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Huskers host UC Riverside in 2019-20 season opener

Huskers host UC Riverside in 2019-20 season opener
(Isabel Thalkin/NU Communications)

It is opening night for the Husker basketball program, as the Huskers host UC Riverside on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in the 2019-20 season opener.

Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is slated for 8 p.m., and a very limited number of tickets are available. Those tickets can be purchased online at Huskers.com/Tickets, by calling the NU Athletic Ticket Office at 800-8-BIGRED or at the PBA Ticket Office 90 minutes before tipoff.

Tuesday’s opener will be carried nationally on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call. The game can also be streamed via the web, smartphones, tablets and connected devices through the Fox Sports app.
Fans can follow all of the action across the state of Nebraska on the Learfield-IMG Husker Sports Network with Kent Pavelka and Jake Muhleisen on the call. The game will also be available on Huskers.com, the Huskers app and TuneIn radio. The pregame show begins one hour prior to tipoff.

Fans got their first look at Coach Fred Hoiberg‘s squad on Oct. 30, as the Huskers posted a 91-63 win over Doane in an exhibition contest. Dachon Burke’s 15 points paced five Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska shot 53 percent from the field and used a 31-3 run to build a 20-point first half lead.

While Burke and junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson (10 points) are the only two returning players from last year’s NIT qualifier, NU showed depth in the win, as 10 players played at least double-figure minutes while the Huskers had 11 players break into the
scoring column. Freshman Kevin Cross had a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes while Samari Curtis totaled 12 points, five boards and a team-high three steals in 21 minutes. NU also moved the ball well with 22 assists on its 36 field goals with Cam Mack recording eight assists and just one turnover in 23 minutes of work.

UC Riverside opens its second season under Head Coach David Patrick. The Highlanders, who were picked seventh in the Big West, return three starters and add several newcomers from a team that went 10-23 last season. UC Riverside returns preseason All-Big West pick Dikymbe Martin, who averaged 14.8 points per game last year and ranked second in 3-point percentage (.442). Martin, who reached double figures 28 times in 2018-19, is the Big West’s active career scorer with 1,087 points. UC Riverside downed Life Pacific University, 73-45, in an exhibition contest on Nov. 1.

SCOUTING UC RIVERSIDE
Second-year coach David Patrick brings his UC Riverside team to Lincoln for the 2019-20 season opener.  The Highlanders went 10-23 and placed eighth in the Big West in Patrick’s first season. The team returns three starters and six letterwinners, while adding a pair of Division I transfers. UC Riverside was picked seventh in the Big West preseason poll.

Prior to taking the UC Riverside job, Patrick spent two seasons at TCU under Jamie Dixon and four years at LSU, where he served as the Tigers’ recruiting coordinator for Johnny Jones. Patrick, whose godson is NBA star Ben Simmons, played on Syracuse’s 1996 Final Four team before transferring to Louisiana-Lafayette.

Senior guard Dikymbe Martin comes into the 2019-20 season as one of the best players in the Big West Conference. Martin led the Highlanders in both scoring (14.8 ppg), assists (2.6 apg) and steals (0.8 spg). Martin was a preseason All-Big West selection and totaled six 20-point games during his junior season.

Sophomore Callum McRae gives UC Riverside size inside as the 7-foot-1, 275-pound sophomore averaged 7.6 points and a team-high 4.8 rebounds per game. McRae led the Highlanders in their exhibition win with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Dragan Elkaz is the Highlanders’ third returning starter and averaged 7.5 points per game and was second on the team with 65 3-pointers last season. George Willborn III (7.5 ppg at UTSA in 2017-18) and Khyber Kabellis (4.1 ppg at Pacific in 2018-19) give UC Riverside additional depth.

Tuesday’s matchup is the first meeting between the two teams. NU is 12-9 all-time against Big West schools.

