Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their first Big Ten Conference loss of the season, the seventh-ranked Wisconsin Badgers will attempt to start anew as they play host to the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the Kohl Center on Thursday night.
Nebraska was considered one of the favorites to challenge for the Big Ten title prior to the season beginning, but after a 5-1 start, the losses have piled up to the point where the team comes into this fray at 10-6 overall and an even 2-2 in conference. The good news is that the Huskers have won two in a row, beating the likes of Rutgers (65-49) and Illinois (53-43), both at home, to run their record in Lincoln this season to 7-3.
Wisconsin had been ranked in the top-five for much of the campaign, but a shocking 67-62 loss at Rutgers last Sunday put an end to the team's eight-game winning streak. As a result, the Badgers currently sit at 15-2, the other loss coming at home to Duke on Dec. 3, and 3-1 in conference. They are 8-1 at home this season, and they've won four straight in Madison.
Nebraska owns a narrow 11-10 lead in the all-time series with Wisconsin, but the Badgers have won five of the last six meetings, including four of five since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten.
Nebraska held its second straight opponent below 50 points in the recent win over Illinois, after doing so just once in the first 14 games. The Fighting Illini were frustrated to the point of only 27.3 percent field goal efficiency, which included a woeful 6-of-29 showing from 3-point range. Conversely, the Huskers knocked down 6-of-17 3-point tries as part of a 42.9 percent shooting effort overall. They also converted all five of their free throws while logging a 38-30 edge on the glass. Terran Petteway led all scorers with 18 points, while Shavon Shields finished with 11 to go with eight rebounds and five assists.
Petteway and Shields have been as potent a one-two punch as there is in the Big Ten this season, posting scoring averages of 18.9 and 17.1 ppg, respectively. No other player nets more than 7.7 ppg for the Cornhuskers, who produce just 65.9 ppg due in large part to their rather anemic 30.9 percent performance from beyond the arc. As for Nebraska's effort at the defensive end, it has been on par with some of the top teams in the league as foes are putting up just 60.7 ppg in hitting 37.7 percent of their total shots, which includes a 27.6 percent effort out on the perimeter.
The usually defensive-minded Badgers had an off night in their recent matchup with Rutgers, as they allowed the Scarlet Knights to shoot 54.3 percent from the floor in what turned out to be a five-point loss for the visitors. Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker scored 15 points apiece for Wisconsin, which also got a double-digit effort from Bronson Koenig with 12 points. The Badgers struggled from distance in the game, netting only 5-of-21 3-point attempts, and they went just 9-of-16 at the charity stripe as well. Both teams took very good care of the basketball, combining for only 12 turnovers.
Wisconsin lost more than the game against Rutgers, as starting guard Traevon Jackson (9.4 ppg) suffered a fractured right foot and is expected to undergo surgery this week. All-America candidate Frank Kaminsky (16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg) did not play against Rutgers due to a concussion, but he is expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday night.
Wisconsin allows the fewest points of any team in the Big Ten, and it ranks seventh nationally with an average yield of only 54.9 ppg. The team's effort at the offensive end typically generates 73.5 ppg, but with some of its stars ailing, guys like Dekker (12.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Hayes (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg) will be asked to do even more.