he Husker men’s basketball team looks to knock off its second ranked team on the road this season on Thursday, as the Huskers travel to Ann Arbor to face the No. 9/10 (AP/Coaches) Michigan Wolverines. Tipoff at the Crisler Center is set for 6 p.m. (central).
The matchup of the Huskers and Wolverines will be televised nationally on ESPN with Dave Flemming, Dan Dakich and Molly McGrath on the call. The matchup will also be available on the ESPN app and WatchESPN app with cable authentication.
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 both Sirius and XM Radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff on many of the Husker Sports Network affiliates (affiliate list on page 7 of the game notes).
The Huskers (15-13, 5-12 Big Ten) battled Purdue for 40 minutes before falling 75-72 on Saturday. Glynn Watson Jr. had a season-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers, while James Palmer Jr. had 15 points and a season-high eight assists. Nebraska held Purdue to 38 percent shooting, but the Boilermakers had a 49-30 advantage on the glass and hit 23 of 26 from the foul line to escape Lincoln with a three-point win.
Nebraska currently sits in 11th place with three games remaining – all coming against ranked teams. The Huskers are currently a game behind Rutgers for 10th place.
Watson’s 25-point outing against the Boilermakers was another encouraging performance for the Huskers, as the senior has averaged 15.5 points per game over the last four contests after one of the toughest stretches of his career. In the first four games following the season-ending injury to Isaac Copeland Jr., Watson averaged 3.8 points per game on 16 percent shooting.
The Huskers will need a big performance from Watson on Thursday, as they look to knock off a Michigan team smarting from a 77-70 loss to then-No. 10 Michigan State on Sunday. Zavier Simpson’s 19 points led four Wolverines in double figures, but Michigan shot just 40 percent, including 7-of-26 from 3-point range. Michigan (24-4, 13-4) is one game back of MSU in the Big Ten race with two weeks to go, as the two teams will meet again on March 9 in East Lansing.
106 – Glynn Watson Jr. will make his 106th career start at Michigan on Thursday. Only three players (Dave Hoppen, Shavon Shields and Larry Florence) have started more games at Nebraska than Watson has. His 127th appearance on Thursday will tie for 5th on NU’s all-time list.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
221 – Number of free throws James Palmer Jr. has shot this year, a total which is sixth nationally as of Feb. 25. Palmer ranks secod on NU’s single-season list in both free throws made (175) and attempted (221).
.921 – Nebraska is 35-3 under Tim Miles when shooting over 50 percent, including 13 straight wins dating back to the 2016-17 season.
1.34 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio, which is on pace to be one of the best marks in school history and ranks 40th nationally.
3 – Number of opponents who have shot over 50 percent against NU in the last 53 games dating back to last season.
+3.3 – Nebraska is second in the Big Ten in turnover margin, as the Huskers are third in fewest turnovers per game and fifth in forcing turnovers.
Under Coach John Beilein, Michigan comes into Thursday’s contest with a 24-4 record and sits in third place in the Big Ten race with a 13-4 mark. The Wolverines rolled through non-conference play with an 11-0 mark, including a 27-point win at Villanova and a 17-point victory against North Carolina. Michigan was 17-0 until falling at Wisconsin on Jan. 19. Michigan lost road games at Iowa and at Penn State before Michigan State ended the Wolverines’ 22-game home win streak on Sunday.
Michigan, which returned three starters from its NCAA runner-up team, relies on its balance with three players in double figures and two others averaging at least nine points per game. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis leads the Wolverines in scoring at 14.4 points per game and is second in rebounding at 5.2 rebounds per game. Sophomore Jordan Poole (13.2 ppg) and senior Charles Matthews (12.8 ppg) are the other Michigan players in double figures, while junior point guard Zavier Simpson is averaging 9.3 points per game and is second in the Big Ten in assists per game (6.0). Junior Jon Teske leads Michigan in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and blocked shots (2.3 bpg).