GAME 1: NEBRASKA VS. UC RIVERSIDE
Date
: Tues., Nov. 5
Time: 8:07 p.m. (CT)
Location: Lincoln, Neb.
ArenaPinnacle Bank Arena
Tickets:  Huskers.com/Tickets

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
2018-19 Record: 19-17
Head coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 0-0 (1st year)
Career NCAA Record: 115-56 (6th year)

UC RIVERSIDE HIGHLANDERS
2018-19 Record: 10-23
Head coach: David Patrick
Record at UC Riverside: 10-23 (2nd year)
Career Record: Same

BROADCAST INFO
Television: BTN
Play-by-play: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Shon Morris
Online Broadcast: Fox Sports App
Radio: Learfield-IMG Husker Sports Network, including 590 AM (Omaha), 1400 AM (Lincoln) and 880 AM (Lexington)
Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka
Analyst: Jake Muhleisen
Online Radio: Available on Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn.com/Huskers and TuneIn App.
SiriusXM (Internet): Ch. 970

LAST TIME OUT
Dachon Burke Jr. had 15 points to lead five Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska overcame a slow start and rolled to a 91-63 exhibition win over Doane on Oct. 30.

Burke, who sat out last season after transferring from Robert Morris, hit 6-of-9 shots from the field, including a trio of 3-pointers, as Nebraska won its 17th straight exhibition contest.

Freshman Samari Curtis came off the bench for 12 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, while Thorir ThorbjarnarsonKevin Cross and Haanif Cheatham added 10 apiece for the winners. Cross posed a double-double as he snared 10 rebounds in 18 minutes, while Cam Mack had five points, eight of the Huskers’ 22 assists and seven boards.

The Huskers spotted Doane an early 10-2 lead before taking command on the defensive end. NU held the Tigers to one field goal over the next 14 minutes, as part of a 31-3 spurt to build a 20-point lead. NU’s reserves handled most of the offensive load, accounting for 21 first half points, while starting point guard Cam Mack had seven assists and six boards in the first stanza to help the Huskers shoot 51 percent from the field.

Burke, who battled foul trouble in the first half, had a hot hand in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring NU’s first eight points as the Huskers pushed the margin to 27 after Yvan Ouedraogo’s basket with 16:42 left. From there, NU never led by fewer than 17 points the rest of the way.

FOR OPENERS
Nebraska begins its 124th season of basketball on Tuesday against UC Riverside. Here are some facts and figures about season openers for the Husker basketball program.

• The Nov. 5 opening date is the earliest in school history.  The previous earliest start came last season when the Huskers opened on Nov. 6 with a 106-37 win over Mississippi Valley State.

• Nebraska is 84-39 (.682) all-time in season openers and has won 18 straight season openers dating back to an 87-83 setback at Oral Roberts to begin the 2000 season.

• Nebraska is 27-2 in its past 29 season openers dating back to the 1990-91 campaign.

• The last time Nebraska lost a season opener at home was 1980 when NU fell to Wyoming, 62-59, in overtime. The Huskers have won 29 straight season openers at home since that loss.

DID YOU KNOW
• Nebraska’s 14 first-year players matches TCU for the most in the nation in research done by the Utah SID John Vu. Only four teams (TCU-14, Nebraska-14, East Carolina-13 and Utah-12) have at least 12 newcomers on their 2019-20 rosters. That does not count players who sat out last season, such as Dachon Burke Jr.

• Fred Hoiberg will look to be the third straight Husker coach to win his debut, joining Doc Sadler (2006-07) and Tim Miles (2012-13). Hoiberg’s grandfather, Jerry Bush, lost his debut, a 84-61 loss to No. 4 Iowa in 1954-55. That is the only time in school history that Nebraska has opened the season against a top-five team and one of two times since 1950 that NU has opened against a ranked opponent.

• The two rosters in Tuesday’s matchup feature a combined 10 international players with five on each team. Nebraska’s five international players on its 2019-20 roster matches the most by a power conference team in 2019-20.

• Nebraska is 102-12 (.895) in non-conference home games since the start of the 2006-07 season, including 39-7 (.848) since Pinnacle Bank Arena opened in 2013.

