Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Becca Mann
Huskers looking to rebound from loss at Purdue
After splitting a pair of games to open the 2018 portion of Big Ten road play, the Nebraska men’s basketball team (11-6, 2-2 Big Ten) returns home Tuesday night to host the Wisconsin Badgers (9-8, 2-2 Big Ten) at 7:30 p.m.
NU vs. Wisconsin
Nebraska looking for payback after Wisconsin snuck out of PBA with an overtime win last year.
The meeting at Pinnacle Bank Arena is the first of four Big Ten games for the Huskers in a grueling 10-day stretch. After taking on Wisconsin, Nebraska will head to State College to battle Penn State on Friday, then hosts Illinois and Michigan next week.
Even with quick turnaround, senior guard Anton Gill said the team cannot use that as an excuse.
“We don’t really have time to hang our heads, we just have to make sure we’re ready,” he said.
The Huskers enter into the matchup one week after a 70-55 win at Northwestern, and three days after a heartbreaker loss at Purdue. On Saturday, the team held the then No. 13 Boilermakers to 44 percent shooting but committed 16 turnovers on its way to a 74-62 loss at Mackey Arena.
Nebraska was led offensively by guard James Palmer Jr. The junior finished with 22 points and seven rebounds, and continues to lead Big Ten newcomers with an average 15.6 points per game. Saturday also marked game 16 of 17 in which Palmer has marked double scoring figures.
The Badgers are also led by a prolific scorer in junior Ethan Happ, who is averaging 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this season. The 6-foot-10 forward does a little bit of everything for Wisconsin, and also leads the team in assists with 3.5 per game. Happ is the only Badger averaging in double figures, and has the team lead by more than four rebounds a game.
The Badgers are in the process of kicking off 2018 with five of six games on the road. That stretch started Friday with a 64-60 loss at Rutgers, which snapped a five-game winning streak. After Tuesday’s meeting, Wisconsin will travel to No. 5 Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and No. 4 Michigan State before returning home to host the Huskers on Jan. 29.
In its past six games, Wisconsin has averaged 76.2 points while shooting 52.4 percent from the field. The Badgers sit at the bottom of the conference in most categories, but hold the No. 1 position for defensive rebounding percentage (.756) while the Huskers come in last in the Big Ten (.655)
In the loss against Rutgers, Happ shot just 4-of-10 from the field and 2-of-5 from the line while committing a team-high seven turnovers. However in a Jan. 2 matchup against Indiana, Happ notched 28 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while shooting 64.7 percent from the field.
Tuesday marks the 27th meeting between the teams in program history, and Wisconsin holds a 14-12 all-time lead. The two last met in a February 2017 overtime thriller in Lincoln that resulted in a 70-69 win for then No. 7 Wisconsin. Glynn Watson Jr. recorded 15 points on the night with Jordy Tshimanga nabbed a career-high 10 boards.
Wisconsin and Nebraska are both part of a five-way tie for sixth place in the conference, alongside Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana. Purdue and Ohio State remain perfect in conference play with 4-0 records in the Big Ten.
As fans have seen this season, Nebraska coach Tim Miles will look to efforts from Palmer as well as Isaac Copeland, who so far have combined for nearly 28 points per game. Watson sits third on the team with 12.1 points per game, and leads the Huskers in assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.7 spg) in his third year.
Miles has started the same line up of Palmer, Watson, Tshimanga, Copeland and Evan Taylor, every game this season, and is expected to do the same on Tuesday. Nebraska and Purdue are the only teams in the Big Ten that have yet to alter its starting lineup.
The Huskers have also been relying on strong performances from its bench this season in the form of 24.0 points per game. Gill has led the way with 9.9 points per game followed by sophomore Isaiah Roby, who adds 6.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
In the Huskers’ first home game of 2018, Miles said his team is looking forward to a chance at retribution against a team that won on NU’s court last season.
“The advantage is the energy of your players, the fact you’ve got fans lifting them up and making them feel more confident,” Miles said. “That certainly happens at Pinnacle Bank Arena. This is a very important game, taking care of home cout. Last year this was a team that beat us on our home court.”
Tuesday’s tip off is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on BTN and available on BTN2Go and Fox Sports Go, and can be heard on Husker Sports Network, Huskers.com or the Huskers App.