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Huskers travel to Georgia Tech for ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Huskers travel to Georgia Tech for ACC/Big Ten Challenge
(Lydia Asplin/Nebraska Communications)

The Husker basketball team returns to action after one of its longest breaks of the season, as Nebraska travels to Georgia Tech for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge presented by Continental Tire Wednesday evening.

Tipoff at McCamish Pavilion on the Georgia Tech campus is set for 6:15 p.m. (central) and the matchup between the Huskers and Yellow Jackets will be televised on ESPNU with Mike Monaco and Malcolm Huckaby on the call. The game will also be available on the ESPN app and on ESPN.com with authentication.

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.

Nebraska (4-3) put together a gutsy effort in its last outing, rallying from seven points down in the final 12:39 in posting a 74-67 win over South Florida in the third-place game in the Cayman Islands Classic on Nov. 27. Haanif Cheatham capped a strong tournament performance with a career-high 26 points, while Dachon Burke Jr. added 21 points, including a pair of 3-pointers after the Bulls cut Nebraska’s eight-point lead to one.  The Huskers also turned in a strong defensive effort, holding USF to just 36 percent shooting in the second half.

Cheatham, who played in just 10 games last year at Florida Gulf Coast before shoulder surgery, has rebounded nicely after a slow start in his final collegiate season. He is averaging 16.0 points per game on 67 percent shooting over the Huskers’ last five contests. He has four double-figure performances in that stretch, culminating with the performance against South Florida.

The Huskers have performed well in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, going 5-3 all-time, including a 3-1 mark in road games since joining the Big Ten prior to the 2011-12 campaign.

Georgia Tech is 3-2 on the season following a 68-65 win over Bethune-Cookman on Sunday. In that game, Michael Davoe had a game-high 27 points, while James Banks III (12 points, 10 rebounds, 8 blocks) and Moses Wright (12 points, 12 rebounds) both put up double-doubles for the winners. The Yellow Jackets have played their share of close games, as four of their five contests have been decided by four points or less.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Dachon Burke Jr. is among the Big Ten leaders with steals at 1.3 per game. He has averaged 1.8 steals per game during his collegiate career including his two seasons at Robert Morris. Burke’s five steals against George Mason marked the fourth time in his career he has had five-or-more steals in a game.

NUMBERS TO KNOW
4 – Double-digit performances from Kevin Cross, which is the most by a Husker freshman since 2016-17 (5-Jeriah Horne and 4-Jordy Tshimanga). Cross is fourth among Big Ten freshmen in scoring at 9.4 ppg entering this week’s action.

5 – Three-pointers this season for Thorir Thorbjarnarson, as he is 5-of-12 from long range. In his first two seasons, he went a combined 6-of-28 behind the 3-point stripe.

6.0 – Assists per game for sophomore Cam Mack, which is on pace to be the highest average since Brian Carr averaged 6.7 assists per game in 1986-87.

7 – Nebraska has had seven players reach double-figures in the first seven games of the season. Nebraska has five players averaging at least nine points per game, including four in double figures.

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.

80.5 – Nebraska’s scoring average since the opening-night loss to UC Riverside. The Huskers have scored 70-or-more points in five of their last six contests.

SCOUTING GEORGIA TECH
Georgia Tech comes into Wednesday’s game with a 3-2 mark after holding off Bethune-Cookman, 68-65 on Sunday. In that game, Michael Devoe’s three-point play with seven seconds left broke a 65-all tie and capped a 27-point performance, only earning the win after Leon Redd’s 3-point try at the buzzer bounced off the rim for Bethune-Cookman.

Josh Pastner is in his fourth season at the helm of the Georgia Tech program and guided the Yellow Jackets to an NIT finals appearance in his first season at the school, but the 22 wins that season were vacated by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The Yellow Jackets went 14-18 in 2018-19 and finished 10th in the ACC with a 6-12 mark. Prior to taking over at Georgia Tech, Pastner led Memphis to five postseason appearances in seven years at the school, including a pair of appearances in the round of 32.

Georgia Tech returns its top three scorers from last season and its starting lineup from its final two games of the 2018-19 season. In all, 11 letterwinners returned and the program added a pair of transfers to the lineup. The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish 12th in the preseason ACC poll. In the first month of the season, Georgia Tech been in its share of close games, as the two losses are by a combined five points, while GT also has a one-point overtime win over North Carolina State.

For Georgia Tech, it starts with a pair of guards and one of the ACC’s top defensive players. Devoe has been one of the ACC’s most prolific scorers in the first month of the year, averaging a conference-best 23.4 points per game, including a national-best 62 percent from 3-point range. He has four 20-point games already, including a season-high 34-point performance against Georgia. Junior point guard Jose Alvarado led Georgia Tech in scoring (12.5 ppg), assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) last season, but was averaging just 6.0 ppg in the first two games while playing through an ankle injury. His status for Wednesday’s game is unknown.  Senior forward James Banks III is a force in the middle, averaging 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game to lead the nation in that category. Banks already has three double-doubles in Georgia Tech’s first five games.

