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Huskers set to take on No. 21 Ohio State

Huskers set to take on No. 21 Ohio State
(Maddie Washburn/Nebraska Communications)

The Nebraska men’s basketball team continues its road trip on Tuesday evening, as the Huskers travel to Columbus for a matchup with No. 21/19 Ohio State . Tipoff from Value City Arena is set for shortly after 5:30 p.m. (central), and Tuesday’s matchup will be carried nationally on FS1 with Brandon Gaudin and Jim Jackson 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 College 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.

Nebraska (7-9, 2-3 Big Ten) nearly rallied from an 18-point first-half deficit before falling 62-57 at Northwestern on Saturday. The Huskers shot just 31 percent from the floor, but out-scored Northwestern 30-20 in the second half to climb back into the contest.

NU trailed 60-57, but Dachon Burke’s game-tying 3-pointer was off the mark and Miller Kopp hit a pair of free throws for the final margin. Cam Mack had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Haanif Cheatham added 10 points in the losing effort.

Mack has been one of the Big Ten’s top newcomers, averaging 12.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game, as the sophomore is third in the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5-to-1). He has raised his play in Big Ten action, averaging a conference best 9.0 assists per game and posting a 3.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard also has four double-doubles, including the first triple-double in school history, in his first five Big Ten games.

Ohio State (11-5, 1-4 Big Ten) was ranked 11th and 12th respectively in the national polls last week before losses at Maryland and Indiana. Against the Hoosiers, Andre Wesson had 15 points, while Kaleb Wesson finished with 11 points and 10 boards. The Buckeyes shot just 33 percent from the floor and committed 16 turnovers which led to 16 Indiana points. Ohio State has the Big Ten’s best defense, averaging 59.4 points per game and holding opponents to 36.5 percent shooting.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Freshman Kevin Cross averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in Nebraska’s two games last week. Cross, who has been the Huskers’ first sub off the bench, is averaging 7.3 points and 4.4 points per game while playing 19 minutes per game.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
.458- Thorir Thorbjarnarson is third in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage entering Tuesday’s game. He is 22-of-48 from long range this season after going a combined 6-of-28 behind the 3-point stripe in his first two years.

+3.0 – Nebraska enters the weekend leading the Big Ten in turnover margin at +3.0 per game. NU has committed 12 or fewer turnovers in each of the last eight contests.

4 – Double-figure assist games for Cam Mack, which is the most by a Husker since Brian Carr had five in the 1985-86 season. Mack’s four games with 10+ assists rank sixth nationally.

6.4 – Rebounds per game for freshman Yvan Ouedraogo, which is fourth among all Big Ten freshmen. His rebounds per game is on track to be the highest by a Husker freshman since Aleks Maric grabbed 6.3 rebounds per game in 2004-05.

8 – Nebraska has had eight of its 10 eligible scholarship players reach double figures this season, a total which includes former walk-on Charlie Easley. The Huskers have three players currently averaging double figures.

12 – Double figure scoring runs that Nebraska has had in 2019-20.

50 – Returning point total from last season, all by Thorir Thorbjarnarson. That is the lowest by any power conference team since the 2009-10 season.

SCOUTING OHIO STATE
Under the direction of third-year coach Chris Holtmann, Ohio State has been ranked for most of the season and spent most of the year in the top 10.  Holtmann is looking to guide OSU to its third straight NCAA appearance after OSU went 20-15 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Prior to taking over the OSU program, Holtmann spent the previous three seasons at Butler, guiding the Bulldogs to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017. Last year, the Buckeyes went 25-9 and finished second in the Big Ten before losing to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

This year’s Buckeyes opened the year with nine straight wins, including victories over Cincinnati, Villanova, North Carolina and Penn State before falling at Minnesota. OSU rebounded with a win over Kentucky, but has dropped four straight contests, including the loss to Indiana. OSU’s strength is on the defensive end, where the Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in both field goal defense (.365) and points per game (59.4). OSU also leads the conference in 3-pointers and 3-point percentage (.377). Junior center Kaleb Wesson anchors a balanced Buckeye attack with 14.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Duane Washington Jr. (10.7 ppg) and D.J. Carton (10.0 ppg) also average double figures as OSU has eight players averaging at least 6.5 points per game.

