Nebraska begins its busiest week of the season Monday night, as the Huskers travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Tipoff at Value City Arena is set for shortly after 7 p.m. (CT) and Monday’s tilt between the Huskers and Buckeyes will be televised nationally on BTN with Cory Provus and Stephen Bardo on the call. The game is also available on BTN.com, BTN2Go and the Fox Sports Go app.
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 on the TuneIn Radio app. The radio broadcast begins one hour prior to tipoff.
Nebraska (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) comes into Columbus having won seven of its last nine games following a 72-52 win over No. 23 Michigan last Thursday. The Huskers held Michigan to 37.5 percent shooting, including just 4-of-18 from 3-point range. James Palmer Jr. had 19 points to pace four Huskers in double figures, as the Huskers shot 55 percent from the field in snapping a 10-game losing streak to Michigan that predated NU’s Big Ten days.
Nebraska’s biggest improvement over the last month has come on the defensive end of the court. Since giving up a season-high 94 points to UTSA on Dec. 20, the Huskers have held their last eight opponents to 38.8 percent shooting, including just 28.8 percent from 3-point range. NU has held its last seven foes to under 45 percent shooting, including three straight under 40 percent.
The Huskers will face one of the biggest surprises in college basketball, as Ohio State is ranked 22nd in both polls and sporting a 17-4 record following a 67-49 win over Minnesota on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. First-year coach Chris Holtmann has guided OSU to 12 wins in their last 13 games dating back to the start of December. The Buckeyes feature one of the frontrunners for Big Ten player of the year in junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who is among the Big Ten leaders in scoring (19.7 ppg), rebounding (8.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.8 bpg).
While OSU has won 10 of the 12 meetings, the last two meetings were both decided by one point, as the teams won on each other’s homecourt in 2016-17.
2008 – The last time Nebraska beat ranked teams in consecutive games. That season, NU defeated No. 24 Kansas State and won at No. 22 Texas A&M.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1.25 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio which is on pace to be NU’s best in more than 20 years. In fact, the last time Nebraska had more assists than turnovers was in 2009-10. Nebraska has had 10 or fewer turnovers in each of its last three games.
122 – Nebraska’s 122 blocked shots is the most blocked shots in a season since 2005-06 and is just eight shy of 10th place on NU’s single-season charts (130, 2005-06). Last season, NU blocked 116 shots in 31 games.
70 – Nebraska is 13-2 when scoring 70 or more points and 2-5 when held to under 70 points. Nebraska’s only two losses when scoring 70+ points was a one-point loss to Kansas and a two-point OT loss at Penn State.
SCOUTING OHIO STATE
Under the direction of Chris Holtmann, Ohio State has gotten off to a blistering start in Big Ten, jumping out to a 17-4 record following a 67-49 over Minnesota on Saturday. In that game, Keita Bates-Diop had 17 points and 12 rebounds to pace four Buckeyes in double figures. OSU forced 15 turnovers and held Minnesota to 38 percent shooting, including 3-of-14 from 3-point range. OSU is off to its first 8-0 conference start since the 1978-79 season, while Holtmann’s 8-0 start is the best by a Big Ten coach since 1923. Prior to taking over the OSU program in June, Holtmann spent the previous three seasons at Butler, guiding the Bulldogs to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017
OSU is a veteran group, featuring two juniors and two seniors in its lineup. Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop is one of the frontrunners for Big Ten player of the Year, as he averages 19.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. A three-time conference player of the year, Bates-Diop had a streak of five straight 20-point games snapped in the win over Northwestern. He also scored a career-high 32 points in the win over No. 1 Michigan State earlier this month. C.J. Jackson averages 13.1 points and is shooting 41 percent from 3-point range, while Jae’Sean Tate is averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field. Freshman Kaleb Wesson rounds out the double-figure scorers at 11.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
SERIES HISTORY VS. OHIO STATE
Ohio State leads the all-time series, 14-4, in a series that dates back to 1936. The Buckeyes are 10-2 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten with Nebraska’s wins coming in 2014 (Lincoln) and 2017 (Columbus). The last three meetings have been decided by a total of five points, including a pair of one-point decisions in 2016-17. The Huskers’ are looking for their second straight win against the Buckeyes after a 58-57 win last season.
LAST MEETING VS. OHIO STATE
Glynn Watson’s 3-point play with 11.3 seconds remaining capped a frantic rally that saw Nebraska score the final six points and pull out a 58-57 victory over Ohio State on Feb. 18, 2017.
The Huskers trailed 57-52 with 30.6 seconds left after a Marc Loving 3-pointer, but made the plays in the final seconds to earn the program’s first-ever road win in Columbus. Jack McVeigh, who came off the bench and had 11 points, hit a 3-pointer with 24.7 seconds left to pull NU within 57-55 and the Huskers used their last timeout. On the ensuing inbounds play, Nick Fuller and Tai Webster tied up Kam Williams with 21.2 seconds left, giving the Huskers one final chance to win.
The Buckeyes, who had four fouls to give before putting the Huskers in the bonus, fouled Watson twice to kill some time. On the Huskers’ third attempt, Watson got through the Buckeye defense, drew contact and connected off glass to tie the score. Watson than completed the 3-point play to give the Huskers their first lead since the opening minutes.
Watson finished with 14 points and five rebounds, as four Huskers finished in double figures in NU’s second double-digit road comeback this season. Tai Webster led all scorers with 17 points, while Ed Morrow Jr. added 10 points and six boards before fouling out.
