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Huskers Battle No. 24 Tigers in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Huskers Battle No. 24 Tigers in ACC/Big Ten Challenge
The Huskers head to Clemson for a matchup with the No. 16 Tigers. Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

The Nebraska men’s basketball team faces another crucial non-conference test on Monday night, as the Huskers travel to No. 24 Clemson as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Tipoff from Littlejohn Coliseum is at 5 p.m. (MT) and the matchup between the Huskers and Tigers will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Anish Shroff and Cory Alexander on the call. It will also be available online on the ESPN app.

Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on, on the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and the TuneIn Radio app and on SiriusXM radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff on many of the Husker Sports Network affiliates (affiliate list on page 7 of the game notes).

The Huskers, who are 5-1 and ranked 24th in the most recent USA Today coaches poll, are coming off a 73-49 win over Western Illinois on Saturday. In that game, the Huskers used a pair of double-figure runs, including a 19-0 run, to build a 40-17 halftime lead and cruised to the 23-point win. Glynn Watson Jr. led the Huskers with 20 points and matched his career high with nine rebounds to pace the Big Red. James Palmer Jr. added 19 points to help NU bounce back from Tuesday’s loss to Texas Tech.

Watson comes into Monday’s game at Clemson averaging 15.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, as one of three double-figure scorers for the Big Red. Palmer paces the Big Red attack at 17.2 points per game, while fellow senior Isaac Copeland is at 14.7 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game.

The Huskers now hit the road, traveling to a Clemson team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 last season. The matchup is part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge that runs Monday-Wednesday. Nebraska looks for its third road win in the Challenge under Head Coach Tim Miles, as NU won at Wake Forest (2012) and Florida State (2014) before falling 60-58 at Clemson in 2016.

The Tigers are 5-1 on the season and ranked 16th in both national polls. Clemson has been off since an 87-82 loss to Creighton in the title game of the Cayman Islands Classic last Wednesday. Senior Marcquise Reed leads four Tigers who average double figures with 19.8 points per game.

32.4 – Nebraska is holding opponents to 32.4 percent shooting, a percentage which ranks third nationally.

.918 – Nebraska is now 34-3 under Tim Miles when scoring 80-or-more points, including 19-1 in the past two-plus seasons.

3 – Watson is one of only three Big Ten players averaging 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, joining Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Maryland’s Anthony Cowan.

12 – Number of career 20-point games for Glynn Watson Jr. following Saturday’s 20-point effort. Watson also had a 20-point game in NU’s previous trip to Clemson in 2016.

32 – Nebraska has not allowed an opponent to shoot over 50 percent in 32 straight games dating back to last season. NU has held four of its foes to under 40 percent.

12 – The Huskers have had 12 runs of at least 10-0 in 2018-19, including a 22-0 run against Southeastern Louisiana and a 19-0 run against Western Illinois. The Huskers have allowed one double-figure run this season.

106 – Nebraska’s point total in the opener against Mississippi Valley State. It was the Huskers’ highest total since scoring 107 against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 19, 2005.

Clemson comes into Monday’s matchup with the Huskers with a 5-1 record. The Tigers returned three starters and nine letterwinners from a team that went 25-10 and reached the NCAA Sweet 16. Under ninth-year coach Brad Brownell, the Tigers have played in two NCAAs and two NITs in his tenure at the school. He had previously coached at Wright State and UNC Wilmington before taking over the Clemson program in 2010-11.

The Tigers opened the season with five straight wins, including a 15-point win over Georgia, before falling to Clemson, 87-82 in the title game of the Cayman Islands Classic. The Tigers have an experienced lineup with four fifth-year senior starters. Marcquise Reed led Clemson with 27 points against Creighton and scored 20+ points in three of the last four contests. Shelton Mitchell is second on the team at 14.7 ppg and has been in double figures in all six contests. Elijah Thomas is averaging 10.2 points and 7.0 rebound and has tallied double-doubles in two of the last three games.

The only previous meeting in the series was Clemson’s 60-58 win over the Huskers in the 2016 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In that game, Tai Webster’s runner at the buzzer rolled off the rim to give the Tigers the win. Webster, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds, was one of four Huskers to finish in double figures, as Glynn Watson Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, four assists and four steals. Nebraska is 15-15 all-time against the current ACC members.