SERIES HISTORY
Ohio State leads the all-time series, 16-4, in a series that dates back to 1936. The Buckeyes are 12-2 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten with Nebraska’s wins coming in 2014 (Lincoln) and 2017 (Columbus). Prior to last season’s OSU win, the previous four meetings were decided by a total of 10 points. The two teams will meet in Lincoln on Feb. 28.

Last Meeting: Glynn Watson had 14 of his 18 points in the second half, but Nebraska fell to Ohio State, 70-60, on Jan. 26, 2019.  Watson had 18 points, while James Palmer Jr. added 19 for the Huskers. Nebraska could not overcome a cold shooting afternoon, hitting just 36 percent from the field against the Buckeyes. Luther Muhammad had a career-high 24 points to lead three OSU players in double figures, including six points in a crucial 12-2 second half run that stretched the lead to 56-43 after a C.J. Jackson 3-pointer with 8:14 remaining after Nebraska pulled to within 44-41. The Huskers cut the OSU deficit to six on two occasions, the last being 64-58 after a Palmer basket with 44 seconds left, but the Buckeyes hit 6-of-8 free throws to hold the Huskers at bay.

LAST TIME OUT
Nebraska nearly erased a 15-point halftime deficit Saturday at Northwestern, but the Huskers were unable to overcome a cold-shooting performance in a 62-57 loss at Northwestern.

Northwestern (6-9, 1-4 Big Ten) used a 16-1 first-half run to build its 15-point halftime lead before hanging on down the stretch as Nebraska (7-9, 2-3 Big Ten) made a furious late run. The Huskers trailed by 14 midway through the second half, with Nebraska outscoring Northwestern 15-6 over the final 10 minutes. But a potential game-tying 3-pointer was missed with 12 seconds to play, allowing Northwestern to escape with its first Big Ten win of the year.

It was a tale of two halves, as Northwestern scored 42 first-half points while shooting 51 percent from the field and knocking down eight 3-pointers. After being outscored by 15 in the first half, Nebraska flipped the script in the second half, outscoring the Wildcats by 10 while limiting Northwestern to just 20 points.

Despite the strong second-half defensive effort in which the Huskers held the Wildcats to 2-of-15 from the 3-point line and 26.7 percent shooting overall, Nebraska was not able to overcome its own cold shooting. Nebraska shot 31.3 percent for the game, and the Huskers were just 9-of-30 from the 3-point line.

Cam Mack produced another double-double for the Huskers, pacing the Big Red with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Haanif Cheatham joined Mack in double figures with 10 points. Kevin Cross and Matej Kavas had nine points apiece off the bench. Kopp scored a game-high 15 points for Northwestern, as one of four Wildcats in double figures.

STORYLINES
• Nebraska is in a stretch where it will play 16 of its final 18 regular-season games against teams currently ranked in the top 50 of the NET. In all, 12 of the 14 Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 50 of the NET as of Jan. 12.

• Despite being held to 57 points by Northwestern, Nebraska is averaging 72.8 points per game, which is on pace to be Nebraska’s highest scoring average since the 1996-97 squad averaged 72.9 points per game.

• No. 21 Ohio State is the first ranked team Nebraska has faced this season. The Huskers are 71-265 all-time against ranked teams. Nebraska’s last road win against a ranked team was exactly one year ago, when the Huskers knocked off No. 25 Indiana, 66-51, in Bloomington.

• Thorir Thorbjarnarson is the only active Husker to face Northwestern, as he had one rebound in spot duty in last year’s loss to Ohio State.

• Tuesday’s game will feature two of the Big Ten’s most prolific shooting teams from long range, as Ohio State leads the conference with 8.8 3-pointers per game, while Nebraska ranks third with 8.5 3-pointers per contest.

• With three players averaging double figures, Nebraska has relied on its balance during the first half of the season. In its first 16 games, NU has put at least four players in double figures 11 times. The Huskers put five players in double figures three times, most recently against Iowa on Jan. 7.