LAST TIME OUT
James Palmer Jr. led four Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska turned in its best defensive effort of the season in posting a 72-52 win over No. 23 Michigan Thursday night in front of a crowd of 15,794 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Palmer had a game-high 19 points, while Isaiah Roby added a career-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting to lead the Huskers to their first win over Michigan since 1964. Prior to tonight, the Huskers were winless in eight tries against the Wolverines since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12.
Isaac Copeland and Anton Gill added 13 and 10 points respectively, as Nebraska shot 55 percent from the field in its best shooting performance since late November.
While Nebraska enjoyed a balanced attack, it was its defense that shined in breaking a 10-game losing streak to Michigan. The Huskers (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) held the Wolverines (16-5, 5-3) to season lows in points (52), 3-pointers made (four) and 3-point percentage (22.2 percent) on just 37.5 percent shooting.
NU was also able to force 11 turnovers, including nine steals, against a Wolverine team that led the Big Ten in turnovers.
*- NU comes into Monday’s game with a 14-7 record which is NU’s best 21-game record during the Big Ten era and best since starting the season 15-6 in 2010-11. Here are the best 21-game starts for the Huskers since 2000.
*- A Husker win on Monday would give NU its best conference mark after nine games since the 1998-99 season. That season, Nebraska won nine of its first 12 conference games. No matter what the result on Monday, Nebraska will have its best conference mark after nine games since joining the Big Ten.
*- Two of NU’s last three losses have come in the final 30 seconds (vs. No. 13 Kansas, at Penn State) and Nebraska was also within three at Creighton in the final minute.
*- The Huskers are averaging 73.4 points per game and is on track for one of the best offensive seasons in recent years. NU’s 73.4 points per game marks only the fifth time in the last 22 years that NU has averaged at least 72.0 points per game through the first 21 games. The Huskers are 12-2 this year when scoring at least 70 points, including six games of at least 80 points (6-0).
*- While Nebraska is 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 69.4 points per game, a closer look shows that Nebraska already played five teams that are ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense (Michigan State, Purdue, Creighton, Kansas and UTSA). NU held three of the five teams at least 10 points below their scoring average.
*- Nebraska’s defense has been its calling card in Big Ten action. The Huskers are third in field goal defense (.387) and have held their last seven opponents to under 45 percent shooting. Ohio State tops the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.510) and ranking second in scoring offense (77.9 ppg) in conference play.
*- Husker assistant coach Michael Lewis was an assistant under Chris Holtmann for two seasons (2014-15; 2015-16), as Butler went 47-20 and made a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. The pair also served as assistants during the 2013-14 season at the school.
*- Nebraska’s biggest offensive strength has been a balanced attack with three players averaging double figures, led by James Palmer Jr., who averages a team-high 15.8 points per game to lead all Big Ten newcomers in scoring. Palmer is currently on track to enjoy one of the top first-year seasons in school history, as the top three first-year scorers have been in Tim Miles’ six seasons at Nebraska.
*- Nebraska relies on a pair of transfers in James Palmer Jr. (Miami) and Isaac Copeland (Georgetown), as the duo combines for 28 points per game. Palmer has reached double figures 19 times, including a season-high 25 points against UTSA on Dec. 20, and is third in assists (2.6 apg). Copeland leads the Huskers in rebounding at 6.2 per game and is among the team leaders in scoring (12.3, second) and blocked shots (26, second). Copeland posted his first double-double of the season at Creighton on Dec. 9 with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
*- Palmer has shown the ability to get to the foul line, as he ranks third in the Big Ten with 130 attempts. Among conference guards, he is second only to Maryland’s Anthony Cowan (141) in getting to the foul line.
*- Nebraska is 2-3 against ranked teams this season and a win on Monday would mark the 10th time in school history that the Huskers have won three games against ranked teams in a season. The school record is four, held by the 1990-91, 1993-94 and 1998-99 squads.
*- Junior Glynn Watson Jr. is in his third season guiding the Husker offense and is among NU’s leaders in both scoring (11.7 ppg, third), assists (3.2, first) and steals (1.6, first). The 6-foot guard will make his team-high 67th career start on Monday and has a 2.0-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. Watson is just 59 points from 1,000 for his career and is also 13 steals away from 10th place on Husker career charts.
*- Nebraska has been getting strong performances from its bench throughout the season, averaging 22.3 points per game. The eight points against Michigan snapped a streak of 15 straight double-figure efforts from the Husker bench.
*- One of the main emphasis for Tim Miles and his staff in the offseason was improving the Huskers’ 3-point efforts on both ends of the court. Last year, NU was in 300th or worse in both 3-point shooting and 3-point defense. This season, the Huskers have made strides in both areas, especially on the defensive end. Nebraska limited Michigan to just four 3-pointers, the Wolverines’ lowest total of the season.
Offensively, NU has six players with at least 10 3-pointers, and that does not include Jack McVeigh, who was second on the team in 3-pointers last year. In 2016-17, NU had just four players hit 10-or-more 3-pointers in 31 games.
*- Nebraska regained the services of Jordy Tshimanga against Michigan. Tshimanga, who started the first 18 games, had three rebounds and an assist after missing the previous two games with a personal issue.
*- A win Monday would be Tim Miles’ 90th at Nebraska and move him past Barry Collier for fifth place on the Huskers’ career wins list.