack (third) and Green (eighth) were both ranked in the top 10 nationally by JUCORecruiting.com in the 2019 recruiting class and have played a crucial role for the Huskers early in 2019-20.
Mack, who was listed as the top JC point guard recruit in the country, enters the Rutgers contest averaging 12.8 points per game while leading the Huskers in assists (6.5), steals (1.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2-to-1).
• He ranks 13th nationally in assists per game and is the highest Division I newcomer in the NCAA rankings. In fact, only two newcomers nationally average over 6.0 assists per game.
• Mack is the only player in the Big Ten ranked in the top five in both assists (third) and steals (third). Only four Big Ten players – Mack, Geo Baker (Rutgers), CJ Walker (Ohio State) and Anthony Cowan (Maryland) rank in the top-10 in both categories as
of Jan. 1.
• His 6.5 assists per game is on pace to rank third in school history, trailing only Brian Carr, who averaged 7.9 assists per game in 1984-85 and 6.7 assists per game in 1985-86.
• He recorded the first triple-double in program history against Purdue on Dec. 15 with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, setting season bests in both rebounds and assists in NU’s 70-54 win.
• Mack is one of only five players nationally – and two in the Big Ten – to have at least three points-assists double-doubles this season. He also had 13 points and 11 assists against Southern Utah on Nov. 9 and 15 points and 10 assists at Indiana on Dec. 13.
• He’s reached double figures 11 times, including a season-high 24-point performance against South Dakota State on Nov. 15.
• Last season at Salt Lake CC, Mack averaged 19.1 points, 7.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game, ranking fifth nationally in assists per game. He totaled nine double-doubles and three triple doubles as a freshman and dished out 10-or-more assists nine times.
Green was rated as the No. 2 combo guard nationally after a stint at Western Nebraska CC, has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Big Red, averaging 9.5 points along with 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He ranks i_n the top four on the squad in rebounding, assists, steals (1.1 spg) and blocks (0.5 bpg). Green has come off the bench the last two games after missing two games for a violation of team rules.
• He has been in double figures five times, including a season-high 22 points in an overtime win over Southern on Nov. 22. His two 3-pointers helped key a 10-0 spurt in overtime to seal the win.
• Green nearly posted a double-double against Washington State on Nov. 25 with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
• He nearly had a double-double against Southern Utah on Nov. 9 with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds, as he sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
• Green garnered NJCAA All-America honors at WNCC in 2019, averaging 23.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He was eighth nationally in scoring and had six 30-point games, including a school-record 51-point outburst.
CHEATHAM MAKES IMPACT ON BOTH ENDS
Fifth-year senior Haanif Cheatham has been one of the leaders for a young Husker team. The guard from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is NU’s most experienced player, as he played in 80 games between Marquette and Florida Gulf Coast before coming to Nebraska for his final year. Cheatham has played some of the best basketball of his career over the last month. Over Nebraska’s last nine games, he’s averaging 15.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while typically guarding the opponent’s top scoring threat.
• Cheatham has reached double figures in eight of the Huskers’ last nine games, including a 21-point, six-rebound performance at Indiana on Dec. 13. He had six straight double-figure efforts from Nov. 25-Dec. 13, the second-longest streak of his collegiate career.
• He went over 1,000 career points with a 17-point performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29.
• Cheatham posted his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds at Georgia Tech on Dec. 4.
• He was in double figures all three games of the Cayman Islands Classic, averaging 19.0 ppg including a career-best 26-point effort against South Florida to garner all-tournament honors.
A former top-100 recruit out of high school, he was named Marquette’s top defensive performer in each of his two full seasons at Marquette.
BURKE SHOWS SCORING TOUCH
The other returnee from the 2018-19 season, Dachon Burke Jr. waited in the wings after transferring from Robert Morris. A 6-foot-4 guard, Burke has quickly shown the skills to flourish in Fred Hoiberg’s attack, averaging 12.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Burke has reached double figures eight times, including a 25-point effort against Indiana on Dec. 13 and a 21-point performance against South Florida on Nov. 27. Burke leads the Huskers in 3-pointers (19) and is shooting over 35 percent from 3-point range.
