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Huskers Host No. 23 Michigan tonight

Huskers Host No. 23 Michigan tonight
Isaiah Roby and the Huskers take on No. 23 Michigan Thursday. Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications

After a thrilling one-point victory over Illinois on Monday evening, Nebraska wraps up its brief two-game homestand on Thursday, as No. 23 Michigan pays a visit to Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tipoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m., and a limited number of tickets are still available by visiting Huskers.com or at the PBA Ticket Office beginning Monday evening at 6:30 p.m.

The game will be nationally televised on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Robbie Hummel on the call. The game is also available on BTN.com, BTN2Go and the Fox Sports Go 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 Huskers.com, on the Huskers app, on TuneIn Radio and on the TuneIn Radio app. The radio broadcast begins one hour prior to tipoff.

Nebraska (13-7, 4-3 Big Ten) come into Thursday’s game as winners of six of their last eight games following the 64-63 win over Illinois on Monday evening. James Palmer Jr. provided the heroics, hitting a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to cap a 24-point performance. In fact, Nebraska’s last two games have gone down to the final three seconds, as the Huskers lost at Penn State in the final 2.7 seconds of overtime.

While Palmer, who leads three Huskers in scoring at 15.7 points per game, hit the game winner, the play of Isaiah Roby and Evan Taylor helped key Nebraska’s rally. Roby nearly posted a double-double in his first start of the year, finishing with nine points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Taylor, who came off the bench, added 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

The Huskers will face one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, as Michigan (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten) comes to Lincoln as winners of nine of their last 10 games, including a 10-point win at then No. 4 Michigan State last Saturday.

The Wolverines, who are ranked 23rd in this week’s AP poll, are coming off a 68-67 win over Maryland on Monday. The Wolverines needed two free throws from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with 1.2 seconds left to escape with the win. Michigan features its 1-2 punch of Moritz Wagner (14.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Charles Matthews (14.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

OPENING NUMBER
118 – Nebraska’s 118 blocked shots already eclipses the team’s entire 2016-17 total of 116 and is the most since the 2005-06 season. Isaiah Roby’s 33 blocked shots is the most by a Husker since the 2010-11 season (Andre Almeida 39; Jorge Brian Diaz 38).

NUMBERS TO KNOW
1.25 – Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio which is on pace to be NU’s best in more than 20 years. In fact, the last time Nebraska had more assists than turnovers was in 2009-10. Nebraska’s 10 turnovers against Illinois was the fewest forced by the Illini this season.

.390 – NU has held its last seven opponents to a combined .390 shooting percentage and 65.3 points per game dating back to Dec. 22. The Huskers have also held each of their last six Big Ten opponents to under 45 percent shooting.

70 – Nebraska is 11-2 when scoring 70 or more points and 2-5 when held to under 70 points. Nebraska’s only two losses when scoring 70+ points was a one-point loss to Kansas and a two-point OT loss at Penn State.

SCOUTING MICHIGAN
Under Coach John Beilein, Michigan is 16-4 on the season and playing its best basketball over the last month. The Wolverines have won nine of its last 10 games since a loss to Ohio State on Dec. 9, with the only loss being a one-point setback to Big Ten co-leader Purdue on Jan. 9. Michigan, whose non-conference losses were to LSU and North Carolina, started the streak with wins over UCLA and at Texas to begin a five-game win streak to close non-conference action. Since resuming Big Ten play, Michigan has wins over Iowa, Illinois and Maryland, as well as a 10-point win at Michigan State last Saturday. Michigan averages 76.3 points per game and ranks second in the Big Ten with 9.6 3-pointers per contest. The Wolverines also lead the conference in turnover margin (+4.7 per game), as they commit a conference-low 9.8 turnovers per game.

Michigan, which returned two starters from its NCAA Sweet 16 team, has three players averaging double figures and a fourth averaging 9.4 points per game. Moritz Wagner tops the Wolverines in scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg), while Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews also averages 14.9 points per game and ranks second among all Big Ten newcomers in scoring. Michigan has eight players who have connected on at least 10 3-pointers, including 39 from Duncan Robinson and 31 from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

SERIES HISTORY VS. MICHIGAN
Thursday’s meeting is the 17th between the Huskers and Wolverines and the only one of the 2017-18 campaign. Michigan leads the all-time series, 14-2, in a series that dates back to 1949, although the Wolverines’ win over the Huskers in the 1992 Rainbow Classic was later vacated. Nebraska looks to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Wolverines dating back to 1980.

Michigan has won all eight conference meetings with the Huskers and is the only Big Ten team NU has not beaten since joining the conference prior to the 2011-12 season. One of Nebraska’s two wins in the series was a 74-73 win over No. 1 Michigan at the NU Coliseum on Dec. 12, 1964. In that game, Fred Hare’s buzzer beater knocked off the Cazzie Russell-led Wolverines. That win is one of three wins over No. 1 ranked teams in Nebraska’s history.

LAST MEETING VS. MICHIGAN
Michigan used a blistering shooting night in spoiling Nebraska’s senior night with a 93-57 win over the Huskers on March 5, 2017.
The Wolverines put five players in double figures, led by Derrick Walton Jr., who finished with 18 points and a school-record 16 assists. Walton’s effort helped Michigan shoot 63 percent from the floor, including 14-of-27 from 3-point range.