Series History: The teams have met only once previously, a 66-49 Georgia Tech win in the first round of the Cotton States Classic in Atlanta. Dave Hoppen led NU with 19 points, but was the only Husker to finish in double figures.

LAST TIME OUT
Haanif Cheatham scored a career-high 26 points while Dachon Burke Jr. hit two crucial 3-pointers in the final 3:34, as Nebraska took third place in the Cayman Islands Classic with a 74-67 win over South Florida on Nov. 27.

Cheatham hit 8-of-11 from the field and 9-of-11 from the line as he eclipsed his previous career best of 24 set as a freshman at Marquette. Cheatham, who averaged 19.3 ppg on 70 percent shooting in three games, earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

While Cheatham enjoyed a career night, Burke stepped up after South Florida ran off seven straight points to trim an eight-point Husker lead to 63-62. The junior guard hit a long 3-pointer from the wing to snap the run and stretch the lead to four.  South Florida was within 66-63 before Burke’s second 3-pointer with 1:59 left made it a six-point cushion, capping a season-high 21-point performance for the junior guard.

USF made one last charge and was within 71-67 before the Huskers sealed the win by going 3-of-4 from the line with Cheatham icing the game with a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left. In all, the Huskers were 14-of-19 from the foul line in moving to 4-3 on the season.

Nebraska shot 55 percent from the floor, including 6-of-14 from 3-point range, while holding South Florida (3-4) to 39 percent, including 36 percent in the second half.

NEBRASKA BIG TEN/ACC CHALLENGE PRIMER
The 2019-20 season marks the 21st edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge presented by Continental Tire. The Big Ten is 5-12-3 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but 5-2-3 over the last decade. In case of a tie, the Cup remains with the conference that won the event most recently (in this case the ACC in 2017). The two conferences went 7-7 last season.

• Nebraska is 5-3 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since joining the Big Ten in the 2011-12 season and joins Purdue (10-8) as the only two Big Ten programs with winning records.

• Nebraska has won five of its last seven challenge games, including road wins at Wake Forest (2012), at Florida State (2015) and Clemson (2018) 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.

• Nebraska’s current two-game win streak is the longest of any Big Ten program.

• NU’s three road wins ranks second among Big Ten programs, despite not joining the conference until 2011.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge History

Year Opponent Result
2017 at Clemson W, 68-66
2017 Boston College W, 71-62
2016 at Clemson L, 58-60
2015 No. 21 Miami L, 72-77 (ot)
2014 at Florida State W, 70-65
2013 Miami W, 60-49
2012 at Wake Forest W, 79-63
2011 Wake Forest L, 53-55

DID YOU KNOW
• Wednesday’s game begins a stretch of three straight road games, as the Huskers travel to Omaha for the annual in-state matchup with Creighton on Saturday before opening Big Ten play at Indiana on Friday, Nov. 13. Including last week’s Cayman Islands Classic, Nebraska will go 24 days between home games. The six-game stretch is the longest since the 1997-98 season.

  • Through the first seven games, 76.9 percent of the Huskers’ offense has come from players who were added in the offseason, including six of Nebraska’s top seven scorers.
  • Only one player on Nebraska’s roster has played in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and that is sit-out transfer Shamiel Stevenson. He played 13 minutes against Penn State in 2017 when he was at Pittsburgh, recording two points and dishing out three assists against the Nittany Lions.

    • 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 in the last two weeks. Over the last four games, NU is shooting nearly 45 percent from 3-point range and averaging 9.3 3-pointers per game after shooting just 23 percent in the first three games of the season.

    Huskers’ 3-Point Improvement

Category First 3 Games Last 4 Games
3 Pt. Pct. .231 .446
3-Pointers/Gm 6.0 9.3
Att./Gm 26.0 20.8
  • As a team, the Huskers have shot 49 percent or better from the floor in four of their last five contests after shooting 34 percent in the first two games of the year.

    • Wednesday’s win over South Florida marked the first time since the season opener where the Huskers didn’t have four players in double figures, but also was the first time that NU had multiple 20-point scorers in a game under Fred Hoiberg. The Huskers put five players in double figures against Washington State, the first time Huskers accomplished the feat since a win over Creighton last December.

    • The Huskers have averaged more than 80 points per game since the opening night loss to UC Riverside, including 90+ points in consecutive games against South Dakota State (90) and Southern (93). That marked the first time that the Huskers have scored 90 or more points in consecutive games since the 1999-2000 season.

    • Senior guard Haanif Cheathamearned a spot on the Cayman Islands Classic All-Tournament team, as he averaged 19.0 ppg on 70 percent shooting, inclding 5-of-8 from 3-point range, in helping the Huskers to a 2-1 mark. Cheatham had 19 points and seven boards in the win over Washington State and a career-high 26 point night against South Florida. He needs just 73 to reach 1,000 points for his career.

    • Nebraska enters Wednesday’s game second in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +3.0 per game as Nebraska’s 11.9 turnovers per game ranks second to Michigan State. During his tenure at Iowa State, Hoiberg’s teams ranked in the top three in fewest turnovers per game in four of his five seasons at the school.

    • 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.

    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
  • Nebraska has already played two overtime games in the first month of the season. The school record for OT games is four, set most recently during the 2007-08 campaign.

