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Rutgers Men's Basketball Game Preview: Nebraska

Tonight's game against Nebraska at home might be their best chance to win a Big Ten game all season.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch & Listen

TV: 5 pm on ESPNU

Radio: Rutgers IMG Radio Network WOR (710 AM) & WCTC (1450 AM); WRSU (88.7 FM); Sirius Radio Channel 135; XM Radio Channel 195

Spread: Nebraska -4

Injury Update

Deshawn Freeman, Shaq Doorson, and Ibrahima Diallo all remain out indefinitely. Jonathan Laurent is also out for a second straight game after suffering a mild concussion in the Wisconsin game. Rutgers has just seven scholarship players active for tonight's game.

About Nebraska

Nebraska comes to Piscataway with an 0-3 record in Big Ten play and an 8-8 record overall.  They have beaten Tennessee and Rhode Island and took Miami to overtime before losing.  In terms of mutual opponents as Rutgers, the Cornhuskers lost to Creighton by 16 points and Indiana by 10 points.

Nebraska is led by Andrew White and Shavon Shields, who are the top two on the team in minutes played, points, and rebounds. They combine to average 32 points and 11 rebounds per game. Shields also leads the team in assists and steals while White is their best three-point shooter, hitting on 42 of 99 attempts (42.4%) this season.

They play a nine man rotation, with just one player over 6'8", with sophomore Jake Hammond standing at 6'10". However, they are a good rebounding team as seven players in the rotation averages 3 or more boards per game. Junior guard Tai Webster is the only other player to average close to double figures in scoring aside from White and Shields, averaging 9.8 points per game.  He is a solid shooter as well, shooting 48.7% from the field, 38% from three-point range, and 80% from the free throw line.

Keys To The Game

Play Smart

With only seven scholarship players and two taller than 6'4", Rutgers must play smart and together in order to win this game.  In the first half against Maryland, there were too many instances of players going one on one and taking bad jump shots.  Each player can't try and win the game on their own. In the second half, they played much better within the offense, working for the extra pass and taking quality shots.  They actually started the second half on a 16-10 run against Maryland's starters because of it. Maryland's length caused Rutgers a lot of problems getting their shots off.  The good news is Nebraska is not nearly as tall, and will allow for more space for Rutgers on offense. They need use that to their advantage.

Play Zone

It was surprising that Rutgers waited to play zone until Greg Lewis and D.J. Foreman each picked up 2 fouls against Maryland.  As they are the only two active players taller than 6'8", having them in foul trouble in the first half was a disaster.  Eddie Jordan cannot afford for this to happen again and they should play more 2-3 zone tonight.  Lewis and Foreman need to play big minutes tonight and make an impact on the floor. Without them, Rutgers will be terribly undersized with five guards on the court.


Rutgers was demolished on the boards against Maryland and their trees.  Nebraska is a scrappy rebounding team but not nearly as tall.  Rutgers must make sure they are boxing out their mark, especially the guards, as all five Nebraska players typically crash to the glass after a shot. If Rutgers does play zone, they need to be aware of the player in their area and get a body on them.  They can't afford to give up offensive rebounds and second chance points to Nebraska. They need to play tight defense and make Nebraska work for every basket.

Corey Sanders Needs a Complete Game

Sanders has come off the bench the past four halves and until late in the game against Maryland, he had not played very well in the minutes he did play. However, he seemed to loosen up in the second half against Maryland and get back into the flow, hitting his last three shots, all three-pointers, to close out the game and actually lead Rutgers in scoring with 16 points. To have a chance to win tonight, Sanders needs to bring his "A" game and lead this team.  It's no secret when he is at his best, Rutgers is a much better team.  Eddie Jordan didn't like the effort he was giving in practice, so he sat him two games in a row.  Hopefully, Sanders has learned from it and comes out tonight with something to prove.  The offense is much more efficient when he is in play making mode, and Rutgers desperately needs that from him tonight.

Play with Emotion

Rutgers is honoring the 1975-1976 Final Four team at halftime of this game.  Being that Eddie Jordan was a key piece on the greatest Rutgers basketball team in school history, I am sure he will be fired up for this game.  Despite the struggles this season, the team has played hard and has never quit.  Tonight they should have some extra juice and play with some emotion at home in front of the Rutgers legends.  It's also a winnable conference game and would be extra special for them to break their 18 game Big Ten losing streak tonight.  There is nothing more their coach would want to do than break the losing streak at home in front of his former teammates.  Let's hope they can get it done!