Huskers Open Big Ten Play at Minnesota Wednesday Night
The Nebraska men's basketball team hits the road for the first time this season, as the Huskers travel to Minnesota Wednesday evening. Tipoff from Williams Arena in Minneapolis is set for shortly after 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on BTN and carried on the Husker Radio Network.
Wednesday's game is the first of two Big Ten games this week for the Huskers, as conference play started on Dec. 1 and goes throughout the week before resuming in January. Nebraska's other Big Ten matchup will be on Sunday when the Huskers take on Michigan State.
The Huskers (7-1) look to rebound following a loss to No. 15 Creighton on Sunday afternoon. Nebraska, whose 7-0 start was its best since the 1977-78 season, was held to a season-low 60 points after entering the game averaging over 80 points per game. The Huskers shot just 34 percent from the field, including 2-of-22 from 3-point range. NU led the Big Ten in 3-pointers per game coming into the contest.
One highlight for NU was senior guard Keisei Tominaga who led the Huskers with 20 points for his second 20-point game of the season. Tominaga, who missed the first two games of the season with an ankle injury suffered on Oct. 29, has rounded into form in recent games, averaging 16.8 ppg over his last five games while shooting 58 percent from the floor, including 44 percent from 3-point range.
Tominaga leads a balanced Husker attack which features four players averaging double figures, as Nebraska enters the week ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 78.9 points per game. Juwan Gary has been exceptional off the bench, averaging 14.4 points per game on 54 percent shooting, while newcomers Rienk Mast (14.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and Brice Williams (13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) round out NU's double-figure quartet.
Minnesota (5-3, 0-1) comes off an 84-74 loss at Ohio State on Sunday night. Dawson Garcia led all scorers with 36 points and 11 rebounds to pace three Golden Gophers in double figures. Garcia tops the Gophers in scoring (20.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg) while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
Ben Johnson is in his third season at the helm of the Golden Gopher program. Johnson, who played at both Minnesota and Northwestern during his college career, won 13 games in his first season at Minnesota before his team battled through a bunch of injuries in 2022-23. Johnson has ties to NU, as he spent one season at Nebraska as an assistant coach under Tim Miles in 2012-13.
Minnesota has been solid at home with a 5-1 mark, with the only setback being a two-point loss to Missouri on Nov. 16. The Gophers feature one of the best big men in the conference in Dawson Garcia, who played at Marquette and North Carolina before returning to his home state. Garcia is averaging 20.5 ppg on 49 percent shooting while getting to the foul line nearly seven times per contest. He also paces the Golden Gophers with 8.3 rebounds per game. He is the only upperclassmen among the Gophers' top four scorers. Freshman Cam Christie is averaging 11.0 ppg while shooting 52 percent from 3-point range while sophomores Pherrel Payne (9.4 ppg) and Joshua Ola-Joseph (8.8 ppg) are both shooting over 60 percent from the field.
Series History: Nebraska and Minnesota will meet for the 85th time on Wednesday, which is the most between the Huskers and any other Big Ten member. It is NU’s longest-running series in the Big Ten, dating back to February of 1902. The Gophers lead the all-time series, 58-26, while the Huskers have won 11 of the past 16 meetings. Minnesota snapped NU's four-game win streak in the 2023 Big Ten Tournament. The home team has won 15 of the past 17 meetings on campus dating back to March of 2012, with NU posting wins in Minneapolis in 2019 and 2023. Prior to joining the Big Ten in 2011-12, NU and Minnesota met in non-conference action every year from 1995 until 2004 after not playing for 16 years.
Last Meeting: Keisei Tominaga's 23 points led four Huskers in double figures, and Nebraska cut a double-digit deficit to one but could not complete the comeback in a 78-75 loss to Minnesota in the opening round of the 2023 Big Ten Tournament
Tominaga hit 8-of-14 shots from the field en route to his ninth 20-point game, and the junior nearly sent the game to overtime as his halfcourt shot was just off the mark. Sam Griesel added 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Derrick Walker and Jamarques Lawrence chipped in 12 points apiece for the Huskers, who fell to 16-16 on the season.