OUEDRAOGO LOOKS TO JOIN SHORT LIST 
Freshman Yvan Ouedraogo looks to join a short list of freshmen to start a season opener in the last three decades. Ouedraogo started NU’s exhibition game and had six points and six boards in 18 minutes of work, and if he starts Tuesday’s opener against UC Riverside, he would be the first true freshman to start a season opener since 2013, and the first Husker frontcourt starter in a decade. Over the last 30 years, only 10 true freshmen have started a season opener for the Huskers.
Ouedraogo, who doesn’t turn 18 until after the 2020 Big Ten Tournament, played for the French U-18 squad at the 2019 European Championships in July, averaging 4.0 points, 3.6 rebounds per game as France went 6-1 and finished fifth.

WHAT’S BACK FOR THE HUSKERS
Nebraska returns one letterwinner and one other player from last year’s team that went 19-17 and reached the second round of the NIT. Junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson is the only player who has seen regular-season action for the Huskers entering the 2019-20 campaign. He averaged 2.0 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last year.

• According to research by noted basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, the 50 returning points on Nebraska’s 2019-20 roster is the lowest total for a power conference team since 2009, when Indiana returned just 28 points from the previous season.

• Since 2000, it is only the fourth time where the Huskers have returned less than 40 percent of the team’s scoring output from the previous year (also 2012-13, 2009-10 and 2001-02). In that stretch, the lowest was 24 percent in 2012-13.

• The seven returning starts are the lowest in the last 20 years (41 entering 2001-02).

RETOOLING A ROSTER IN SIX WEEKS
Fred Hoiberg and his staff retooled the Nebraska roster following his introduction in early April. The Huskers signed a recruiting class that was in the top 50 nationally in just six weeks. The 14-member class includes 11 scholarship players and three walk-ons and is a mixture of grad transfers, transfers, JUCOs and freshmen.

2019 Recruiting Class Highlights
• Ranked No. 41 nationally by 247Sports, the program’s second-highest class ranking since joining the Big Ten.
• Features two of the top-10 recruits nationally by JUCORecruiting.com, the highest two JC signees NU has signed this decade.
• Includes five Division I transfers who have combined for more than 2,300 points, 1,000 rebounds and 350 assists at their previous schools.
• Has two Division I transfers (Dalano Banton and Haanif Cheatham) who were top-100 recruits in high school and two freshmen who were both top-150 recruits in 2019 by 247Sports (Kevin Cross and Ivan Ouedraogo).
• Contains two high school state players of the year (Akol Arop and Samai Curtis) and two others who were first-team all-state in 2019 (Cross and Charlie Easley).
• Includes players from seven states (Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas) and three countries (Canada, France and Slovenia).

TRANSFERS BRING MUCH-NEEDED EXPERIENCE
While Nebraska has only one player who has previously played at Nebraska (Thorir Thorbjarnarson), a good portion of the roster has Division I experience. The Huskers feature six transfers who have combined for more than 3,000 points at the Division I level. Dachon Burke Jr. is the only returnee in the group after he began his collegiate career at Robert Morris before sitting out the 2018-19 season at Nebraska.

JUCO ADDITIONS AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
Two of the cornerstones of the Huskers’ recruiting class were junior college transfers Cam Mack and Jervay Green. Mack (third) and Green (eighth) were both ranked in the top 10 nationally by JUCORecruiting.com in the 2019 recruiting class.NU is the only school in the country with two of the top 10 junior college transfers in 2019.  They are also the two highest rated junior college players signed by the Huskers since 2011, the first year listed in the database. Prior to this year, Dylan Talley was NU’s highest junior college recruit by the site, as he was 11th in 2011.

Mack, who was listed as the top JC point guard in the country, starred at Salt Lake Community College in 2018-19, averaging 19.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while topping the team in assists (7.6 apg), steals (2.4 spg) and blocked shots (0.6 bpg). He was in the top 25 nationally in both assists (fifth) and steals (24th) and boasted a 2.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Mack totaled five 30-point games, including a 40-point outburst against Casper College and dished out 10 or more assists nine times, including a season-best 14 in one contest.