Nebraska, which shot 56 percent in the first half, shot just 29 percent in the second half and committed 16 turnovers, which led to 24 Michigan points.

Isaiah Roby tied for team-high honors with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, while Ed Morrow Jr. added 10 points and four rebounds. Tai Webster, who had reached double figures in 30 straight games, was held to a season-low eight points, but led NU with five assists.

LAST TIME OUT
James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 24 points, and none were more important than his game-winning three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to give Nebraska a 64-63 win over Illinois on Monday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
After Illinois’ Michael Finke converted on a four-point play to give Illinois a 63-61 lead with eight seconds to play, Glynn Watson Jr. took the inbounds pass up the floor and found Palmer on the left wing, who took a dribble and hit an off-balance three to give Nebraska the win as Illinois’ desperation heave was off the mark.

Palmer’s bucket was originally ruled a two-pointer on the floor, but after a short review, the officials determined his foot was behind the three-point line, to send the crowd of 15,630 home happy.
With the win, Nebraska improves to 13-7 and 4-3 in Big Ten play, while Illinois drops to 10-8 and 0-6 in conference action.

Evan Taylor joined Palmer in double figures with 13 points, as Taylor provided a spark off the bench for NU for the first time after starting the first 19 games of the season. Isaiah Roby chipped in nine points, 10 rebounds and four steals in his first start of the year.

ABOUT NEBRASKA
*-NU comes into Thursday’s game with a 13-7 record, which is NU’s best record in the Big Ten era and best 20-game record since going 15-5 in 2010-11.

*-A Husker win on Thursday would give NU its best conference mark after eight games since the 2005-06 season.

*-Two of NU’s last three losses have come in the final 30 seconds (vs. No. 13 Kansas, at Penn State) and Nebraska was also within three at Creighton in the final minute.

*-Nebraska is 10-1 in home games this season with the only loss coming in a one-point setback against No. 13 Kansas. If NU wins on Thursday, it would mark the most wins in the building since the 2013-14 campaign.

*-The Huskers are averaging 73.5 points per game and is on track for one of the best offensive seasons in recent years. NU’s 73.5 points per game marks only the fifth time in the last 22 years that NU has averaged at least 72.0 points per game through the first 20 games. The Huskers are 11-2 this year when scoring at least 70 points, including six games of at least 80 points.

*-While Nebraska is 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 70.3 points per game, a closer look shows that Nebraska already played five teams that are ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense (Michigan State, Purdue, Creighton, Kansas and UTSA). NU held three of the five teams at least 10 points below their scoring average.

*-Nebraska’s defense has been its calling card in Big Ten action. The Huskers are fourth in field goal defense (.389) and have held their last six opponents to under 45 percent shooting.

*-Nebraska used the same starting lineup for the first 18 games, the most Tim Miles has used any single lineup in a season. The Huskers have used different lineups in each of the past two games.

*-Thursday’s matchup features two of the highest-scoring newcomers in the Big Ten in James Palmer Jr., and Michigan’s Charles Matthews. Palmer is averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game, while Matthews is tied for the Wolverine team lead at 14.9 ppg. They are the only Big Ten newcomers (freshmen or transfers) averaging at least 13 points per game.

*-Nebraska’s biggest offensive strength has been a balanced attack with three players averaging double figures, led by James Palmer Jr., who averages a team-high 15.7 points per game to rank second among Big Ten newcomers in scoring. Palmer is currently on track to enjoy one of the top first-year seasons in school history, as the top three first-year scorers have been in Tim Miles’ six seasons at Nebraska.

*-Nebraska relies on a pair of transfers in James Palmer Jr. (Miami) and Isaac Copeland (Georgetown), as the duo combines for 28 points per game. Palmer has reached double figures 18 times in 20 contests, including a season-high 25 points against UTSA on Dec. 20, and is third in assists (2.6 apg). Copeland leads the Huskers in rebounding at 6.6 per game and is among the team leaders in scoring (12.3, second) and blocked shots (26, second). Copeland posted his first double-double of the season at Creighton on Dec. 9 with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

*-Palmer has shown the ability to get to the foul line, as he ranks third in the Big Ten with 119 attempts. Among conference guards, he is second only to Maryland’s Anthony Cowan in getting to the foul line.

*-Junior Glynn Watson Jr. is in his third season guiding the Husker offense and is among NU’s leaders in both scoring (11.9 ppg, third), assists (3.3, first) and steals (1.5, first). The 6-foot guard will make his team-high 66th career start on Thursday and has a 2.0-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. Watson is just 67 points from 1,000 for his career and is also 16 steals away from 10th place on Husker career charts.

*-Nebraska has been getting strong performances from its bench throughout the season, averaging 23.1 points per game, including 25.8 points per game over the last eight games dating back to Dec. 20.

*-One of the main emphasis for Tim Miles and his staff in the offseason was improving the Huskers’ 3-point efforts on both ends of the court. Last year, NU was in 300th or worse in both 3-point shooting and 3-point defense. This season, the Huskers have made strides in both area, especially on the defensive end.
NU has six players with at least 10 3-pointers, and that does not include Jack McVeigh, who was second on the team in 3-pointers last year. In 2016-17, NU had just four players hit 10-or-more 3-pointers in 31 games.

*-Nebraska could regain the services of Jordy Tshimanga, who missed the last two games. Tshimanga started NU’s first 18 contests, averaging 3.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

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