After a thrilling buzzer-beater lifted Nebraska (13-7, 4-3) over Illinois on Monday night, the Huskers will return home to host No. 23 Michigan (16-4, 5-2) at 8 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena. You can watch the game live on BTN or listen on The Husker Sports Network and Huskers.com.
Like Nebraska, the Wolverines are coming off a last-second victory after Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman sank two free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining to seal a 68-67 win over Maryland on Monday night.
Michigan is led by junior forward Moritz Wagner who leads the team in rebounding at 7.2 per contest and is tied for MU’s leading scorer at 14.9 points per game on 55 percent shooting and 42 percent from beyond the arc. Junior guard Charles Matthews also tallies 14.9 per contest, while adding 5.2 rpg, 3.0 assists per game and shoots over 50 percent from the field and over 35 percent from 3.
Abdur-Rahkman is the third Wolverine to average in double figures with 10.8 ppg on 37 percent from beyond the arc and 92 percent from the free throw line.
Out of seven Wolverines that play at least 15 minutes a game, four of them shoot over 40 percent from 3 and all of them shoot at least 36 percent from 3. In comparison, Nebraska also has seven players that average over 15 minutes per game; however, only two of them shoot above 36 percent from 3 (Anton Gill and Evan Taylor right at 46 percent).
In addition to a versatile offense, the Wolverines rank third in the Big Ten in scoring defense and rank 15th in the country in points allowed per game (62.8).
The Huskers are led by junior James Palmer Jr. who averages 15.7 ppg, while junior Isaac Copeland Jr. averages 12.3 ppg and a team-high 6.4 rpg, and Glynn Watson Jr. adds 11.9 ppg.
On Monday night, the Huskers added two new players to the starting lineup in sophomore Isaiah Roby and senior Anton Gill. In just over 20 minutes per game, Roby averages 7.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and a team-high 1.7 blocks per game, which also ranks seventh in the Big Ten. Gill, who led the conference in scoring off the bench, tallies 9.5 ppg.
With Gill’s first start of the season, senior captain Evan Taylor came off the bench for the first time Monday night, scoring 10 first-half points and finishing with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals. In his first start, Gill finished with five points on 1-of-6 shooting (1-of-5 from 3).
After a brief absence, sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga rejoined the team on Wednesday with a “heartfelt” speech to his teammates and coaches. Tshimanga missed two games in his time gone but started each of the team’s previous 18 games.
By The Numbers
10 – Nebraska has lost 10 straight games to Michigan, dating back all the way to 1980.
70 – When scoring over 70 points, the Huskers are 11-2; however, when scoring under 70, NU is 2-5.
4 – The Huskers are 4th in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage defense. Last season Nebraska ranked among the worst teams in the country in that category.
6 – Nebraska has held its last six opponents to under 45 percent shooting.
Can the electricity in PBA lead to the signature win Nebraska needs?
It’s clear that Nebraska is a completely different team when at home versus on the road. It’s day and night. On the road, NU is 1-5 while at home they are 10-1 and on pace to finish with the most wins in a season at PBA.
It seems like the last few years the Huskers, regardless of their season, gets a marquee win at home. Last year it was Purdue, then Wisconsin in 2015-2016 and 2013-2014, and then a home win over Michigan State in between. This year, as Nebraska hopes to sneak into the NCAA tournament, one of those marquee home wins has yet to come, and a big opportunity comes tonight in Lincoln.
Guard the 3-point line
If you watch college basketball you know how much the 3-point shot can dictate the momentum in a game. Threes can be simply devastating, and Michigan has the ability to make a lot of them, from virtually every player that steps on the floor.
A season ago, Tim Miles’ club was horrific in guarding the 3, which was part of the team’s struggles. This year, his new, athletic squad has done a much better job of defending the perimeter. That will be huge. Nebraska will look to try and use some of that defense for offense, like they did so well in an upset win over Minnesota earlier in the year. It will be key for Miles’ guys to run Michigan players off the 3-point line and force them into contested 2s, and against one of the best shot-blocking teams that Miles has had.
It seems like it’s been awhile since one of Nebraska’s top scorers have played well together. For about the last month or so, at least one of Palmer, Watson or Copeland have had an off game. A really off game. For the past few weeks it’s been mostly Watson struggling, but when Watson and Copeland finished with 21 apiece against Penn St., Palmer had his worst game of the season going 1-of-9 for just five points. Nebraska will need to have a balanced attack and try to avoid a disastrous night from one of its top players to get a win over a ranked Michigan team.
Carter’s Prediction (6-2):
Michigan 77 – Nebraska 68
ICYMI: HuskerHype basketball analyst Carter Donahue went on the Husker Cuz Cast to talk about Nebraska ‘s tournament standing (along with the rest of the Big Ten), Tim Miles, Jordy Tshimanga and more.
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