The Nebraska basketball team returns to Lincoln to begin a crucial two-game homestand Thursday night, as the Huskers welcome Penn State to Pinnacle Bank Arena.
A limited number of returned tickets are available for Thursday’s game starting at $10. They can be purchased by calling 1-800-8-BIGRED or (402) 472-3111 or at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Ticket Office beginning 90 minutes prior to tipoff, if available. A crowd of close to 15,000 is expected on Thursday night.
Tipoff is set for 6:02 PM, Pre-game coverage with Kent Pavelka & Matt Davison starts at 5 sharp on News Radio 1110 KFAB.
The Huskers (14-10, 6-6 B1G) are playing some of their best basketball over the last three weeks, culminating with a 60-51 win at ninth-ranked Michigan State on Sunday. Sophomores Walter Pitchford and Terran Petteway combined for 41 points, but Nebraska did its best work on the defensive end. The Huskers held the Spartans to season lows in both points (51) and field-goal percentage (.340), as MSU was held over 25 points below its season average.
Nebraska’s improved defense has keyed the surge in recent weeks. During its current three-game win streak, Nebraska is holding foes to 52.7 points per game and 36 percent shooting from the floor. It has helped NU rally from a 1-5 confernece start to a .500 mark in Big Ten play entering the final three weeks of the season.
Penn State (13-13, 4-9 B1G) has also rebounded from a rocky start of Big Ten play in recent weeks. The Nittany Lions have won four of their last seven games since a four-point win over the Huskers in Happy Valley on Jan. 23, including road wins at both Ohio State and Indiana. The Nittany Lions feature one of the Big Ten’s best backcourts in Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, who combine for nearly 33 points, 10 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game.
By the Numbers
.846 - Nebraska’s winning percentage in games decided by five points or less under Tim Miles. The Huskers are 11-2 in such games over the last two seasons.
.857 - The Huskers are 6-1 under Tim Miles on ESPNU over the last two seasons.
1 - Nebraska is the only Big Ten team with multiple 30-point scorers (Terran Petteway vs. UMass and Minnesota; Shavon Shields vs. Illinois) this season.
4 - Nebraska has won four straight conference home games for the first time since a five-game Big 12 home win streak spanning the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
8 - 20-point games by Terran Petteway this season, which is tied for third in the Big Ten entering this week’s action.
1999 - Nebraska is bidding for its first four-game win steak in confererence action since Feb. 3-13, 1999.
Scouting Penn State
Penn State comes into Thursday’s game with a 13-13 mark following an 82-70 loss to Iowa on Sunday. The Nittany Lions have been played some their best basketball in recent weeks, going 4-3 after an 0-6 Big Ten start for third-year coach Pat Chambers. PSU has been resilient, posting road wins at both Ohio State and Indiana, as they rallied from late deficits in both contests.
The Nittany Lions feature one of the highest-scoring backcourts in the country in fifth-year senior Tim Frazier and junior D.J. Newbill. Frazier averages 15.9 points and a Big Ten-leading 5.9 assists per game, while Newbill is fourth in the conference in scoring at 17.4 points per game. On the inside, Brandon Taylor is averaging 9.7 points per game with a team-high 38 3-pointers, while Ross Travis averages 9.3 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game.
NU-Penn State Series History
Thursday’s game is only the ninth meeting between the Huskers and Nittany Lions - the two most recent members of the Big Ten - and Nebraska has won three of the five matchups since joining the conference prior to the 2011-12 season. The series is deadlocked at four wins apiece. The teams played three times before Nebraska joined the Big Ten, a home-and-home series in 1980 and 1981 and in the second round of the 1995 NIT.
Last Meeting: A late comeback by Penn State spoiled a golden opportunity for the Huskers, as the Nittany Lions posted a 58-54 win. Nebraska led 51-47 with 2:24 left, but Penn State closed the game on an 11-3 run to earn their first conference win. The Huskers clung to a 51-50 lead, but Tim Frazier stole the ball from Deverell Biggs and found D.J. Newbill for a basket, and he was fouled on the play. Newbill, who finished with a game-high 16 points, converted the 3-point play to make it 53-31. After an errant shot on Nebraska’s next possession, John Johnson’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left gave the Nittany Lions a five-point lead.
Nebraska still had chances in the final seconds, as Terran Petteway’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left pulled the Huskers within 56-54. On the inbounds, pass, the Huskers’ pressure forced a PSU turnover, giving Nebraska a final opportunity. The Huskers were unable to get off a shot, as the 14th turnover of the evening gave the Nittany Lions the ball before Frazier was fouled.
*-The Huskers will be looking for their fourth straight conference win, the first time that has happened for the Huskers since the 1998-99 season (Colorado, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa State).