Dawson Garcia ked four Gophers in double figures with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Ta'lon Cooper (16), Jaden Henley (14) and Jamison Battle (13) all reached double figures, as Minnesota shot 52 percent from the floor and hit 10 3-pointers.
Last Time Out
Keisei Tominaga had a game-high 20 points, but Nebraska was unable to overcome No. 15 Creighton’s 3-point shooting in an 89-60 loss on Dec. 3. Tominaga hit 8-of-16 shots from the floor but was the only NU player in double figures. The Huskers were held to 33.8 percent shooting, including just 2-of-22 from 3-point range in suffering their first loss of the season.
Baylor Scheierman led Creighton with 24 points, including 20 in the first half on six 3-pointers, as the Bluejays went 10-of-23 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
Creighton led 20-14 before Tominaga and Juwan Gary led the Huskers on a 9-2 spurt, taking a 23-22 lead after a Tominaga jumper with 8:54 left in the half, as Tominaga had 16 of his 20 points in the opening 20 minutes. Creighton then took over the Bluejays used a 11-2 spurt to build a 33-25 lead with 6:56 left in the half after a pair of Baylor Scheierman 3-pointers. Nebraska was within nine with less than two minutes remaining in the half after a Gary basket, but the Bluejays closed the half on a 9-3 run, including four free throws from Steven Ashworth to take a 52-27 lead in the break.
Nebraska got within 54-39 after a Gary steal and dunk with just over 18 minutes remaining, but Creighton used a 9-2 spurt to push the lead to 62-41, and Nebraska was unable to whittle down the margin.
- Nebraska opened the season with a 7-0 record before losing to No. 15 Creighton on Dec. 3. It marked just the fifth time in program history that Nebraska opened the season with seven straight wins.
- Nebraska's 7-1 record is the Huskers' best record for the first eight games since the 2018-19 team also opened with a 7-1 mark. A win at Minnesota Wednesday would match NU's best record in the first nine games (also 2003-04, 1994-95, 1991-92; 1990-91 and 1984-85) since the 1977-78 team opened the year with 10 straight wins.
- The Huskers will be looking for their third straight road win dating back to last season after closing the 2022-23 season with road wins at Rutgers and at Iowa. NU is 6-7 in its last 13 road games dating back to the end of the 2021-22 season. Wednesday's game marks the fifth straight year that Nebraska has opened Big Ten Conference play on the road.
- Nebraska Head Coach Fred Hoiberg returns to Minneapolis, where he spent two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves (2003-05) before joining the Timberwolves front office for five seasons (2005-10). Hoiberg helped the Timberwolves to 58 wins and the Western Conference Finals in 2003-04 and led the NBA in 3-point shooting his final season with Minnesota.
- The Huskers are 13-4 over the last 17 games dating back to Feb. 1, 2023. A big reason for that is NU's offense, as NU has averaged 77.6 ppg on 48 percent shooting in that stretch. Sunday's game marked only the third time in the last 17 games where NU was held to under 70 points. The Huskers had scored 80+ points in six of its first seven games this year.
- Nebraska is 20-4 under Hoiberg when scoring at least 80 points including 15-1 over the last three seasons. The only loss was a 104-100 quadruple overtime game at North Carolina State on Dec. 1, 2021. NU has won its last 13 games when reaching the 80-point plateau.
- Nebraska won its first seven games by 10 or more points. It was just the second time in over 100 years - the other was from Dec. 3-30, 1990 - that the Huskers won seven straight games by double figures.
- Nebraska has been exceptional at the charity stripe in the last three games, going 57-of 65 (.877) at the foul line, including two of the best foul shooting performances in Hoiberg's five seasons at Nebraska. NU's 19-of-20 effort against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 26 was its best percentage (min. 20 att.) since going 20-of-21 (.952) against Minnesota on Nov. 26, 1995.