• Sophomore Cam Mack has made an impact in his first season at Nebraska. He is 12th nationally with 6.8 assists per game, which is on pace to be the most by a Husker since the 1984-85 season, and ranks 32nd nationally with his 2.45-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Best Assist/Turnover Ratios (Since 1979)

No. Ratio Player Asst.-TO Year
1 3.05 Brian Carr 201-66 1985-86
2 2.73 Jamar Johnson 123-45 1993-94
3 2.58 Brian Carr 237-92 1984-85
4 2.54 Jack Moore 109-43 1981-82
5 2.52 Charles Richardson Jr. 179-71 2006-07
2.45 Cam Mack 108-44 2019-20

min. 3.0 assists/gm

•- Cam Mack is the only Husker in the last 30 years to have multiple points-assists double-doubles in the same season as he has four this season, including three in Big Ten play. From 1989-90 to the end of the 2018-19 season, it had happened just five times. Mack’s consecutive points-assists double-doubles against Indiana and Purdue were the first since Brian Carr in December of 1985 (vs. UC-Irvine and Creighton).

Husker Points/Assists Double-Doubles (Last 30 years)

No. Pts. Asst. Opponent
Cam Mack 15 10 vs. Iowa, 1/7/20
Cam Mack 11 12 vs. Purdue, 12/13/19
Cam Mack 15 10 at Indiana, 12/13/19
Cam Mack 13 11 vs. Southern Utah, 11/11/19
Glynn Watson Jr. 10 10 vs. Cal State Fullerton, 12/20/18
Lance Jeter 10 10 vs. Kansas, 2/5/11
Lance Jeter 12 12 at Kansas State, 2/7/10
Sek Henry 11 11 at TCU, 11/21/09
Tom Wald 11 11 vs. Appalachian State, 12/31/94
  • Nebraska enters Tuesday’s game leading the Big Ten in turnover margin with +3.0 per game. The Huskers have forced an average of 14.3 turnovers per game to rank third in the Big Ten while averaging 11.3 turnovers per game to rank second in that category. During his tenure at Iowa State, Hoiberg’s teams ranked in the top three in the Big 12 in fewest turnovers per game in four of his five seasons at the school.

    • It is not surprising that Nebraska has relied on its 3-point shooting, as Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams led the Big 12 in 3-pointers in four of his five seasons at the school. The Huskers, who are fourth in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting, are on pace to average 8.5 3-pointers per game, a total which would rank second in school history and be the most since the 2001-02 campaign.

    Most 3-Pointers/Game in School History

No. School Games 3-Pointers/Game
1. 2001-02 28 9.54
2019-20 16 8.50
2. 2006-07 31 7.87
3. 2018-19 36 7.50
  • One of the biggest points of emphasis for Hoiberg and his staff has been to shoot better from 3-point range, and that work has paid off. Over the last 13 games dating back to Nov. 22, NU is shooting 36 percent from 3-point range and averaging 9.1 3-pointers per game after shooting just 23 percent in the first three games of the season.

    Huskers’ 3-Point Improvement

Category Before Nov. 22 Since Nov. 22
Games 3 13
3 Pt. Pct. .231 .356
3-Pointers/Gm 6.0 9.1
Att./Gm 26.0 25.4
  • Freshman Yvan Ouedraogo leads the Huskers in rebounding at 6.4 per game, which would be highest season average by a Husker freshman in 15 years (Aleks Maric, 6.3 rpg in 2004-05). Ouedraogo’s 14 rebounds vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29 were the most by a Husker freshman since 2004 (15, Maric vs. UAB) and tied for the third-highest total by a Husker freshman in the last 20 years.

    • Nebraska’s 14 first-year players on the roster 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. Nebraska returns a national-low 1.9 percent of its scoring from last season and the 50 returning points is the lowest by any power conference team since 2009 according to noted statistician Ken Pomeroy.

    Fewest Returning PPG from 2018-19

No. School Returning PPG Pct. of Scoring
1 Nebraska 2.0 PPG 1.9%
2. Tulane 10.8 PPG 12.2%
3. South Dakota St. 15.8 PPG 16.9%
4. Virginia Tech 13.3 PPG 18.1%
5. Washington 13.9 PPG 19.8%

Courtesy: Virginia Tech SID office
• The Huskers have already played three overtime games in 2019-20, posting a 1-2 record. NU’s single-season record is four, set five times, most recently in 2007-08. As of Jan. 6, Nebraska has played in three of the Big Ten’s nine overtime games.

• Freshman guard Charlie Easley was put on scholarship for the spring semester. Easley has played in 12 games as a backup guard, including each of Nebraska’s five Big Ten contests. He played a career-high 16 minutes in the win over Iowa on Jan. 7.

