After a weekend off for the holidays, the Nebraska men’s basketball team (10-5, 1-1) will begin its 2018 by traveling to Illinois to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (10-5, 1-1). While Northwestern’s usual home court, Welsh-Ryan Arena, is undergoing renovation, tonight’s game will be played at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be televised via the Big Ten Network.
After a historic season that featured the Wildcats winning their first-ever game in the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern came into the season as a top 25 team, returning four starters from last year’s team.
“They were preseason 25 and then they ran into Texas Tech and Oklahoma without Vic Law and Creighton beat them,” Head Coach Tim Miles said. “They’re not in their home environment but it’s at home, so even though you’re used to playing there it’s not quite the same. So they’ve had some difficult things, but they’re an excellent team, there’s no doubt about it.”
Northwestern junior forward Vic Law has been a key factor for the Wildcats this season, averaging 13.5 points per game (2nd on the team) and 5.0 rebounds per game. Law is also shooting 48 percent from the field, 84 percent from the free throw line, and 46 percent from 3. More importantly, in the two games without Law, Northwestern has suffered two blowout losses to No. 17 Oklahoma (104-78) and Texas Tech (85-49). With Law, Northwestern’s three losses have come by a combined 10 points – two of which came to teams who have been ranked in the top 25 at some point this season in Creighton and Purdue.
Senior Scottie Lindsey leads the team in points at 14.7 per contest; while Law averages 13.7 ppg, senior point guard Bryant McIntosh averages 13.3 ppg and a team-high 5.5 assists per game, and center Derek Pardon adds 12.1 ppg and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game.
In a win over Brown, McIntosh left the game due to a left knee injury. After concluding that the injury is not serious, McIntosh has been listed as day-to-day. No information has been given to whether or not he will play in tonight’s contest.
The Huskers nine-point win over Stetson on Friday gives NU a three-game winning streak as Nebraska resumes conference play. The Huskers are led by junior transfer James Palmer Jr., who averages 15.1 ppg; while junior Isaac Copeland Jr. averages 12.1 ppg and a team-high 6.7 rpg, and junior Glynn Watson Jr. adds 12.0 ppg.
Off the bench, senior Anton Gill is the only player in the Big Ten to average double figures without starting a game (10.6 ppg). In addition, Gill leads the team in 3-pointers made (31) and shoots 47 percent from beyond the arc.
By The Numbers
9-4: Nebraska’s 9-4 non-conference record matches the best record under Tim Miles (the other coming in 2012-2013).
1.32: Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.32 is on pace to be NU’s best in over 20 years.
5: Only five Power 5 teams have improved their 3-point field goal percentage as much as Nebraska has. The Huskers are one of the most improved 3-point shooting teams in the Power 5 conferences.
8-1, 13: Northwestern is 8-1 at home, but ranks 13th in the Big Ten in home attendance.
Will McIntosh Play?
- Bryant McIntosh has been the facilitator for the Wildcats’ offense for the past few years, and currently ranks second in the Big Ten in assists per game (5.50). The senior has the keys to the offense and he does a fantastic job running it. Without him, a huge piece of leadership and direction is lost.
NW Returns 4 Starters From NCAA Tourney Team
- Lindsey, Law, McIntosh, and Pardon all come back from Northwestern’s tournament team a year ago, and all three can hurt you. Lindsey leads the team in scoring, Pardon tallied 19 points and 22 rebounds in his last game against the Huskers, McIntosh is an All-Big Ten-caliber guard, and Law is a vital piece to NW that can do everything on the court. It’s a dangerous group that has experience and has had success against Nebraska in the past.
How Much Can The Junior Jr.’s and Nebraska Score?
- Northwestern currently ranks 13th in the Big Ten in both field goal percentage defense and 3-point field goal percentage defense, while also ranking 12th in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding. And without much of a homecourt advantage (2nd-lowest home attendance rate in the B1G), Nebraska should be poised to have a productive day offensively. Last time out, The Junior Jr.s (Palmer, Copeland and Watson) started the game going a combined 3-for-25. That can’t happen tonight.
Can The Huskers Defend and Compete Inside?
- Rewinding to one of Nebraska’s best performances of the year (a win over No. 14 Minnesota), Nebraska was fantastic defensively and held their own inside against Jordan Murphy, who leads the Big Ten and is second in the country in rebounds per game. If NU wants to win in the Big Ten, the intensity on the defensive end has to the key in pulling out wins in a competitive a competitive Big Ten. And like senior captain Evan Taylor says, “Defense travels.”
Carter’s Prediction (5-0)
- Northwestern 86, Nebraska 77
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