Illinois (20-9, 7-8 Big Ten) vs. Nebraska (13-15, 4-11 Big Ten)
Sat. March 2, 4:15 p.m. - Champaign, Ill. - Assembly Hall (16,618)
Big Ten Network (Announcers: Wayne Larrivee, Tim Doyle)
Notes (from Nebraska sports information):
- Creep, Crawl, Walk, Run: With four new starters from last season and a seven-player rotation which includes only three players who saw action last season, there have been some bumps along the way, as the Huskers install a new offensive system and the headline has been a common mantra of Coach Miles during his first season on the job.
Last year, his Colorado State team led the Mountain West Conference in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage, ranking in the top-10 nationally in both free throw and 3-point percentage. The 2012-13 Huskers come into Saturday's game with Illinois ranked 10th (.406), 11th (.301) and eighth (.688), in those respective categories. ?When Nebraska has put up points, they have enjoyed success, going 11-3 when scoring at least 60 points.
One adjustment the Huskers made in January is going to a bigger lineup and moving senior Dylan Talley to the point guard spot prior to the first matchup with Michigan State on Jan. 13. Over the last 13 games, Talley and the Huskers have responded well, averaging 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while Nebraska has averaged nearly 15 more points per game since then in their first three Big Ten contests.
- Learning to Win the Close Ones: Despite a 4-11 Big Ten record, the Huskers have been in many of its conference games until the final mintues. In five of NU's 11 losses, the Huskers have been within two possessions in the final seven minutes of the contest, including three times against ranked foes.
While NU was not able to pull out wins in the first four games, the Huskers found a way down the stretch against Penn State for its first Big Ten win on Jan. 19. In the final seven minutes at Penn State, the Huskers hit 60 percent of their field goals and went 9-for-9 from the foul line to earn a four-point win. Against No. 11 Ohio State on Feb. 2, the Huskers were within five points and had the ball with 2:00 left, but were unable to trim the deficit. Against Iowa last Saturday, the Huskers trailed by five with six minutes left, but closed the game on a 14-5 run to pick up the win.
Nebraska is 5-0 on the season in games decided by five points or less after going 4-3 in games decided by five points or less last season.
- Huskers Look for Balanced Scoring: One of the biggest keys to success for the Huskers has been finding multiple scoring options. Nebraska has three players averaging in double figures on the season, while six players (Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos, Andre Almeida, David Rivers and Shavon Shields) have all scored at least 20 points at least once this season. The three players in double figures would be the first time its happened for the Huskers since the 2005-06 season.
When Nebraska has three or more players in double figures, the Huskers are 11-4, but are just 2-11 when not putting at least three players in double figures following Tuesday's loss at Wisconsin.
- Developing Talent: Looking for Depth: While having to replace four starters and seven of the top nine scorers from last year, Tim Miles has had the challenge of putting players in new roles this year.
The Huskers had five returning scholarship players in 2012-13, and all five are integral members of NU's rotation. Four of the five returnees have seen significant jumps in their averages from their last season of competition and are all enjoying personal bests in both scoring and rebounding. Prior to this season, the Huskers had only one player on the roster with a 20-point game as a Husker (Andre Almeida in 2010-11) and no returning player had averaged more than nine points per game.
One of the problems has been a lack of depth, as Coach Miles signed four players after arriving in late March (the three redshirts and freshman Sergej Vucetic) while NU's other two scholarship freshman (Shavon Shields and Benny Parker) have been mainstays in the rotation. NU's depth will be much improved next year, as Miles signed three players in the fall and still has two scholarships available for the spring signing period.
David Rivers - F, Soph., 6-7, 191 - 5.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Ray Gallegos - G, Jr., 6-2, 181 - 12.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Dylan Talley - G, Sr., 6-5, 216 - 14.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Shavon Shields - F, Fr., 6-6, 214 - 8.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg
Brandon Ubel - F, Sr., 6-10, 234 - 11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Off the bench:
Andre Almeida - C, Sr., 6-11, 314 - 4.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Benny Parker - G, Fr., 5-9, 164 - 2.9 ppg, 2.2 apg
Mike Peltz - G, Jr., 6-2, 199 - 1.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Series record: Illinois leads 9-3
Series streak: Illinois W-1
Record @ Champaign: Illinois leads 6-2
Last meeting: Illinois 71, Nebraska 51 (Jan. 22 @ Lincoln)
Groce vs. Nebraska: 1-0
"The biggest thing, I watched their game again against Iowa, they're resilient. They're tough. They were down 16 and came back. They've got guys that make plays. I think that's what scares you the most. They've got a guy in Talley, he can get 30. He can get 20-plus at any time. Gallegos can make five or six 3s in a game, he has before. Shavon Shields is now a double-figure scorer in league play. He's making a case probably for being on the All-Freshman team in the league.
"Any time you've got guards like they have and you're playing one game -- those guys, especially Talley and Gallegos can go for 20-plus on any night in a heartbeat. We've got our hands full defending those two guys. I thought we did a great job defending them in game one, but that's game one. It has nothing to do with game two." -- Illinois coach John Groce.
Nebraska team info: