Lincoln, NE – Meeting for the first time in nearly 20 years, ranked Michigan Wolverines and Nebraska Cornhuskers square off in Lincoln tonight for a Big Ten Conference tussle at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Michigan has won six of the previous seven meetings in the all-time series, but this is its first visit to Lincoln since 1964 when the then top-ranked Wolverines dropped a 74-73 decision to the hometown Huskers. The teams last meeting overall was on December 28, 1992.
The Maize and Blue got off to a sensational start to the 2011-12 season, logging a 12-2 record before a 73-71 loss at Indiana on January 5 started the team on a run of mediocrity that has seen it go 5-5 in its last 10 games. Michigan is coming off Sunday's 64-54 loss at rival Michigan State, and while the Wolverines are a perfect 13-0 at home this season, they are a disappointing 2-6 in true road games. They have lost two straight in enemy territory, and five of their last six road bouts overall.
Nebraska's first foray into Big Ten play has proven to be even more challenging than coach Doc Sadler had anticipated, as the team is just 3-8 in conference, and an even 11-11 overall. The Cornhuskers dropped a 69-61 decision at home to Minnesota on Sunday, giving the squad an 8-6 record in Lincoln this year. Nebraska has lost two in a row and three of its last four games overall.
Michigan simply couldn't match Michigan State's shooting prowess in Sunday's key conference clash, as the Wolverines hit just 39.6 percent of their field goal attempts while the Spartans made good on 52.2 percent of their's. The visitors failed to compete on the glass as well, grabbing a mere 16 rebounds compared to 40 for the home team. Zack Novak hit three of UM's seven three- pointers en route to 14 points, while Jordan Morgan and Trey Burke chipped in with 11 points apiece. Tim Hardaway, Jr., who leads the team in scoring this season with 14.7 ppg, went a woeful 1-of-10 from the floor to finish with just four points. Burke is the only other double-digit scorer for the Wolverines at the moment, and in addition to his 14.1 ppg, he also serves as the unit's primary playmaker with 4.9 apg. As a team, Michigan is averaging 67.0 ppg while allowing 61.0 ppg. The team shoots a decent 45.7 percent from the field, but is virtually even in rebounding margin (+0.4), and is on the plus side in turnover differential (+1.8).
Bo Spencer scored 18 points to lead three Cornhuskers in double figures, but those efforts went for naught as the home team dropped an eight-point decision to Minnesota over the weekend. Toney McCray (15 points, six rebounds) and Brandon Richardson (10 points) made solid contributions, but Nebraska lost the rebounding battle (31-24) and allowed the Golden Gophers to connect on 54.0 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a 41.2 percent showing from three-point range (7-of-17). Minnesota controlled all aspects of the scoring line -- 40-24 in the paint, 23-16 off turnovers, 14-6 in second-chance points, 12-4 on the break, and a whopping 40-7 in bench points. Spencer and McCray continue to rank one-two on the team's scoring chart this season, netting 15.5 and 10.5 ppg, respectively. Spencer's figure would be even higher if he shot better than the 39.9 percent he is at the moment, although he is one of the top free-throw shooters in the country, checking in at 87.9 percent (80-of-91). Overall, the Cornhuskers are putting up just 62.2 ppg while permitting 64.4 ppg. The team is dead even in rebounding, and commits an average of 14 turnovers per outing.