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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #18 Preview vs. Nebraska

How to watch, stats, & keys to victory

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska (13-5; 3-4) At Rutgers (8-9; 1-6)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: The RAC in Piscataway, New Jersey

Tip-off: Monday, January 21st at 8:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Dave O’Brien & Stephen Bardo

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/Sirius 134/XM 202 - Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Jake Ostrove & Stephen Nelson)

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #125; Nebraska #12

(Rutgers has moved back 2 spots since the loss to Northwestern)

KenPom Prediction: Nebraska 70 Rutgers 62; Rutgers has an 23% chance to win.

Vegas Line: Nebraska -9

Series History: Nebraska leads all-time 7-3, including a 67-55 win in February 2018.

SB Nation Nebraska site: Corn Nation

Game 17 recap & four thoughts

About Nebraska

Head coach Tim Miles is in his seventh season at the helm and coming off of an 22-11 season that included an NIT appearance. The Cornhuskers feature a senior trio of James Palmer Jr,, Glynn Watson Jr., and Isaac Copeland Jr. that gives them one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten. This season they own seven KenPom Top 100 victories over Indiana (36th), Clemson (47th), Creighton (53rd), Seton Hall (57th), Penn State (63rd), Oklahoma State (72nd), and Illinois (93rd). Four of their five losses have come to teams ranked in the KenPom Top 25 including Michigan State (3rd), Texas Tech (11th), Maryland (17th) and Iowa (25th).

Statistically, Nebraska is very balanced, having efficiency ratings in the top 25 of Division I (offense 13th, defense 23rd). Offensively as a team the Cornhuskers are scoring an average of 78 points per game and are shooting 46.4% from the floor, 35.4% from three-point range, and an impressive 73.0% from the free throw line. They hold the 13th lowest offensive turnover rate in Division I at 15.2% and only average 10 turnovers per game. Defensively, they are holding opponents to very low shooting percentages, including effective field goal percentage (43.4%, 6th), two-point field goal percentage (43.3%, 11th) and three-point field goal percentage (29.0%, 15th).

In Big Ten play, Nebraska ranks 5th offensively and 10th defensively.

Notable Contributors


6’6” senior James Palmer Jr. - 19.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals

6’0” senior Glynn Watson Jr. - 13.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals

6’1” sophomore guard Thomas Allen - 8.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.7 steals

6’6” sophomore guard Nana Akentan - 5.1 points, 2.7 rebounds


6’9” senior Isaac Copeland Jr. - 14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals

6’8” junior Isaiah Roby - 10.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 blocks, 1.4 steals

Injury Report

Eugene Omoruyi suffered a dislocated kneecap in the win against Ohio State almost two weeks ago, which is the same injury he suffered last season. His timeline for return has yet to be determined.

When asked about his status on a call on January 16th, head coach Steve Pikiell said: “He’s going to be out (versus Northwestern). He hasn’t practiced. It was a serious injury he had. If anyone can get back quickly it’s Gene. We need him back when he’s healthy and when he feels confident about his knee.’’

Keys To Victory

Own Offensive Glass & Second Chance Points

The one statistical weakness that Nebraska has is opponents have are averaging an offensive rebounding rate of 32.4% against them, which ranks 305th out of 351 Division I teams. In Big Ten play, it’s been even higher, with conference opponents grabbing 36.5% of its offensive rebound opportunities. This is an area Rutgers can take advantage of in this game, as they come in with the 30th best offensive rebounding rate nationally at 34.3%. However, it is one of many areas they’ve missed Omoruyi and rank just 10th in Big Ten play in this area (27.5%). If Rutgers wants to pull off this upset, they need to dominate the offensive glass and finish second chance opportunities. And when they don’t finish near the rim, they need to draw contact and take advantage from the free throw line. More on that in a bit.

Contain One Of the Big Three

Palmer Jr., Copeland Jr, and Watson Jr. are as strong of a core three of players as any in the Big Ten. If all three players have strong games Rutgers has no chance to win. They won’t be able to stop them all, but if they can slow down at least one of them, it will help. Matchup wise, Palmer Jr. is the most versatile offensive player and I expect Ron Harper Jr. to guard him, at least initially. Issa Thiam will probably get some time on him as well. In the post, Pikiell will probably rotate Shaq Carter, Shaq Doorson, and Myles Johnson on Copeland Jr. in an effort to wear him down. I think the key for Rutgers is containing point guard Glynn Watson Jr. who has the profile that they’ve struggled against this season, small and quick. Rutgers will have a size advantage over him regardless of who covers Watson Jr., who is only 6’0”, but staying in front of him and keeping from penetrating into the paint is key. He is also their best three-point shooter, having made 40 of 98 (40.8%) attempts this season. Slowing down Nebraska’s offense means slowing down Watson Jr. and it will be a big assignment for Geo Baker. It’s also possible Pikiell utilizes a 2-3 zone at times to try and give Nebraska a different look in the halfcourt.

Attacking Mindset

Rutgers cannot sit back and force jump shots in this game. They were too passive on offense in the first half against Northwestern and it put them in a big hole. Once they started being more aggressive and attacking the rim in the second half, as well as get out in transition more so, they came back and almost pulled out the victory. They need to come out tonight with an attacking mindset from the start. Part of that means sharing the basketball better in the halfcourt in an effort to find holes in the Nebraska defense. They can’t just put their heads down and go one on one, because Nebraska is a good defensive help team and is part of why teams shoot so poorly against them. Patience and persistence is key for Rutgers to stay in this game on the offensive end.

Take The Free Points

Tying in to that attacking mindset and controlling the offensive glass, Rutgers MUST take advantage of any opportunities they have at the free throw line. They made just 15 of 25 shots from the charity stripe against Northwestern, including missing 5 front end attempts on 1 and 1 opportunities. That cost them the game as much as anything. As I’ve emphasized, the Cornhuskers are a strong defensive team and knowing Rutgers doesn’t typically shoot a high percentage from the field, making as many free throws as possible is a major key for them to win this game. Also, Nebraska only plays six players most of the time so the benefit of drawing fouls would be two fold in the hopes of putting a key player on the bench in foul trouble.

Handle Adversity

In multiple recent losses, Rutgers has had a bad call go against them and it led to a big swing for the opposition. Mathis getting called for a charge wiping out his basket against Maryland and the awful no call when Baker took a body blow driving against Northwestern are two prime examples. In both instances, Rutgers gave up big runs that changed the game and resulted in losses. It’s time for this young team to rise above these types of setbacks, as Rutgers is very rarely going to get the benefit of the doubt from the referees. That’s the reality of being the perennial last place team in the Big Ten. Much like they rose to the occasion after Omoruyi got injured in the Ohio State game, this team needs to learn to channel that frustration and be mentally tougher. They can’t lose discipline on either end of the court and if they can maintain their composure, Rutgers can stay in this game and use the home crowd to its advantage.

Appropriate Pearl Jam Selection

We continue my relatively new feature in previews by incorporating an appropriate Pearl Jam song to the current state of the team. For the Nebraska game, I chose Go from the Vs. album. It’s an aggressive song that gives off the energy Rutgers needs tonight to pull the upset, as they need to attack with purpose from the opening tip. This version is from a concert at Wrigley Field in 2017, enjoy!