Badgers and Cornhuskers clash in Big Ten action
Lincoln, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - Both the ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers will try to extend their respective winning streaks on Sunday night, as the Big Ten Conference regular season comes to a close at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Wisconsin hit a mid-season slide with losses in five of six from mid-January to early February, but since then it has gotten back on track as one of the nation's top teams with eight straight victories to improve to 25-5. The Badgers most recently ended their home slate of games on Wednesday with a 76-70 win over Purdue to move to 12-5 in the league.
Nebraska has also been in peak form of late with wins in two straight and seven of its last eight, including an impressive road victory at Indiana on Wednesday, 70-60. The Cornhuskers are now 18-11 overall and 10-7 in league play and with a win will earn the fourth seed and the final opening-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament,
After 20 all-time meetings, the series is knotted up at 10 games a side. The Badgers have had the upper hand in recent years however with five straight wins.
The Badgers built a lead as large as 18 midway through the second half of their latest contest, and while their final margin of victory was only six, Purdue never threatened the lead down the stretch. They were outshot from the floor on the evening, 45.3 percent to 44.2 percent, but they held a 23-9 scoring advantage at the free-throw line and won the turnover battle, 11-7. Frank Kaminsky shot 8-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 22 points, while Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser poured in 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Wisconsin has no discernable weaknesses, as it boasts stellar percentages from the field (.456), 3-point range (.369) and the foul line (.753) while owning positive margins in terms of scoring (+9.6), rebounding (+1.0) and turnovers (+2.1). Kaminsky (13.3 ppg) and Sam Dekker (13.1 ppg) are the top scoring options and each pulls down 6.3 rpg. Ben Brust (12.5 ppg) is shooting 72- of-193 from beyond the arc (.373), Jackson (10.9 ppg) hands out 3.9 apg and Gasser (9.4 ppg) rounds out a lineup that has started all 30 games together.
The Cornhuskers owned Indiana from the opening tip their last time out, as they shot 45.5 percent from the field while holding the Hoosiers to just 36.7 percent shooting in a game they never trailed. Walter Pitchford shot 3-of-4 from 3-point range on his way to 17 points, Shavon Shields also netted 17 and the duo combined to rip down 17 rebounds. Terran Petteway (13 points) made up for a poor 3-of-10 showing from the floor by knocking down 7-of-8 at the line.
Nebraska usually isn't a very potent offensive team, as it shoots only 42.6 percent from the field this season for 66.7 ppg, but its success has been predicated on its excellent defense, which yields just 64.6 ppg on 41.9 percent efficiency from the floor. Petteway is the catalyst with 17.8 ppg and has connected on 82 percent of his shots from the foul line. Shields brings 12.2 ppg and 5.9 rpg to the table, while Pitchford (9.2 ppg) has made 42 3- pointers at 40.8 percent efficiency.