How To Watch & Listen
Rutgers (12-14; 2-11) At Nebraska (18-8; 9-4)
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska (capacity 15,500)
Tip-off: Saturday, February 10th at 4:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler & Shon Morris
Radio: WCTC 1450 AM, WOR 710 AM - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #157; Nebraska #56
(Note: Rutgers regressed 19 spots since the 22 point loss to Indiana)
KenPom Prediction: Nebraska 69 Rutgers 58; Rutgers has an 15% chance to win
Vegas Line: Nebraska -9.5
Series History: Nebraska leads the all-time series 6-3, including a 60-54 win on January 24th.
SB Nation Nebraska site: Corn Nation
Head coach Tim Miles saw major roster turnover occur after last season, but he has the Cornhuskers in line for an NCAA bid for just the second time in twenty years. Several transfers have made an impact this season. Nebraska has eight top 100 victories so far and aside from Ohio State, have been the biggest surprise in the Big Ten. They are currently in 4th place in the conference and have won four games in a row, as well six of their last seven contests.
A key stat to track in this matchup is that the Cornhuskers are 16-2 when scoring 70-plus points per game and are just 3-6 when they score less than that mark. In addition, Nebraska is 12-1 at home this season and 5-0 in Big Ten play. Their only loss in Lincoln was a 1 point defeat to Kansas.
As a team, the Cornhuskers are shooting 43.5% from the field, 35.8% from three-point range, and 72.3% from the free throw line. Nebraska is eighth in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play and fifth defensively.
On offense, Nebraska has the 5th lowest turnover rate in Big Ten play and the second best free throw rate, as well as second best free throw shooting percentage. The Cornhuskers are converting 75.7% of their shots from the charity stripe during league play. The Nebraska defense is second in the conference in effective field goal percentage, holding opponents to just 45.3%. They also lead the Big Ten in three-point defense, as opponents are shooting just 30.3% from behind the arc against them in league play. The Huskers also have the 4th highest block rate in conference games.
Overall, this team is really just a better, deeper version of this year’s Rutgers squad, as both teams play with similar styles. The biggest difference is the performances of James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland, and Glynn Watson Jr. have given Nebraska a true big three on the court, in addition to senior leaders Anton Gill and Evan Taylor.
Here are per game statistical averages for key players on Indiana:
6’6” junior guard James Palmer Jr. - 17.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals
6’9” junior forward Isaac Copeland - 13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 1.2 assists
6’0” junior guard Glynn Watson Jr. - 11.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals
6’3” senior guard Anton Gill - 8.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists
6’8” sophomore forward Isaiah Roby - 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.7 assists
6’5” senior guard Evan Taylor - 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals
6”11” sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga - 3.9 points, 5.0 rebounds
Know Your Three-Point Shooters:
Evan Taylor - 15 of 30 for 50.0%
Anton Gill - 45 of 110 for 40.9%
Thomas Allen - 16 of 43 for 37.2%
Isaac Copeland - 31 of 85 for 36.5%
James Palmer Jr. - 38 of 110 for 34.5%
Glynn Watson Jr. - 26 of 95 for 27.4%
Rutgers is 15th nationally in offensive rebounding (13.35), 17th in scoring defense (63.8), 25th in FG% defense (40.2) and 26th in rebounding (39.58)....Senior captain Mike Williams (ankle) and sophomore forward Eugene Omoruyi (knee) are both out indefinitely with injuries......In Big Ten play this season, Rutgers is currently ranked 14th in offensive efficiency and 9th in defensive efficiency. Through 26 regular season games overall, their offensive efficiency is ranked 309th out of 351 teams and the defense is ranked 20th per KenPom.....Rutgers has played the second most difficult strength of schedule in the Big Ten through thirteen games.
Keys To Victory
Own The Glass
Nebraska is just 13th in conference play in both offensive rebounding and defending against it. For Rutgers to have any chance to pull the upset, they have to dominate the boards on both ends of the floor. A major reason they almost pulled the unthinkable upset against #3 Purdue last weekend was their +12 rebounding margin in the contest. While Rutgers did hold a +3 rebounding margin in the first meeting against Nebraska, it wasn't enough to pull out the victory. A big reason was they only held a 14-11 edge in second chance turnovers, despite holding a +6 edge in offensive rebounds. How Rutgers attacks the glass and finishes near the rim will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Rutgers needs to take care the basketball in a big way, especially on the road. They've regressed in this area recently and can't afford to turn it over and give opponents so many easy baskets. On the flip side, the Scarlet Knights struggle mightily in the halfcourt on offense, so any points they can generate in transition and off of turnovers would give them a major lift.
Defense Needs To Be Top Notch
Rutgers played well defensively in the first meeting against Nebraska, holding them to 60 points and just 39.6% shooting from the field, including only 27.8% from three-point range. It will take a similar effort in the rematch to give them a chance on the road. How Rutgers does containing James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland, who combined for 41 points in the first meeting is very important as well. The absence of Eugene Omoruyi will hurt significantly and is a major concern in this game based on those two star players for the Huskers.
The Big Three Need To Lead
Corey Sanders, Deshawn Freeman and Geo Baker all need to score and play well for Rutgers to have any chance, which is literally the case in any Big Ten matchup. Sanders struggled badly against Indiana after his 31 point performance against Purdue. He needs to not settle for jumpers early on and find gaps in the Huskers defense to attack the rim. Deshawn Freeman is probably the most important player in this game for Rutgers, based on his rebounding ability, being the best low post scorer and his defensive matchup with either Palmer Jr and Copeland. Geo Baker has shot better of late and it would be a perfect time for him to break out on the road on Saturday. They'll likely need to score a combined 45-50 points to win any conference game without both Williams, who could return soon, and Omoruyi.
In The Bonus
What is it about Lincoln, Nebraska when Rutgers comes to town? During the fall, the football team visited during the week Husker AD Eichorst was fired, making it an emotional setting for the game. As for this time around, the school has had some tense moments this week due to a white supremacist student making comments online. The Nebraska men's basketball team met with the President of the university over concerns regarding this issue and actually voted on whether to boycott the Rutgers game. Ultimately the players decided to play and will wear shirts stating “Hate Will Never Win”, which you can read more about here. Our friends at Corn Nation also covered head coach Tim Miles press conference on the matter from today here. It’s great to see the men’s basketball team help to unite their campus in a positive way.
As for Rutgers, they need to be mentally prepared for an emotionally charged environment. Nebraska has been fantastic at home this season and it will be a difficult task to pull out a victory. Rutgers is an abysmal 1-32 on the road in Big Ten play since joining the conference. Who knows, college basketball is a crazy game and literally anything can happen. Nebraska hasn’t laid an egg in Big Ten play all season and their worst loss of the year was to St. John’s in November, which looks a lot better after the past week when the Johnnies beat #4 Duke and #1 Villanova in consecutive games. What I’m saying is maybe the Huskers are due a letdown performance and Rutgers can capitalize by playing with energy on defense and by crashing the boards, while getting enough points from the free throw line, in transition, and of off offensive rebounds. If the Scarlet Knights want to end their six game losing streak, that’s what it will take.