*-Nebraska looks to improve to a Big Ten-best 12-1 in its first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Dating back to last season, the Huskers have won 13 of their last 14 home games with the only loss coming to now No. 20 Michigan on Jan. 9.
*-Nebraska is bidding for its sixth Big Ten win in the last seven games, which would be a first for the program since the 1998-99 season when Nebraska went 9-1 in a stretch during Big 12 action.
*-The Huskers are gunning for their seventh conference win of the season, which would be the most since going 7-9 in the school’s final Big 12 season in 2010-11. NU would also be over .500 at any point in conference play for the first time since Jan. 8, 2011, when the Huskers won their Big 12 opener. The last time NU was over .500 this late in the conference season was in 2005-06, when Nebraska was 7-6 on Feb. 22 after a win over Colorado.
*-A win on Thursday would be the Huskers’ 15th of the season, matching the entire 2012-13 total.
*-Nebraska would regain the all-time series lead with Penn State with a victory on Thursday
*-Sophomore Terran Petteway is 16 points away from tying Carl McPipe for fifth place on Nebraska’s sophomore scoring chart.
*-Petteway has eight 20-point games this season, which is the most since Bo Spencer had nine during the 2011-12 season.
*-Ray Gallegos can move into seventh on NU’s career 3-point list with his first 3-pointer against Penn State on Thursday. He is tied for eighth with 145 3-points and is one shy of seventh (Cookie Belcher, 146) on NU’s all-time list. Gallegos is also closing in on a couple of other milestones, as he is one assist away from 100 in his career and 15 points from reaching 750 points. He would be the 56th player in school history to reach 750 career points.
*-Nebraska has held four of its last five opponents to under 60 points, including 58 to Illinois and 51 to Michigan State. The Huskers held Northwestern and Illinois to a combined 37 percent shooting.
*-Sunday’s win over Michigan State marks the fifth 2013 Sweet 16 team that Nebraska has beaten this season (also Florida Gulf Coast, Miami, Ohio State and Indiana).
*-Tai Webster enters Thursday’s game needing three steals to crack into the top-10 list for steals by a Husker freshman. Webster has 22 on the season, three behind Leslee Smith for the team lead. Cookie Miller is the last Husker freshman to lead NU in steals during the 2007-08 season.
Quick Look at Nebraska
As second-year coach Tim Miles continues the rebuilding process at Nebraska, the Huskers’ roster is starting to take shape. Only two of the 12 recruited scholarship players have been at NU longer than two seasons (Ray Gallegos and David Rivers). Gallegos is the only scholarship senior on the 2013-14 roster before Mike Peltz was put on scholarship in January.
*-Nebraska enters the game at No. 53 in the RPI and a schedule rated as the 23rd toughest nationally according to real time RPI.
*-The Huskers have three top-35 wins (at Michigan State, vs. Ohio State and Minnesota) while seven of the 10 losses are to teams in the top 25 of the RPI released Monday.
*-Nebraska is one win away from matching its 2012-13 season total and has already exceeded its conference win total with six regular-season game remaining.
*-Of Nebraska’s 10 losses, six are to teams ranked in either the AP or coaches poll this week (Iowa, Cincinnati, Michigan-2x, Ohio State and Creighton) and another is to a UMass team is receiving votes after being ranked for most of the season.
*-The Huskers started Big Ten play with a 1-5 record with four of their first six on the road, but had chances to win in the final minutes of three of those losses.
• vs. Michigan (Jan. 9) - Led 70-69 with 0:34 left (lost, 71-70)
• at Purdue (Jan. 12) - Led 58-55 with 6:43 left (lost, 70-64)
• at Penn State (Jan. 26) - Led 51-47 with 2:24 left (lost, 58-54)
*-Nebraska has relied on its youth, as its top three active scorers (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford are sophomores and of the nine players who played at least 10 minutes per game, only one is a senior. In fact, 60 percent of the Huskers’ scoring have come from NU’s sophomore class.
*-During Big Ten action, the Huskers have typically started one freshman (Tai Webster), three sophomores (Petteway, Shields and Pitchford) and one senior (Gallegos). Nebraska went even younger against Michigan State as junior David Rivers replaced Gallegos in the starting lineup.
*-Miles is not afraid to play freshmen, as at least one freshman has started in 55 of the 57 games he has coached at Nebraska over the last two seasons.
This season, Nebraska is picked 12th in the preseason poll of writers with a roster which is 293rd (of 351 teams) in experience according to KenPom.com. Five of NU’s nine primary rotation players are in their first year of competition at Nebraska, although three of the newcomers (Pitchford-Florida; Smith-SMU; Petteway-Texas Tech) have previous Division I experience.