Year Avg. Poss. Length NCAA Rank
2010-11 15.9 20th
2011-12 16.9 62nd
2012-13 15.8 12th
2013-14 15.2 8th
2014-15 14.6 2nd
2019-20 15.2 13th
as of Jan. 12    

 SETTING A FAST PACE
Not only are the Huskers adjusting to a whole new roster, but playing at a significantly faster pace than in previous years. The Huskers are 13th nationally in offensive tempo, as their average possession is 15.2 seconds per possession as of Jan. 12.

• The only power conference school that plays at a faster pace is St. John’s, which is ninth nationally.

• In his five full seasons as a college coach, Hoiberg’s teams have ranked in the top 20 in offensive tempo four times, including top-10 rankings in both 2014 and 2015.

• Hoiberg’s first Iowa State team in 2010-11 jumped from 67th to 20th nationally in offensive pace and ranked in the top 40 nationally in adjusted tempo in four of his five seasons in Ames, including top-15 nationally in his last two campaigns.

• In the KenPom era (1997-present), only one Husker team has ranked among the top 100 nationally in adjusted tempo – the 1999-2000 Huskers under Danny Nee. The Huskers’ quickest offensive tempo in the last decade was in 2017-18 when the Huskers were 140th in offensive tempo.

MACK DELIVERS AS HUSKERS’ LEAD GUARD
Junior college transfer Cam Mack was the cornerstone of the Huskers’ recruiting class, and has lived up to the billing during the first half of the year. Mack was the No. 3 JUCO recruit in the country last year at Salt Lake CC and has made an impact in his first season at Nebraska.

Mack, who was listed as the top JC point guard recruit in the country, enters the Ohio State contest averaging 12.7 points per game while leading the Huskers in assists (6.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5-to-1).

• Mack is is tied for the national lead with four games with at least 10 points and 10 assists. In fact, only eight players in Division I have at least three double-doubles with points and assists this season.

• Mack has four double-doubles in five Big Ten games and leads the Big Ten in both assists (9.0 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5-to-1) in conference games only.

• He ranks 12th nationally in assists per game and is the highest Division I newcomer in the NCAA rankings. In fact, only two newcomers nationally average over 6.0 assists per game.

• Mack is one of three Big Ten players – joining Cassius Winston (Michigan State) and Geo Baker (Rutgers) to rank in the top 10 of the Big Ten in both assists and steals as of Jan. 12.

• His 6.8 assists per game is on pace to rank second in school history, trailing only Brian Carr, who averaged 7.9 assists per game in 1984-85.

• He recorded the first triple-double in program history against Purdue on Dec. 15 with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, setting season bests in both rebounds and assists in NU’s 70-54 win.

• He’s reached double figures 13 times, including a season-high 24-point performance against South Dakota State on Nov. 15.

• Last season at Salt Lake CC, Mack averaged 19.1 points, 7.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game, ranking fifth nationally in assists per game. He totaled nine double-doubles and three triple-doubles as a freshman and dished out 10-or-more assists nine times.

CHEATHAM MAKES IMPACT ON BOTH ENDS
Fifth-year senior Haanif Cheatham has been one of the leaders for a young Husker team. The guard from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is NU’s most experienced player, as he played in 80 games between Marquette and Florida Gulf Coast before coming to Nebraska for his final year.

After a slow start, Cheatham has been on a roll over the last six weeks. Over Nebraska’s last 12 games, he’s averaging 15.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while typically guarding the opponent’s top scoring threat.

• Cheatham has reached double figures in 11 of the Huskers’ last 12 games, including a 21-point, six-rebound performance at Indiana on Dec. 13. He had six straight double-figure efforts from Nov. 25-Dec. 13, the second-longest streak of his collegiate career.

• He went over 1,000 career points with a 17-point performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29.

• Cheatham posted his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds at Georgia Tech on Dec. 4.

• He was in double figures all three games of the Cayman Islands Classic, averaging 19.0 ppg including a career-best 26-point effort against South Florida to garner all-tournament honors.
A former top-100 recruit out of high school, he was named Marquette’s top defensive performer in each of his two full seasons at Marquette.