    • Cam Mack’s13-point, 11-assist performance vs. Southern Utah on Nov. 9 marked just the sixth time in the last 30 years that a Husker has had a points-assist double-double. Mack is third in the Big Ten with 6.0 assists per game and has three games with at least seven assists.

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

No. Pts. Asst. Opponent
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

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 57th nationally in adjusted tempo, averaging 72.6 possessions per 40 minutes. NU is third in the Big Ten in tempo after ranking eighth in the Big Ten and 238th nationally in 2018-19.

• Hoiberg’s first Iowa State team in 2010-11 jumped from 93rd to 34th nationally in tempo and ranked in the top 40 nationally in 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 tempo – the 1999-2000 Huskers under Danny Nee.

• While playing at a fast pace, the Huskers are also second in the Big Ten in fewest turnovers per game at 11.9.

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 and have played a crucial role for the Huskers early in 2019-20.

Mack, who was listed as the top JC point guard recruit in the country, enters the Georgia Tech averaging 12.6 points per game while leading the Huskers in assists (6.0),  steals (1.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2-to-1). He is also second in rebounding at 4.9 caroms per game.

• Mack is the only Big Ten player who ranks in the top five in both assists (third) and steals (fifth)

• He has reached double figures five times, including a season-high 24-point performance against South Dakota State on Nov. 15. He had 11 points and nine rebounds in the opener before nearly pulling a triple-double against Southern Utah on Nov. 9 with 13 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds on Nov. 9. His 11 assists against the Thunderbirds were the most by a Husker since the 2009-10 campaign. Green had 16 points and eight assists in the win over Southern.

• 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.

Green was rated as the No. 2 combo guard nationally after a stint at Western Nebraska CC, has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Big Red, averaging 10.3 points along with 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He ranks on the top three on the squad in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks and 3-pointers.

• He nearly posted a double-double against Washington State with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

• Green turned in his best performance of the year against Southern on Nov. 22, scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists in the win overtime win. His two 3-pointers helped key a 10-0 spurt in overtime to
seal the win.

• He nearly had a double-double against Southern Utah with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds, as he sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

• Green garnered NJCAA All-America honors at WNCC, averaging 23.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He was eighth nationally in scoring and had six 30-point games, including a school-record 51-point outburst.

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 transferring to Nebraska for his final year. Cheatham’s biggest impact has been on the defensive end, where he has the ability to guard multiple spots.

Cheatham got off to a slow start in the first two games, but enjoyed a breakout performance against South Dakota State on Nov. 15, finishing with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting, six rebounds and three assists. Since that performance, Cheatham has been averaging 16.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while also shooting nearly 50 percent from 3-point range. 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.

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 a team-high 13.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Burke has reached double figures five times, including a 17-point, seven-rebound effort against South Dakota State on Nov. 15 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 when he started against UC Riverside on Nov. 5.

• Ouedraogo, who became the first true freshman to start in the frontcourt since Brandon Ubel in 2009, had nine points, three rebounds and a pair of steals and a blocked shot in 21 minutes of action.

• 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 has started all seven games for the Huskers, averaging 5.7 points and a team-high 5.0 rebounds per game in just under 20 minutes per game.

• 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.

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 in the competition.

CROSS LIFTS BENCH PRODUCTION
Freshman Kevin Cross has been an early contributor for the Huskers. The 6-foot-8 freshman from Little Rock, Ark., has been the first Husker off the bench in all seven games and ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 9.4 points per game while chipping in 3.6 rebounds per game.

• Cross has found his shooting touch in recent games, shooting 55 percent (26-of-47) in his last six contests. He had shot 50 percent or better from the field in five straight games before being held scoreless against South Florida.

• 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.

• He was efficient against South Dakota State, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and two blocked shots.

• Against Southern Utah, he had a team-high 19 points, becoming the first freshman in 73 games to pace the Huskers in scoring. His 19 point effort was the highest by a Husker rookie since Shavon Shields in 2013.

• Cross has lost nearly 20 pounds since arriving on campus this summer, and showed glimpses of his potential during NU’s trip to Italy, reaching double figures twice in four contests.

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 44 percent shooter from 3-point range, and has shot 40 percent or better in all three of his seasons at Seattle. Kavas’ .440 career percentage ranks seventh among active Division I players. 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’ 183 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).

• He is shooting just 30 percent so far this season from 3-point range, but has enjoyed three double-figure efforts, most recently against George Mason on Nov. 26.

Top Active 3-Point Shooters in Division I (as of Dec. 1)

No. Player, Schools Yr. GP 3pt. Att Pct.
1. Luke Avdalovic, Northern Ariz. So. 34 89 178 .500
2. Ladan Ricketts, Montana St. Sr. 38 87 185 .470
3. Tyrell Gumbs-Frater, Coastal Carolina Sr. 56 119 254 .469
4. Justin Jaworski, Lafayette Jr. 65 162 352 .460
5. Storm Murphy, Wofford Jr. 75 111 250 .444
6. Jordan Dartis, Ohio Sr. 100 258 586 .440
7. Matej Kavas, Nebraska Sr. 91 183 416 .440
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