Green was rated as the No. 2 combo guard, as he spent two years at Western Nebraska Community College. Last season, he garnered second-team NJCAA All-America honors, averaging 23.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He shot 55 percent from the field, including 39 percent from 3-point range. Green ranked eighth nationally in scoring and was the Region IX Player of the Year. He had six 30-point games as a sophomore, highlighted by a school-record 51-point performance against Iowa Lakes CC. In that game, Green was 10-of-14 from 3-point range.

KAVAS IS ONE OF NATION’S TOP SHOOTERS
Senior transfer Matej Kavas comes to Nebraska with a reputation as one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. The 6-foot-8 guard is a career 45 percent shooter from 3-point range, and has shot 40 percent or better in all three of his seasons at Seattle. Kavas’ .447 career percentage ranks third among all returning Division I players, and only Justin Jaworski of Lafayette has a higher career percentage among players who are eligible in 2019-20. As a sophomore at Seattle, Kavas led the WAC in both 3-point percentage (.464) and 3-pointers per game (2.8).

• To put Kavas’ shooting in perspective, Nebraska’s career mark for career 3-point percentage is .432 by Brian Conklin (2001-04) and only five players in school history have shot 40 percent in their Husker career with a minimum of 100 3-pointers.

• Kavas’ 177 career 3-pointers would ranks sixth on NU’s career list while his 91 3-pointers as a sophomore would top NU’s single-season mark (Cary Cochran, 89, 2001-02).

FROM COLLEGE TO THE NBA AND BACK AGAIN
Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg is in an exclusive club, as he is one of just 10 current Division I coaches to coach in Division I and in the NBA. He spent three-plus seasons with the Chicago Bulls, guiding the Bulls to the NBA Playoffs in 2016.  Hoiberg’s 270 regular-season NBA games are the most of the 10 former NBA coaches in the collegiate ranks. Hoiberg also brings five years of NBA front office experience, as he worked with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2005 to 2010.

HUSKER FAMILY TIES RUN DEEP FOR HOIBERG
While Fred Hoiberg grew up in Ames and played his high school (Ames High School) and college basketball (Iowa State) there, he was born in Lincoln and has numerous ties to the city and to the University of Nebraska.

• Fred’s father (Eric) and mother (Karen) both earned their undergraduate degrees from Nebraska in 1966. In fact, Eric earned his undergraduate degree, Master’s degree, and Ph.D. in sociology from the university. His 1973 dissertation was “Socio-economic status, residential location, and intrametropolitan mobility: a longitudinal analysis”.

• His maternal grandfather was former Husker basketball coach Jerry Bush. Known as the “Big Bear of the Coliseum,” Bush guided NU from 1955 to 1963, and directed two of the greatest upsets ever – a 43-41 victory over top-ranked Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain, and a 55-48 victory over No. 4 Kansas State and Olympian Bob Boozer during the 1957-58 campaign.

• His paternal grandfather (Otto) received his Master’s Degree and Ph.D from Nebraska. He joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska in 1948, where he taught sociology and served as director of the community development program in the University of Nebraska Extension Division.

FAMILIAR FACES FOR HOIBERG ON HUSKER STAFF
One strength of the Husker coaching staff is a familiarity with each other, as three staff members had worked with Hoiberg as assistant coaches during his previous stint at Iowa State from 2010 to 2015. Matt Abdelmassih also worked under Hoiberg in the front office with the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Bobby Lutz was an assistant coach with the Windy City Bulls in the G League while Hoiberg coached the Chicago Bulls.

PINNACLE BANK ARENA SOLD OUT FOR 2019-20 SEASON
Since moving into Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2013, the Huskers have ranked in the top 15 in attendance nationally in each of the past six seasons. The streak will likely continue into 2019-20, as all available season tickets were sold out in August.

• Last season, Nebraska averaged 15,341 fans per home game to rank 10th nationally in attendance, matching the highest rank in school history.

• Nebraska is one of nine schools in the country to average 15,000+ fans per contest in each of the last six seasons, joining Kentucky, Syracuse, Louisville, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas and Creighton.

• The Big Ten Conference has led NCAA Basketball in attendance for 43 straight years, dating back to the 1976-77 season. Last season, Big Ten schools drew more than a combined three million fans for the fifth straight year.

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