Glynn Watson Jr. had 20 points and nine rebounds, as Nebraska built a 23-point halftime lead and cruised to a 73-49 win over Western Illinois.

Watson hit 8-of-10 shots from the floor and tied his career high with nine rebounds to pace the Big Red while James Palmer Jr. added 19 points.

Nebraska held Western Illinois to 30.6 shooting, as the Leathernecks (2-4) scored a season-low 49 points, over 30 points beneath their season average.

The Huskers took control in the first half, overcoming a slow start en route to building a 40-17 halftime lead. Nebraska used runs of 13-0 and 19-0 to seize momentum, as NU shot 57 percent from the field and outrebounded the Leathernecks, 25-12, in the opening stanza. Trailing 9-4, the Husker defense took control, holding WIU without a point for 8:47 while reserves Nana Akenten and Brady Heiman keyed the run with five of the Huskers’ 13 straight points.

Palmer then got going for the Big Red, scoring eight of his 12 first-half points to begin the run, as Palmer and Watson combined for 15 of the Huskers’ 19 unanswered points. Nebraska took any remaining suspense out by scoring the first 10 points of the second half, pushing the margin to 50-17 after a Watson 3-pointer with 17:41 left.

The 2018-19 season marks the 20th edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Big Ten is 5-12-2 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but 5-2-2 over the last nine seasons. The ACC won the event with an 11-3 win in 2017 and has won the last two events. The winner of the challenge earns the Commissioner’s Cup, and in case of a tie, the Cup remains with the conference that won the event most recently (in this case the ACC).

  • Nebraska is 4-3 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since joining the Big Ten in the 2011-12 season and joins Purdue (10-7) as the only two Big Ten programs with winning records.
  • Under Tim Miles, Nebraska has won four of six games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, including wins at Wake Forest (2012) and at Florida State (2015) along with the home wins over Miami (2013) and Boston College (2017).
  • Of Nebraska’s three losses, two have been by two points (55-53 to Wake Forest in 2011; 60-58 at Clemson in 2016) while the other one was a 77-72 overtime loss to Miami in 2015.
  • The Huskers are 8-6 in conference challenge games dating back to their days in the Big 12 Conference. NU downed Seton Hall in the Gavitt Games earlier this month.


  • Glynn Watson Jr. comes into the Clemson game with 1,132 points to rank 25th in school history, but could make a big leap on the scoring chart on Monday. He is six points away from matching Clifford Scales and Carl Hayes, who both have 1,138 points. Both Scales and Hayes went to Westchester St. Joseph, the same high school that Watson graduated from If Watson scores 19 points against the Tigers, he would jump to 20th, passing Marvin Stewart (1,138, 22nd), Terran Petteway (1143, 21st) and Brian Banks (1,150, 20th).
  • Isaiah Roby needs only two blocked shots to become the 10th Husker with 100 career blocks. Roby is averaging 1.7 blocks per game this season.
  • Nebraska is 5-7 all-time against teams ranked 16th in the AP poll and are 69-254 all-time against AP ranked teams. Nebraska last road win against a ranked team was an 87-83 win over No. 16 Indiana on Dec. 28, 2016. Miles has three wins over ranked teams in his tenure at Nebraska, highlighted by a win over No. 9 Michigan State in 2014.

Nebraska’s biggest improvements came on the defensive end in 2017-18, going from 13th to sixth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense and from 14th to second in 3-point percentage defense. NU ranked in the top-75 nationally in both field goal defense (74th) and 3-point percentage defense (32nd) last season. That has continued in the early stages of the 2018-19 season.

  • Although it is early in the season, Nebraska ranks in the top-15 nationally in field goal defense (.324, third), 3-point defense (.224, fourth), scoring defense (51.7 ppg, sixth) and  blocked shots per game (6.3 bpg, 11th).
  • Nebraska has not allowed an opponent to shoot over 50 percent in 32 straight games dating back to last season, including 15 straight foes held to under 50 percent shooting.
  • NU has limited five of its six opponents to under 0.85 points per possession. Mississippi Valley State and Southeastern Louisiana were held to 0.47 points per possession, the lowest number in Tim Miles’ seven years.
  • Under Miles, the Huskers are 47-5 (.904) when holding opponents under 60 points. 

