The No. 24/25 Nebraska men’s basketball team looks to build on their best start in 15 seasons on Wednesday evening, as the Huskers travel to Minnesota. Tipoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. (central) from historic Williams Arena.
The matchup between the Huskers and Golden Gophers will be televised nationally on BTN with Cory Provus and Stephen Bardo on the call. Sunday’s game will also be available on the BTN2Go and Fox Sports Go apps.
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 SiriusXM radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff on many of the Husker Sports Network affiliates.
The Huskers are 7-1 on the season following a 75-60 win over Illinois in their Big Ten opener on Sunday night. James Palmer Jr. had a game-high 23 points to lead three Huskers in double figures, as the Huskers raced out to a 13-2 lead and never trailed. The Huskers held Illinois to 40 percent shooting and went 25-of-30 from the foul line against a physical Fighting Illini squad. Isaac Copeland and Glynn Watson Jr. added 16 and 14 markers, respectively. The two wins last week moved NU into the top 25 in both polls released Monday.
Palmer comes off his best week of the season, averaging 21.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in a pair of wins last week. The senior is finding his stride from 3-point range, going 5-of-11 from beyond the arc against Clemson and Illinois. While Palmer has led an attack which has three double figure scorers, Nebraska’s forte has been on the defensive end of the court. The Huskers are second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (54.5) and field goal defense (.352) after holding Illinois to 60 points on .404 percent shooting. Illinois was the fifth team NU has held to under 60 points this season.
Minnesota comes into Wednesday’s contest with a 6-2 mark after falling at Ohio State Sunday evening. The Gophers already have wins over Oklahoma State, Washington, Texas A&M and Utah and will be playing their first home game since Nov. 12 on Wednesday. The Gophers feature one of the Big Ten’s best interior players in Jordan Murphy, who is averaging 14.6 points and 12.0 rebounds per game.
1 – Glynn Watson Jr. will reach 300 career assists with his first one on Wednesday evening. Watson also has a career best 3.2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
25 – Nebraska is bidding for an 8-1 start for only the third time in the past 25 years (1994-95 and 2003-04).
.352 – Nebraska is fourth nationally in field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 35.3 percent from the field.
.918 – Nebraska is now 34-3 under Tim Miles when scoring 80-or-more points, including 19-1 in the past two-plus seasons.
6 – Number of 20-point games for Husker players this season. James Palmer Jr. has three while Isaac Copeland (two) and Glynn Watson Jr. (one) also have accomplished the feat.
13 – The Huskers have had 13 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 one double-figure run this season.
34 – Nebraska has not allowed an opponent to shoot over 50 percent in 34 straight games dating back to last season. NU has held four of its eight foes to under 40 percent.
Under Richard Pitino, the Gophers are 6-2 on the season and looking to rebound after losing at No. 16 Ohio State in Columbus on Sunday. Minnesota will be playing its third game since last Friday, as the Gophers defeated Oklahoma State at U.S. Bank Stadium before traveling to Columbus. The Gophers have played their last six games away from Williams Arena, including three wins in the Vancouver Showcase and a matchup at Boston College for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Minnesota battled through suspensions and injuries to both Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer last season, as both Coffey and McBrayer are back this season. Senior Jordan Murphy has gotten off to a fast start, as he leads the Gophers in scoring (14.6 ppg), rebounding (12.0 rpg) and assists (3.1 apg) while pacing the Big Ten in rebounding. Coffey is averaging 14.3 ppg following a game-high 19 point effort at Ohio State on Sunday, while freshman Gabe Kalscheur is at 11.9 ppg and shooting 54 percent from 3-point range.
Nebraska and Minnesota will meet for the 76th time on Wednesday, which is the most between the Huskers and any other Big Ten member. It is NU’s longest-running series in the Big Ten, as it dates back to February of 1902. The Gophers lead the all-time series, 54-21, while the Huskers have won six of the past eight meetings. Nebraska’s win last February snapped a streak of nine straight wins by the home team dating back to 2012 and was the Huskers’ first win in Minneapolis since 2003. Nebraska is 6-5 against the Golden Gophers as Big Ten members. Prior to joining the Big Ten in 2011-12, NU and Minnesota met in non-conference action every year from 1995 until 2004 after not playing for 16 years.
LAST MEETING VS. MINNESOTA
Isaiah Roby scored a career-high 19 points and all five Husker starters reached double figures as Nebraska won its third straight road game with a 91-85 victory over Minnesota on Feb. 6, 2018.
Roby hit 8-of-10 shots from the field and narrowly missed a double-double by grabbing eight rebounds. James Palmer Jr. added 19 points, and he filled up the stat sheet by grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out a career-high nine assists. Anton Gill and Isaac Copeland each scored 12 points, while Glynn Watson Jr. chipped in 10 points.