- Nebraska has made an effort to get to the foul line, as the Huskers are third in the Big Ten in free throw attempts with 195. while opponents have gotten to the line just 108 times. NU leads the Big Ten and is tied for fourth nationally in fewest fouls per game (12.8)
- Despite the loss to Creighton, Nebraska has been solid on the defensive end of the floor during the early season. The Huskers are among the Big Ten leaders in points per game (65.3, sixth), field goal percentage defense (.375, fourth). 3-point percentage defense (.279, fourth) and rebound margin (+6.1 fifth). The loss to Creighton marked just the second time NU has been out-rebounded this season.
- Nebraska had multiple 20-point scorers against Duquesne on Nov. 22 (Keisei Tominaga-23; Juwan-Gary 20) for the eighth time in Fred Hoiberg's five seasons.
- Nebraska's bench has provided a spark, averaging 25.0 points per game in the first eight contests. The Huskers' leading scorer has come from the bench three times (Hoiberg-Lindenwood; Wilcher-Rider; Gary-Stony Brook) and NU has had seven double-figure efforts from its bench in 2023-24. Juwan Gary's 20-point effort against Duquesne on Nov. 22 marked the seventh time under Fred Hoiberg that NU had a player score at least 20 points off the bench.
Numbers to Know
8 - Nebraska committed just eight turnovers in the loss to Creighton and ranks third in the Big Ten with 9.6 turnovers per game. Over the last four games, that number dips to 6.3 per outing.
8.6 - Despite going 2-of-22 from the arc in the loss to Creighton, NU ranks second in the Big Ten with 8.6 3-pointers per game as of Dec. 4. NU has averaged more than 8.0 3-pointers/game twice in program history (2001-02 and 2020-21).
7 - Nebraska has had seven runs of at least 10-0 in the first eight games of the season, including a 20-0 run against Oregon State and 17-0 against Rider.
2- Nebraska matched a school record with two turnovers in the win over Duquesne on Nov. 22, matching a record originally set in 2013. As of Dec. 3, it ties for the lowest total by a power conference team in 2023-24.
3.14 - Nebraska posted a team GPA of 3.14 during the 2022-23 academic year. The Huskers were a finalist for the Herman Team GPA award for the first time in program history. In addition, NU matched a school record with six Academic All-Big Ten selections.
Nebraska relied on its depth and balance early in the season. While the Huskers have four players averaging double figures, three others are between 5.0 and 7.4 ppg after seven games.
- Nebraska has had nine different players reach double figures and have six different leading scorers through the first eight games. Only Rienk Mast (twice) and Keisei Tominaga (twice) have led NU in scoring more than once.
- No Husker averages more than 28 minutes per game, while nine Huskers are averaging double figures in minutes. Despite the number of different lineups NU has been forced to use, the Huskers have had at least eight players play double-figure minutes in each of the first nine games.
- NU has gotten at least one double-figure effort from its bench in each of the first seven contests. The Huskers have gotten almost 32 percent of their scoring from the bench over the first eight contests.
Tominaga Returns to All-Big Ten Form
Nebraska's lineup has been boosted by the return of fifth-year senior Keisei Tominaga, who missed NU's first two games with an ankle injury. He leads the Huskers in scoring at 15.5 ppg and is shooting 51 percent from the field and almost 40 percent from 3-point range.
- • Over his last five games, Tominaga is averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.
- • He posted his 12th career 20-point game in Sunday's loss to No. 15 Creighton, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He now has 12 career 20-point games as a Husker.
- • Tominaga has a season-high 23 points in NU's win over Duquesne on Nov. 18, including 9-of-10 from the foul line.
- • He had a perfect shooting performance against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 26, as he went 5-of-5 from the field, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, and 4-of-4 from the foul line.
Prior to Tominaga, the last player to have at least 15 points on a perfect shooting night was David Rivers at Michigan State on Jan. 13, 2013 (8-8 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 1-1 FT). According to Sports Reference, only three power conference players have totaled at least 15 points on a perfect shooting night this season as of Dec. 3.