Nebraska comes into the Clemson game averaging 80.5 points per game over the first six games after averaging 74.8 points per game during the first six games of last season.

  • The Huskers rank in the top 50 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46, 34th) and averaging 16.3 assists per game.
  • Nebraska opened the season with four straight games of scoring at least 80 points, marking the first time NU has accomplished that since the 1996 NIT.
  • Nebraska scored 106 points in the opener against Mississippi Valley State. It was the Huskers’ highest total since scoring 107 against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 19, 2005.
  • Nebraska has already had seven players score in double figures in the first six games, including six against Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 11.
  • The Huskers had three players – James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. – with 20-point performances.

While senior guard James Palmer Jr. switched from No. 24 to No. 0 in the offseason, the All-American candidate continues to produce at a high level. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 17.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

  • He is first or second on the Huskers in scoring (first) and   assists (second) while also averaging 1.0 block per game.
  • Palmer has scored his points in bunches with three halves of at least 15 points in Nebraska’s first six games. He had 15 points by halftime of each of the first two games while he had 18 second-half points against Seton Hall.
  • His 29-point performance against Seton Hall was the second-highest scoring night in his career.
  • Palmer has shown the ability to get to the free throw line often, as he ranks in the top-50 nationally in both free throws (34, 45th) and attempts (44, 48th).
  • Palmer has reached double figures in 36 of 39 career games at Nebraska, as he saw his streak of 17 straight games in double figures snapped against Missouri State on Nov. 19.

Last season, Palmer averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in leading the Huskers to a 22-11 record and an NIT berth.   Last year, Palmer reached double figures in 31 of 33 games in his first season at Nebraska, including eight 20-point efforts. Palmer’s junior year was highlighted by a career-high 34-point effort at Ohio State. Palmer joins Purdue’s Carsen Edwards as returning first-team All-Big Ten selections by the conference coaches.

  • Palmer averaged 18.8 points per game in Big Ten play last year, which is the highest average in conference play since Aleks Maric averaged 18.9 ppg in 2006-07. It is also the most by a returning Big Ten player since Tim Frazier in 2012-13.
  • He is one of only five returning power conference players who averaged 17.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.0 apg last season.

For Coach Tim Miles, senior Glynn Watson Jr. is a luxury, as he begins his fourth year as Nebraska’s starting guard. Watson moved into the role midway through his freshman year and has made his mark in the Husker program.

Watson comes Monday’s game averaging 15.2 points per game on 56 percent shooting, including 17-of-33 from 3-point range. He also is averaging 4.0 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. He also has a career-high 3.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • He nearly posted his first double-double with 20 points and a career-high nine rebounds against Western Illinois.
  • Watson turned in a strong effort against Missouri State with 16 points and four assists in the win over Missouri State.
  • He shined in NU’s win over Seton Hall with 14 points and a season-high eight assists.
  • Watson’s return marks the 10th time in program history that the Huskers had a returning 1,000-point scorer and the first since Shavon Shields in the 2015-16 campaign.
  • With 1,132 points, Watson is one of two Huskers with 1,000 career points, as Isaac Copeland has 1,142 career points between his time at Georgetown and Nebraska. James Palmer Jr. is 71 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
  • Watson has a career 2.13-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has more steals (145) than turnovers (138) in his career.
  • Watson’s older brother Demetri McCamey was an All-Big Ten guard at Illinois during the 2009-10 season.
  • Watson is one of three alumni of St. Joseph to reach 1,000 points at Nebraska, joining Carl Hayes (1,136, 1990-92) and Clifford Scales (1,136, 1988-91). All three played for legendary high school coach Gene Pingatore, who is in his 50th year as coach at St. Joseph and has won over 1,000 games at the school.

Isaac Copeland Jr. is back to make the most of his senior year. The 6-foot-9 forward joined the program in January of 2017, but then was unable to practice because of a herniated disc that eventually required surgery. Despite not being able to practice until school started, Copeland finished second on the team scoring (12.9 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.0 bpg), setting personal bests in all three areas and earning honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors.