Two years ago, Burke was one of the best players in the Northeast Conference, averaging 17.6 points per game while adding 5.8 rebounds and a conference-best 2.1 steals per contest.
OUEDRAOGO ADDS NAME TO SHORT LIST OF TRUE FROSH
Freshman Yvan Ouedraogo became the first true freshman to start a season opener at Nebraska since 2013 and has been a mainstay of the Husker lineup.
• He is one of the youngest players in the country, as he won’t turn 18 until after the 2020 Big Ten Tournament.
• Ouedraogo has started all 13 games for the Huskers, averaging 6.2 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game in just over 21 minutes per game.
• He is on track to be the third freshman to lead NU in rebounding in a season, joining Aleks Maric (2005-06) and John Turek (2001-02).
• Ouedraogo has played some of his best basketball recently, averaging 8.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last four contests dating back to Dec. 13.
• He picked up his first career double-double against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29 with 11 points and 14 rebounds. His double-double was the first by a Husker freshman since Shavon Shields in 2013 and Ouedraogo became just the 10th freshman to record a double-double.
• His 10 rebounds against Indiana marked the second-highest rebounding total for a Husker freshman in his first conference game, trailing only Dave Hoppen in 1983.
• He enjoyed his offensive effort of the season with 11 points, including six in overtime, and four rebounds against Southern on Nov. 22. He snared a team-high 12 rebounds against South Dakota State on Nov. 15.
• He is just the 11th true freshman and 13th freshman overall to start a season opener in the last 25 years at Nebraska, joining a group which includes 1,000-point scorers Tai Webster, Ryan Anderson, Cookie Belcher and Tyronn Lue.
Ouedraogo played for the French U-18 squad at the 2019 European Championships in July, as France went 6-1 and finished fifth in the competition.
CROSS LIFTS BENCH PRODUCTION
Freshman Kevin Cross has been a key contributor for the Huskers. The 6-foot-8 freshman from Little Rock, Ark., has been the first Husker off the bench in all 13 games and is averaging 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
• Cross is seventh among Big Ten true freshmen in scoring and fourth in rebounding as of Jan. 1.
• He has become more efficient rebounding, averaging 6.3 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last four contests. He has grabbed five-or-more rebounds eight times this season.
• Cross has been in double figures four times off the bench, including a season-high 19 points against Southern Utah. He became the first freshman in 73 games to pace the Huskers in scoring, while his 19-point effort was the highest by a Husker rookie since Shavon Shields in 2013.
• He played a complete game in the win over Washington State, scoring 14 points, grabbing a season-high eight rebounds and blocking two shots in 27 minutes
• Cross played a big role in NU’s comeback against Southern, scoring all eight of his points in the second half as the Huskers overcame an eight-point deficit.
• He was efficient against South Dakota State, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and two blocked shots.
KAVAS IS ONE OF NATION’S TOP SHOOTERS
Senior transfer Matej Kavas comes to Nebraska with a reputation as one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. The 6-foot-8 guard is a career 44 percent shooter from 3-point range, and shot 40 percent or better in all three of his seasons at Seattle. Kavas’ .433 career percentage ranks 12th among active Division I players.
• To put Kavas’ shooting in perspective, Nebraska’s career mark for career 3-point percentage is .432 by Brian Conklin (2001-04) and only five players in school history have shot 40 percent in their Husker career with a minimum of 100 3-pointers.
• Kavas had his best performance of the year against North Dakota on Dec. 21, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers. It was the 18th time in his career he had 4-or-more 3-pointers in a game.
• As a sophomore at Seattle, Kavas led the WAC in both 3-point percentage (.464) and 3-pointers per game (2.8).
• Kavas’ 186 career 3-pointers would ranks third on NU’s career list while his 91 3-pointers as a sophomore would top NU’s single-season mark (Cary Cochran, 89, 2001-02).