Miles, who was given a seven-year contract when he was hired in 2012, led the Huskers to a 15-18 record last year, as 14 of NU’s 18 losses came against NCAA Tournament teams despite having only eight recruited scholarship players available. Nebraska played one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2012-13, facing 10 ranked teams while the strength of schedule was 13th nationally. The Huskers finished 10th in the Big Ten in 2012-13 after being picked to finish last by 23 of the 24 beat writers in the league.
A Historic Win
Nebraska’s 60-51 win at No. 9 Michigan State on Feb. 16 was one of the Huskers’ best road wins in recent history.
*-The win marked just the fourth win over a top-10 opponent outside Lincoln and the first since 1997. NU also snapped a 29-game losing streak against top-10 teams away from Lincoln.
*-Nebraska snapped 21-game losing streak to ranked teams on the road, dating back to a 65-59 win at No. 22 Texas A&M and Feb.23, 2008. It also ended a 24-game streak against ranked teams outside of Lincoln.
*-NU picked up its first Big Ten win against Michigan State, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Spartans. Nebraska’s only other win in an 86-81 overtime win over No. 15 Michigan State on Dec. 18, 1993.
*-The win was the second road win against a top-10 team for Nebraska Coach Tim Miles, as his North Dakota State team topped eighth-ranked Marquette on Dec. 3, 2006.
Petteway Earns Big Ten Honor
Terran Petteway was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Feb. 17, after leading the Huskers to a 2-0 week. He averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as Nebraska posted wins against Illinois and at No. 9 Michigan State to improve to 6-6 in Big Ten play.
Petteway led the Huskers with 23 points, including four 3-pointers and added five rebounds and two assists in helping the Huskers to their first road win over a top-10 team since 1997. He had 16 of his points in the second half, as the Huskers snapped a 29-game road winning streak against top-10 teams and won for the fifth time in the last six outings. Petteway also had 16 points and four rebounds in NU’s 67-58 win against Illinois on Wednesday.
Petteway is the second Husker to earn the weekly honor, joining Shavon Shields, who won the award during the opening week of the season. It marked the first time since 2007-08 that Nebraska had multiple conference players of the week.
The Son Also Rises
Nebraska sophomore Shavon Shields is on his way to creating an impressive resume in his own right. While his father, Will, is one of the greatest linemen in college and NFL history and a three-time NFL Hall of Fame finalist, the younger Shields has played an integral role over the last two years on the court for the Huskers.
As a freshman, Shavon overcame an early season elbow injury and averaged 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 29 games. Shields started to shine during the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, averaging 16.5 points on 61 percent shooting in games against Purdue and Ohio State.
*-Shields, who was hampered by a knee bruise suffered in practice early in Big Ten play, is averaging 11.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, as leads NU in rebounding, is second in scoring and third in assists. All three categories are up from his freshman year.
*-After a week off during Nebraska’s first conference bye to get healthy, Shields has been been solid, averaging 13.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game over the last eight contests. The stretch began against No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 20 when he scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Shields had 11 points and set career bests in both assists (four) and steals (four) against Indiana and led NU with 13 points at No. 10 Michigan on Feb. 5.
*-He enjoyed a career-high 33 point performance against Illinois on Feb. 12, when he hit 8-of-12 shots from the field and all 15 of his free throws. Shields tied Nebraska’s single-game record for free throws without a miss and became only the 11th Big Ten player to hit at least 15 free throws without a miss and the first since 1997.
*-Shields has the team's longest starting streak at 43 games dating back to last season.
*-He has been in double figures 14 times, and has grabbed at least six rebounds 13 times, including a season-high 10 rebounds against Penn State on Jan. 23.
*-Shields has paced the Huskers in scoring six times and has a pair of 20-point games this season. All three of his 20-point nights came against 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Florida Gulf Coast, Creighton and Illinois).
*-He was named Big Ten Player of the Week and Lute Olson National Player of the Week for his effort against Sweet 16 qualifier Florida Gulf Coast in the season opener. In that game he scored a game-high 28 points - one off his career high - hitting 8-of-13 shots from the field and a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. The 6-foot-7 forward also led NU in rebounds (six) and assists (three).
*-Last summer, Shields played for the Denmark U-20 National Team, leading the country to the 2013 Nordic Cup Championship. He averaged 13.3 points per game in wins over Sweden, Finland and Estonia, capping the tournament with a 17-point, 12-rebound effort in a 101-94 double overtime win over Estonia.
*-Off the court, Shields is a microbiology major who wants to become a doctor following his basketball career and was named first-team Academic All-District VII on Jan. 31, as he carries a 3.77 GPA in mircobiology.