Copeland has improved his numbers across the board in 2018-19, as he averages 14.8 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the field.

  • Copeland has reached double figures five times in six games, including a pair of 20-point efforts.
  • He earned a spot on the Hall of Fame Classic All-Tournament Team, averaging 21.5 points per game on 61 percent shooting, 7.5 blocks and 3.0 assists per game. He was in double figures in both contests, including a season-high 23 points against Missouri State and 20 points and eight boards against Texas Tech.
  • Copeland collected his fifth career double-double in Nebraska’s win over Seton Hall with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He had one during his redshirt year at Georgetown (2016-17) and three in 2017-18.
  • He has 11 career 20-point games (7 at Nebraska, 4 at Georgetown), including a pair of 30-point games. Copeland had 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting against North Dakota last year and a career-high 32-point night against Marquette during his sophomore year at Georgetown.
  • A top-20 recruit coming out of high school, his 2014 Brewster Academy team also featured Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte) and Jonah Bolden (Philadephia).
  • Copeland earned his undergraduate degree in sociology last May and is working on his Master’s Degree. He comes from a basketball family, as his father (Ike) played collegiately at East Carolina. As a senior, he helped East Carolina make the NCAA Tournament.

Junior forward Isaiah Roby is one of only two returning power conference players to total 50 blocks and 50 assists last season, joining Missouri’s Jontay Porter, who will miss the 2018-19 season with a torn ACL. Last year, Roby led the Huskers in blocked shots and was fourth in assists despite starting just 13 contests. He moved into the starting lineup during the second half of the season, as the Huskers won 10 of their last 12 Big Ten contests.

Roby is also one of four Huskers to have 50 blocks and 50 assists in a season, joining Aleks Maric, Venson Hamilton and Rich King. Roby’s 63 blocked shots in 2017-18 ranked 10th in school history and was the most by a Husker since Kimani Ffriend in 2000-01.

Roby has been efficient offensively, averaging 8.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting. He leads the Huskers in blocked shots (1.7 bpg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg) and is second on the team in steals (1.7 spg).

  • Roby had his best game of the year in the win over Missouri State with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots in 29 minutes.
  • His dunk against Seton Hall on Nov. 14 marked the fourth time he’s had a top-10 play on SportsCenter during his career, including highlight dunks vs. Rutgers (2018) and at Indiana (2016).
  • Nebraska is 17-5 since moving Roby into the starting lineup midway through Big Ten play last season. Roby has all four of his career double-doubles in that stretch.

Pinnacle Bank Arena will be full once again in 2018-19, as the NU Athletic Ticket Office announced on September 25 that general public season tickets were sold out for the 2018-19 season. It is the fourth time in the past six seasons that the Huskers have sold out their entire season allotment of tickets at Pinnacle Bank Arena. In all, nearly 15,000 season tickets have been sold for the 2018-19 season, including the Red Zone student section. Most of the available single-game tickets for the entire season have been sold as well.

Since moving into PBA in 2013-14, the Huskers have ranked in the top-15 in attendance nationally all five years, and are one of only nine schools in the country to average 15,000+ fans per contest in that span.

The Huskers have been strong at protecting its home court at Pinnacle Bank Arena since it opened in 2013-14.

  • NU has won its last 15 games at home following the 73-49 win over Western Illinois on Nov. 24. The 14-game win streak is the longest among power conference schools and sixth-longest home win streak nationally. It is NU’s longest home win streak since winning 16 straight spanning the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.
  • NU has posted a 63-24 (.724) record in Pinnacle Bank Arena since it opened in 2013. Against non-conference foes, NU is 35-7 in PBA (.833).
  • Nebraska went 16-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2017-18 with the only loss coming in a one-point setback against then-No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 16.  NU’s .941 home winning percentage was the best since the 1982-83 campaign, while the 16 home wins was one shy of the school record.
  • Nebraska went a perfect 9-0 at home in Big Ten play in 2017-18 and won its two Big Ten home games against ranked teams by an average of 15.0 points per game. NU’s 9-0 mark – the only unbeaten mark in the Big Ten – marked the first time the Huskers went unbeaten in conference play at home since the 1965-66 season.
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