Nebraska shot 50.8 percent from the field and was 11-of-23 from the 3-point line. Seven different Huskers hit a three and Nebraska was also 18-of-22 from the free-throw line. The Huskers’ 91 points were the most in a conference road game since 1999. The win was Nebraska’s first victory at Williams Arena since a 77-60 victory over the Golden Gophers on Dec. 29, 2003.
Nebraska survived a career night from Minnesota’s Nate Mason, who scored 34 points and hit seven 3-pointers.
LAST TIME OUT
James Palmer Jr. had a game-high 23 points to lead three Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska opened Big Ten play with a 75-60 win over Illinois in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams. With the win, the Huskers improved to 7-1 and continued their best start since the 2003-04 season. NU also extended its home win streak to 16 games dating back to last December. Isaac Copeland joined Palmer in double figures with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and added five rebounds, while Glynn Watson Jr. added 14 points and three assists.
Nebraska, which jumped out to a 13-2 lead and built a 16-point halftime cushion, saw the lead whittled to 45-36 after an Ayo Dosumnu 3-pointer with 15:07 left, but would get no closer, as Nana Akenten’s jumper and two Palmer free throws stretched the lead back to 13. Illinois, which cut the deficit to nine on three occasions in the second half, was within 63-53 before Nebraska took control with a 7-0 run, capped by a Copeland 3-pointer and an Isaiah Roby dunk to make it 70-53 with 3:36 remaining.
HUSKERS JUMP INTO AP TOP 25
On the heels of a 7-1 start, the Nebraska men’s basketball team is ranked 24th in the Associated Press poll released Monday. It marks the first time that the Huskers are nationally ranked by the AP since Nov. 17, 2014. Nebraska is coming off a 2-0 week with a 68-66 win at Clemson, which is receiving votes in Monday’s poll and a 75-60 home win over Illinois. The Huskers are also ranked 25th in the USA Today’s coaches poll release Monday afternoon. NU was ranked in the first two polls before losing to Texas Tech on Nov. 20.
The Huskers, whose 7-1 start is the program’s best since the 2003-04 season, are one of seven Big Ten teams ranked by the AP this week. NU is joined by Michigan (5), Michigan State (10), Wisconsin (12), Iowa (18), Ohio State (19) and Maryland (23). In addition, Purdue and Indiana are also receiving votes in Monday’s poll. It marks the second straight week that seven Big Ten teams are ranked. Prior to last week, that had not happened since Feb. 9, 1999.
- The Huskers are looking for consecutive wins in Minneapolis for the third time in school history and the first in a really long time. Under Ewald O. “Jumbo” Stiehm, the Huskers beat Minnesota on consecutive days Feb. 6 (21-16) and Feb. 7 (14-9) in 1914. Stiehm, who also coached the Husker football team to a 35-2-3 record from 1911-15, was 55-14 during his four seasons at Nebraska (1912-15). Stiehm won eight Missouri Valley titles (5 football, 3 basketball) during his four and a half years at Nebraska. Nebraska also won consecutive games at Minnesota on Jan. 20-21, 1905. For comparison sake, Williams Arena opened on February 4, 1928.
- The Huskers will be aiming for their second 2-0 Big Ten start in three seasons (also 2016-17), but just their fourth 4-0 conference start in 20 years (also 2004-05 and 2005-06).
- A win on Wednesday would match the Huskers’ longest win streak ever over Minnesota. NU won three straight on two previous occasions, 1934-36 and 2013-15.
- NU will be looking for its fourth Big Ten road win in the last five conference road tilts dating back to last season.
- Nebraska is 36-19 all-time as a ranked team dating back to the 1949-50 season.
- James Palmer Jr. needs 28 points to reach 1,000 for his career. He has scored 714 of his 972 career points at Nebraska and would be the third current Husker with 1,000+ points (Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaac Copeland Jr.).
- Isaiah Roby needs only two blocked shots to become the 10th Husker with 100 career blocks. Roby is averaging 1.4 blocks per game this season.
- Glynn Watson Jr. comes into the Minnesota game in 20th place on NU’s career scoring list with 1,158 points. He is just 24 points shy of passing Brian Carr (1,182) for 19th place. He is also one assist away from 300 for his career and five steals away from 150 in that category.
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE
Nebraska’s biggest improvements came on the defensive end in 2017-18, going 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.
- Although it is early in the season, Nebraska ranks in the top-15 nationally in field goal defense (.352, fourth), scoring defense (54.5 ppg, fourth), 3-point defense (.254, eighth) and blocked shots per game (5.5 bpg, 20th).
- Nebraska has not allowed an opponent to shoot over 50 percent in 34 straight games dating back to last season, including 17 straight foes held to under 50 percent shooting.
- NU has limited five of its eight 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 18th in Kenpom’s adjusted defense.
- Nebraska held its first two opponents under 40 points, the first time the Huskers held consecutive foes under 40 points since 1949.