Petteway on Track for Historic Season
Sophomore Terrran Petteway has enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons by a Husker in recent years. The 6-foot-6 wing from Galveston, Texas, enters enters the week ranked second in the conference in scoring at 17.7 ppg, while also averaging 5.2 caroms per outing. Petteway, who sat out last year after transferring from Texas Tech, has been among the Big Ten’s biggest surprises during the 2013-14 season.
*-Petteway is on track to enjoy one of the highest scoring sophomore seasons in school history. At 17.7 points per game, it would be the highest by a Husker sophomore since Tyronn Lue averaged 18.8 points per game in 1996-97. In fact, only three players have averaged more than 16 points per game as a sophomore - Dave Hoppen (19.9), Lue and Jerry Fort (18.0).
*-He is challenging to become the first Husker since Tyronn Lue in 1997-98 and only the fourth Husker in the last 40 years to rank among the conference’s top three scorers (Andre Smith and Dave Hoppen are the others).
*-Petteway has raised his scoring average nearly 15 points from his true freshman year at Texas Tech, as his career high entering this season was a 13-point effort against DePaul.
*-He put together the finest game of his career in the win over Minnesota on Jan. 26 with a career-high 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting and six rebounds. Petteway hit four 3-pointers in the win and went 11-of-14 from the foul line.
*-Petteway is the only player in the Big Ten over the last two seasons with multiple 30-point games. The last person with three 30-point games in a season was John Shurna of Northwestern in 2011-12. Only nine Big Ten players have had multiple 30-point games in a season since 2010
*-Reached double figures in 22 of 24 games after just having one double-figure effort prior to this season and has tied or led Nebraska in scoring in 10 straight games before the streak was snapped against Michigan on Feb. 5.
*-He put together a strong outing in the win at No. 9 Michigan State with 23 points, including 16 second-half points, and five rebounds.
*-Petteway had a streak of three straight 20-point games (27 vs. Citadel; 22 at Cincinnati; 20 at Iowa) - the first time that has happened at Nebraska since Aleks Maric had four consecutive 20-point games in 2006-07.
*-Nearly put together a double-double in the loss at Purdue with 19 points, nine rebounds and two steals, along with two blocked shots.
*-Recorded his first career double-double at Iowa on Dec. 31, leading all scorers with 20 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
*-Ranks seventh in the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 81.8 percent after shooting just 46 percent from the line during his lone season at Texas Tech.
*-Led NU with a strong road performance at Northwestern on Feb. 8 when he led Nebraska in scoring (17), rebounds (eight) and assists (four) in NU’s 53-49 win.
*-Led the Huskers at the Charleston Classic in November, averaging 22 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in three games.
*-Put together his first 30-point game of the season in a 96-91 loss to UMass at the Charleston Classic, and is now only one of 13 players in school history with multiple 30-point games at Nebraska.
Pitchford Provides Scoring Punch
Another one of Nebraska’s transfers, sophomore Walter Pitchford has developed into a consistent scoring option for the Huskers. The 6-foot-10 forward began his career at Florida, where he was a reserve on the Gators’ Elite Eight squad in 2011-12. This year, he has taken advantage of the new surroundings and has been productive, averaging 9.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. One of the Huskers’ best athletes with a 42-inch vertical leap, Pitchford is also one of the Huskers’ top 3-point shooters at 40 percent on the season.
*-Is playing some of his best basketball of the season over the last three weeks, averaging 12.3 points per game on 55 percent shooting over the last six games. Pitchford has been in double figures five times in that strtch and has set season highs in points on two occasions, most recently at Michigan State on Feb. 16.
*-Enjoyed a successful homecoming at Michigan State on Feb. 16, totaling a career-high 18 points, including a season-high four 3-pointers, along with five rebounds and two steals in Nebraska's win over the No. 9 Spartans.
*-Reached double figures in scoring 12 times this year, including a then-career-high 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the four-point win over Northwestern on Nov. 8. In that game, he scored 13 second-half points, including five straight points after the Wildcats cut an eight-point lead to 44-all in the final four minutes.
*-Put together the best game of his career at Iowa on Dec. 31, finishing with 13 points and a season-high 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Pitchford also had eight offensive rebounds and helped NU cut a 20-point deficit to five in the second half.
*-Finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting against Michigan on Jan. 9.
*-Posted his first career double-double against Arkansas State on Dec. 14 with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
*-Played a key role in the Huskers’ win over Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4 with 13 points and five rebounds.
*-Totaled an incredible 339:23 without a turnover dating back to his time at Florida before his first turnover on Jan. 9. The streak lasted 22 games dating back to his freshman year at Florida, as he was the last regular rotation player in the country without a turnover.
The Nebraska basketball team returns to Lincoln to begin a crucial two-game homestand Thursday night, as the Huskers welcome Penn State to Pinnacle Bank Arena.