BURKE SHOWS SCORING TOUCH
The other returnee from the 2018-19 season, Dachon Burke Jr. waited in the wings after transferring from Robert Morris. A 6-foot-4 guard, Burke has quickly shown the skills to flourish in Fred Hoiberg’s attack, averaging 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds per game and 1.4 steals per game. He is third in the Big Ten in steals and paces the Huskers in blocked shots (13) and is third in both scoring and 3-pointers (21).

Burke has reached double figures nine times, including a 25-point effort against Indiana on Dec. 13 and a 21-point performance against South Florida on Nov. 27.

Two years ago, Burke was one of the best players in the Northeast Conference, averaging 17.6 points per game while adding 5.8 rebounds and a conference-best 2.1 steals per contest.

OUEDRAOGO ADDS NAME TO SHORT LIST OF TRUE FROSH
Freshman Yvan Ouedraogo became the first true freshman to start a season opener at Nebraska since 2013 and has been a mainstay of the Husker lineup.

• He is one of the youngest players in the country, as he won’t turn 18 until after the 2020 Big Ten Tournament.

• Ouedraogo has started all 16 games for the Huskers, averaging 5.8 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game in just under 21 minutes per game.

• He is on track to be the third freshman to lead NU in rebounding in a season, joining Aleks Maric (2005-06) and John Turek (2001-02).

• Ouedraogo has played some of his best basketball recently, averaging 6.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last seven contests dating back to Dec. 13. He has grabbed seven or more rebounds five times in that stretch.

• He picked up his first career double-double against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 29 with 11 points and 14 rebounds. His double-double was the first by a Husker freshman since Shavon Shields in 2013 and Ouedraogo became just the 10th NU freshman to record a double-double.

• His 10 rebounds against Indiana marked the second-highest rebounding total for a Husker freshman in his first conference game, trailing only Dave Hoppen in 1983.

• He enjoyed his offensive effort of the season with 11 points, including six in overtime, and four rebounds against Southern on Nov. 22. He snared a team-high 12 rebounds against South Dakota State on Nov. 15.

• He is just the 11th true freshman and 13th freshman overall to start a season opener in the last 25 years at Nebraska, joining a group which includes 1,000-point scorers Tai Webster, Ryan Anderson, Cookie Belcher and Tyronn Lue.
Ouedraogo played for the French U-18 squad at the 2019 European Championships in July, as France went 6-1 and finished fifth in the competition.

THOR EMERGES AS SCORING THREAT
Over the last six weeks, junior Thorir Thorbjarnarson emerged as a vital part of the Huskers’ offensive attack. The 6-foot-6 guard is fifth on the team in scoring at 7.4 ppg, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range.

• He has been in double figures five times in NU’s last eight games after not reaching double figures in his first 41 contests as a Husker. Since Dec. 4, he has tied or set a career high in points four times.

• Thorbjarnarson is third in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage (.458) after shooting just 21.4 percent from 3-point range in his first two seasons.

• He nearly had a double-double in the win over Iowa, finishing with 17 points, including three 3-pointers, and a season-high nine rebounds. He tied his season high originally set at Indiana on Dec. 13

CROSS LIFTS BENCH PRODUCTION 
Freshman Kevin Cross has been a key contributor for the Huskers. The 6-foot-8 freshman from Little Rock, Ark., has been the first Husker off the bench in all 16 games and is averaging 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

• Cross is seventh among Big Ten true freshmen in scoring and fourth in rebounding as of Jan. 12.

• He has improved his rebounding in recent weeks, averaging 5.6 rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last seven contests dating back to Dec. 13. He has grabbed five-or-more rebounds 10 times this season.

• Cross has been in double figures five times off the bench, including a season-high 19 points against Southern Utah. He became the first freshman in 73 games to pace the Huskers in scoring, while his 19-point effort was the highest by a Husker rookie since Shavon Shields in 2013.

• Against Iowa, Cross had eight of his 11 points in the second half and added five rebounds.

• Cross hit a season-high three 3-pointers as part of his nine-point, five-rebound effort against Northwestern.

• He played a complete game in the win over Washington State, scoring 14 points, grabbing a season-high eight rebounds and blocking two shots in 27 minutes

• Cross played a big role in NU’s comeback against Southern, scoring all eight of his points in the second half as the Huskers overcame an eight-point deficit.

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