- Under Miles, the Huskers are 47-5 (.904) when holding opponents under 60 points.
HUSKER OFFENSE GETS INTO HIGH GEAR
Nebraska comes into the Minnesota game averaging 78.2 points per game after averaging 72.3 points per game last year. NU has scored at least 70 points in six of eight contests, including four games of at least 80 points.
- 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.
- 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.
- NU has already had seven players score in double figures, including six against Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 11.
- The Huskers had three players – James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. – with 20-point performances.
- Nebraska is 35th nationally in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.
- The quick start is not surprising based on what the Huskers brought back from last year’s team that went 22-11.
- 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 ranks 13th nationally entering the 2018-19 season. Among Big Ten programs, only Iowa, which has 4,246 returning points, has more.
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 18.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
- He is first or second on the Huskers in scoring (first) and assists (second) while also averaging 1.0 block per game. He is third in the Big Ten in scoring at 18.3 ppg.
- Palmer collected his 20-point game of the year in NU’s Big Ten opener 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 a season-high 29 points against Seton Hall, the second-highest scoring night in his career, as he scored 18 of his points in the second half.
- Palmer has shown the ability to get to the free throw line often, as he ranks in the top-20 nationally in both free throws (48, 17th) and attempts (61, 19th).
- Palmer has scored his points in bunches with three halves of at least 15 points, including the performance vs. Seton Hall.
- Palmer has reached double figures in 38 of 41 career games at Nebraska, as he saw his streak of 17 straight games in double figures snapped against Missouri State on Nov. 19.
- 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. Last year, 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
For Coach Tim Miles, senior Glynn Watson Jr. is a luxury, as he begins his fourth year as Nebraska’s starting guard. Watson moved into the role midway through his freshman year and has made his mark in the Husker program. Watson comes into Wednesday’s game averaging 14.6 points per game on 51 percent shooting, including 48 percent from 3-point range. He also is averaging 3.6 assists and a career-high 4.8 rebounds per game. Watson also has a career-high 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio which is fourth in the Big Ten.
- Watson played well despite foul trouble against Illinois with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
- He nearly posted his first career double-double with 20 points and a career-high nine rebounds against Western Illinois.
- Watson turned in a strong effort against Missouri State with 16 points and four assists.
- He shined in NU’s win over Seton Hall with 14 points and a season-high eight assists.
- Watson’s return marks the 10th time in program history that the Huskers had a returning 1,000-point scorer and the first since Shavon Shields in the 2015-16 campaign.
- With 1,144 points, Watson is one of two Huskers with 1,000 career points, as Isaac Copeland has 1,158 career points between his time at Georgetown and Nebraska. James Palmer Jr. is 51 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
- Watson has a career 2.14-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has more steals (145) than turnovers (138) in his career.
- Watson’s 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 15.1 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field.
- Copeland has reached double figures seven times in eight games, including a pair of 20-point efforts.
- He comes off a 16-point effort in the win over Illinois, hitting 6-of-9 shots from the field and adding five rebounds.
Last week, he was named one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award
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 (Philadephia).
- 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’S 50-50 CLUB
Junior forward Isaiah 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. Last year, Roby led the Huskers in blocked shots and was fourth in assists despite starting just 13 contests. He moved into the starting lineup during the second half of the season, as the Huskers won 10 of their last 12 Big Ten contests.
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. Roby’s 63 blocked shots in 2017-18 ranked 10th in school history and was the most by a Husker since Kimani Ffriend in 2000-01.
Roby has been efficient offensively, averaging 8.3 points per game while leading the Huskers in blocked shots (1.3 bpg) and ranking second in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and steals (1.6 spg).
- He had eight points along with six boards, three assists and three steals in the win over Illinois on Dec. 2.
- Roby had his best game of the year in the win over Missouri State with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots in 29 minutes.
- His dunk against Seton Hall on Nov. 14 marked the fourth time he’s had a top-10 play on SportsCenter during his career, including highlight dunks vs. Rutgers (2018) and at Indiana (2016).
- Nebraska is 18-5 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.
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. It is the fourth time in the past six seasons that the Huskers have sold out their entire season allotment of tickets at Pinnacle Bank Arena. 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 16 games at home following the 73-49 win over Western Illinois on Nov. 24. The 16-game win streak is the longest among power conference schools and sixth-longest home win streak nationally. It is NU’s longest home win streak since also winning 16 straight spanning the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.
- NU has posted a 64-24 (.727) 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 and won its two Big Ten home games against ranked teams by an average of 15.0 points per game. NU’s 9-0 mark – the only unbeaten mark in the Big Ten – marked the first time the Huskers went unbeaten in conference play at home since the 1965-66 season.
- Nebraska went 16-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2017-18 with the only loss coming in a one-point setback against then-No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 16.