Previewing the Nebraska Cornhuskers (Again)

Jake Kocorowski

The Wisconsin Badgers hope to continue Nebraska's Big Ten slide on Saturday afternoon inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in the second matchup between the programs of the 2019-20 season.

UW (14-10 overall, 7-6 Big Ten) heads to Lincoln to take on a Nebraska (7-17, 2-11) team in midst of a nine-game losing streak that included a Badgers' win in Madison last month.

"A team like this is most dangerous because they're used to playing with their backs against the wall, so they feel like they have nothing to lose, and that's a team that's always dangerous, right?" assistant coach Alando Tucker said on Thursday. "I look at the game we played here (on Jan. 21). They get down 10, they get down double digits -- 13 to 14 -- and they always feel like they're still in the game because they score in bunches. They score in waves, so we have to make sure we're controlling the tempo. If we get up, we get down, we got to make sure we're just controlling the tempo, getting what we want, because that seems always going to come at you. 

"They're gonna come at you in waves and storms, so I think you just make sure you control the tempo. Don't let them get on transition early. We gotta attack, we got to get the ball to the free throw line. We got to be able to score at the free throw line."

AllBadgers.com presents key stats and players to watch for heading into Tuesday night's conference contest.

Rankings, Team Stats

Statistics
Nebraska
Nebraska's Opponents

Points Per Game

71.7

76.1

Field Goal Percentage

41.7

44.1

Three-Point Percentage

32.7

31.7

Free Throw Percentage

60.3

66.2

Rebounds Per Game

35.5

45.2

Assists Per Game

14.5

14.8

Turnovers Per Game

11.3

14.0

Steals Per Game

6.5

5.5

Blocks Per Game

2.3

4.9

As of Feb. 13, Nebraska ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, scoring margin (-4.5), free throw percentage, field goal percentage defense, rebounding margin (-9.8) and blocked shots per contest. The Huskers are 13th in the conference in field goal percentage.

Since Last Time

Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 82-68 on Jan. 21 inside the Kohl Center thanks in part to a program-record 18 three-pointers. That was the fourth of the nine-consecutive losses for head coach Fred Hoiberg and his program. 

However, the Huskers played tough at the RAC against Rutgers in a 75-72 road loss on Jan. 25 and a 72-70 defeat to Maryland on Feb. 11.

From Tucker's perspective, as the assistant in charge of scouting Nebraska this week, Nebraska is still "playing pretty much the same style."

"Their style doesn't change," Tucker said. "They're gonna run a lot of ball screens, they're going to try to get you out into isolation situations where they can spread and try to get the ball to the hole. Again, they have four to five shooters on the court at any given time, so everything is contingent on Cam Mack's ability to get into the paint. Because he can get in the paint, finish all the way to the rim or he's kicking it to shooters, and they have some guys that can knock it down. They'll spread you out, so it's hard to really plug gaps because if he kicks it out, guys are getting shots, and they're knocking them down at a higher percentage or a higher efficiency rate at home."

Players to Watch

Once again -- and as Tucker referred to earlier -- the name to keep tabs on is Mack, the 6'2 guard who transferred in from Salt Lake Community College. This season, he has averaged 12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. He still ranks third in the Big Ten in assists as of Feb. 13. 

In conference play, Mack has cooled from the 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists per contest he averaged before the first meeting against Wisconsin. He now brings in 12.5 points, 4.5 boards and 7.15 assists per game.

Other Huskers to watch on Saturday include guard Haanif Cheatham who ranks second on the team in points per game (12.2) while also bringing down 3.8 rebounds per game. 

Cheatham, a Florida Gulf Coast and Marquette transfer, and fellow guard Dachon Burke, Jr. (11.4 points per game) round out the trio of Nebraska players averaging double digits in scoring for Hoiberg and the program. Burke scored a game-high 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds against the Badgers in January.

Icelandic export Thor Thorbjarnarson averages 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 24 games, though in Big Ten play the guard provides 11.9 points and 5.6 boards per contest while shooting 51.4% from the floor. 

For the season, Thorbjarnarson also leads the team in three-point shooting (44.0%) and contributed 12 points in the loss at UW in January.

True freshman forward Yvan Ouedraogo averages 5.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on the season. Fellow first-year big man Kevin Kross contributed 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting (3-of-5 from three-point range) in Nebraska's loss to Wisconsin in January.

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