Defense has been the Wolverines specialty this season, as Michigan is fourth nationally in scoring defense (58.4 ppg) and in the top-25 nationally in field goal defense (.400) and 3-point percentage defense (.298).
SERIES HISTORY VS. MICHIGAN
Thursday’s meeting is the 19th between the Huskers and Wolverines and the only one of the 2018-19 campaign. Michigan leads the all-time series, 15-3, in a series that dates back to 1949, although the Wolverines’ win over the Huskers in the 1992 Rainbow Classic was later vacated. Nebraska snapped a 10-game losing streak to Michigan with its 72-52 win over the Wolverines in Lincoln last season.
One of Nebraska’s three wins in the series was a 74-73 win over No. 1 Michigan at the NU Coliseum on Dec. 12, 1964. In that game, Fred Hare’s buzzer beater knocked off the Cazzie Russell-led Wolverines. That win is one of three wins over No. 1 ranked teams in Nebraska’s history.
LAST MEETING VS. MICHIGAN
The Huskers endured one of the worst shooting performances of the season, as the fourth-seeded Huskers were eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament following a 77-58 loss to No. 5 seed Michigan at Madison Square Garden.
Nebraska shot just 30 percent on the game, making only 16 of its 53 attempts. The Huskers’ 16 field goals tied for their fewest in any game in the 2017-18 season. While Nebraska struggled with its shot, Michigan went 11-of-23 from beyond the arc against the Huskers, after Michigan made just 4-of-18 from 3-point range in their earlier loss to Nebraska.
Nebraska (22-10) led by five early before missing 19 of its next 20 shots, allowing the Wolverines to turn a four-point deficit into an 18-point lead late in the first half. The Huskers attempted to claw back and cut the lead to 10 at the half and as few as seven in the second half.
Moritz Wagner, who was held to two points in the regular-season meeting between the teams, posted a double-double with 20 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led all scorers with 21 points, as he made all five of his 3-point attempts. Duncan Robinson added 16 points and hit 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby led three Huskers in double figures with 18 points apiece. Roby added a team-high seven rebounds and a game- and career-high five blocks. Glynn Watson Jr. chipped in 10 points for the Big Red.
LAST TIME OUT
The Nebraska men’s basketball team battled No. 15 Purdue for 40 minutes Saturday afternoon, but the Huskers came up just short of an upset in a 75-72 loss to the Boilermakers at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
In a close game that featured six ties and 11 lead changes, Nebraska could never quite get over the hump in the second half. The Huskers never led in the second half, despite pulling to within two eight times in the final 20 minutes.
The Huskers received a big game from Glynn Watson Jr., who scored a season-high 25 points, including 5-of-9 from the 3-point line. James Palmer Jr. added 15 points and a season-high eight assists, while Thomas Allen had nine points.
Purdue was led by Matt Haarms, who scored 17 points – one shy of his career high – and grabbed nine rebounds. Carsen Edwards, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, chipped in 13 points, but the Huskers held him to just 3-of-16 shooting. Ryan Cline also added 13 points for the Boilermakers.
Nebraska out-shot Purdue, as the Huskers hit 41.0 percent of their field goals while limiting the Boilermakers to 37.7 percent. But Purdue was 23-of-26 at the free throw line (88.5 percent), and the Boilermakers out-rebounded Nebraska by 18, including a 31-12 advantage in the second half. In the final 20 minutes, Purdue pulled down 16 offensive rebounds, as 17 of the Boilermaker’s 37 second-half points came following offensive rebounds.
NEBRASKA-MICHIGAN STATE PICKED FOR ESPN2
The Big Ten Conference announced Monday that Nebraska’s game at No. 6 Michigan State on Tuesday, March 5, will be carried on ESPN2 and will tip off at 6 p.m. (central). Prior to Monday’s announcement, it was listed as ESPN or ESPN2. NU will have consecutive appearances on the ESPN family of networks, as Thursday’s game at No. 9 Michigan will be carried on ESPN at 6 p.m. Both games can also be seen online with the ESPN app with cable authentication.