Tominaga was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team, becoming just the third Husker to receive the honor since Nebraska joined the conference in the 2011-12 season. Last season, he averaged 13.1 points per game on 53 percent shooting, including 40 percent from 3-point range, while appearing in all 32 contests. Tominaga led the Huskers in 3-pointers with 66 and was one of only six players nationally to average double figures and shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the foul line.
Mast's Massive Night
Rienk Mast put together a strong performance in Nebraska's win against Florida A&M on Nov. 9. The 6-foot-10 forward had game highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds for his first double-double as a Husker.
- • He became the first Husker in the Big Ten era (2011-12 to present) to have a game with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds, and the first Husker to do so since All-Big 12 performer Aleks Maric in 2008.
- • Since 1990, only six Huskers have had games with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds. That list includes Aleks Maric, Kimani Ffriend, Venson Hamilton, Mikki Moore and Eric Piatkowski.
- • Mast’s 16 rebounds were the most by a Husker since Yvan Ouedraogo had 19 rebounds against Northwestern on March 1, 2020, and the second-highest rebound total in Hoiberg’s four-plus seasons at Nebraska.
- • Mast enters the week in the top-20 in the Big Ten in both scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg) while averaging 2.6 assists per game. Mast and Cal's Keonte Kennedy are the only two power conference players averaging 10.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as of Dec. 4.
New Faces, New Roles
Nebraska made a big splash in the transfer portal, adding five players to the roster, and their impact is already being felt during the early portion of the season. The group of Josiah Allick (New Mexico), Jarron Coleman (Bradley), Rienk Mast (Bradley), Ahron Ulis (Iowa) and Brice Williams (Charlotte) combined for more than 4,300 points, 2,100 rebounds and 800 assists entering this year.
- Mast is averaging 14.0 points per game while leading the Huskers in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and ranking second in assists (2.6 apg). Mast currently ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounding and 20th in scoring, as his 9.8 rebounds per game ranks 25th nationally. The 6-foot-10 forward has been in double figures in a team-high seven contests, highlighted by a 20-point, 16-rebound effort against Florida A&M. He is also third in the Big Ten with three double-doubles this season and has 23 career double-doubles
- Williams has started all eight contests and is 22nd in the Big Ten in scoring at 13.5 points per game, while chipping in 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. The 6-foot-7 guard has been in double figures six times this season, highlighted by a 25-point effort in the win against Oregon State on Nov. 17 and a 17-point, nine-rebound, four-assist effort against Stony Brook on Nov. 15. Williams is 91 points away from 1,000 points for his career.
- Allick has been a force inside, averaging 7.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. He is 17th in the Big Ten in rebounds and is a big reason why the Huskers are among the Big Ten leaders in rebounding margin. Allick has three double-figure efforts this season, including 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists vs. Duquesne.
- Coleman has come off the bench in all eight contests and is third on the team in assists at 2.5 per game while posting a 1.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Improved Board Work
One area where Nebraska has made significant improvement is on the glass. The additions of Rienk Mast, Josiah Allick and Brice Williams along with the return of Juwan Gary have made the Huskers formidable on the glass.
- • Nebraska has a +6.1 rebound margin through eight games to rank fifth in the Big Ten. Last season the Huskers were 11th in rebound margin (-1.0).
- • NU had a positive rebound margin (+3.1) prior to Juwan Gary's season-ending injury last January. Gary was second on the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and 15th in the Big Ten in that category on Jan. 10. Over the final 16 games of the 2022-23 season, NU was outrebounded by 5.1 rebounds per game.
- • Mast (MVC) and Allick (Mountain West) both ranked second in their respective conferences in 2022-23 in rebounding, while Williams was 15th in Conference USA. In addition, Mast led the MVC in rebounding during the 2021-22 season.
- • NU out-rebounded four straight opponents by at least 10 boards from Nov. 9-18, the first time that happened since the first four games of the 2004-05 season.