- Michigan is the seventh ranked team the Huskers will face this season and potentially the second of four to end the regular season (at No. 6 Michigan State and vs. No. 22 Iowa). The Huskers are 1-6 against ranked foes with the win coming at No. 25 Indiana on Jan. 14.
- Nebraska’s last two wins against top-10 teams have come against teams ranked ninth in the AP poll. Both came during the 2013-14 season with wins at Michigan State and against Wisconsin. Nebraska is 3-9 all-time against teams ranked ninth in the AP poll.
- Nebraska is 45th in the NET rankings released on Feb. 25. All three of NU’s remaining regular-season games are currently in Quadrant 1. Nebraska has played 20 of its 27 games against teams in Quadrants 1-2. Currently, every Big Ten team is in the top-125 of the NET, including eight of the top 50 teams and 13 in the top 100.
- According to KenPom, Nebraska’s strength of schedule is 13th nationally, as seven of the 13 toughest schedules are by Big Ten teams as of Feb. 16. NU’s final three regular-season games are against teams in the top 30 in KenPom.
- Nine of Nebraska’s 13 losses have been to teams who have been ranked in the top-15 at some point in the season (Texas Tech, Maryland-2x, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue-2x).
- Balance has been key for the Husker attack this season. When NU has at least three double-figure scorers, the Huskers are 13-8, but just 2-5 when less than three NU players are in double figures.
- James Palmer Jr. has posted 13 20-point games this season, a total that ties Terran Petteway for the most 20-point games in Tim Miles’ seven seasons and is the most by any Husker since Tyronn Lue had 16 20-point games in 1997-98. The school record for 20-point games in a season is 21 by Dave Hoppen in 1984-85.
- Palmer has reached double figures in 24 consecutive games dating back to Nov. 20. Over the last two decades, the only Huskers with longer double-figure streaks are Tyronn Lue (36, 1996-97 and 1997-98), Tai Webster (30, 2016-17), Terran Petteway (30, 2013-14 and 2014-15) and Venson Hamilton (24, 1998-99). Palmer’s eight-point effort in a win over Missouri State is the only game in the last 42 games he didn’t reach double figures dating back to last season.
- Palmer could also break a pair of single-season school records on Thursday, as he is currently second on Nebraska’s single-season charts in both free throws made (175) and attempted (221). He is nine shy of the school record for most free throws (184, Jack Moore, 1979-80) and six away from attempts (227, Kimani Ffriend, 1999-2000). Palmer leads all power conference players in both categories.
- Isaiah Roby is currently the only Big Ten player who ranks in the top 10 in both steals (1.4, sixth) and blocked shots (1.8, fifth). If he continues at that pace, he will be just the fifth Big Ten player in the last 25 years to average at least 1.3 steals and blocks per game. Roby is also two blocked shots away from becoming just the second player in school history (Venson Hamilton, 1998-99) to record consecutive seasons with both 50 blocked shots and 50 assists.
- Glynn Watson Jr. is one of six players currently on NU’s top-10 list in both assists and steals, joining Brian Carr (1984-87), Cookie Belcher (1997-2001), Tyronn Lue (1996-98), Erick Strickland (1993-96) and Clifford Scales (1998-91). Watson is currently in 10th place on NU’s assist list (352) and fifth on NU’s steals list (170).
- Former walk-on Tanner Borchardt has stepped into a crucial role for the Huskers following Isaac Copeland’s injury. Borchardt is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last nine contests and is averaging 27.2 minutes per game. Prior to Copeland’s injury, Borchardt averaged just 2.9 rebounds per game in 12.3 minutes per contest and had never played more than 20 minutes in a game in his college career.
- Nebraska ranks 10th nationally in average attendance at 15,639 per game as of Feb. 24. Of the eight schools ahead of the Huskers, all eight play in facilities of at least 16,300 seats. NU’s attendance is 104 percent of PBA’s 15,000-seat capacity.