Lincoln, NE – The Nebraska Cornhuskers get their first taste ranked Wisconsin at home in the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
Nebraska, which historically plays most of its non-conference games at home during the first month or so of the season, is in the midst of a four-game homestand right now and is carrying a four-game overall win streak into this meeting tonight. A week ago the Huskers had their problems with Central Michigan, but still managed to come away with a 72-69 triumph in order to move to 6-2 on their own floor.
As for the Badgers, they too have spent the majority of their non-conference slate at home, ensconced in the Kohl Center where they have recorded eight wins in nine tries. On December 23, the team crushed Mississippi Valley State in a 79-45 final for their fifth consecutive win. Wisconsin, which has lost only to Marquette (61-54) and North Carolina (60-57), moved up two spaces yesterday in the most current AP top-25 rankings.
The Huskers are ahead in the all-time series between the teams with a 10-6 mark, although the most recent matchup in 1998 fell in favor of the Badgers by a score of 78-41 on a neutral floor. Prior to that, the last win for Wisconsin came in 1955 (71-52).
Against Mississippi Valley State, a team which had won just one of 10 games heading into last week's matchup, the Badgers allowed just 29.2 percent field goal efficiency, while the hosts made good on a solid 50 percent of their total shots. Jordan Taylor showed why he is considered one of the top performers at the collegiate level as he tallied 17 points, while teammates Jared Berggren and Josh Gasser chipped in with 17 and 11 points, respectively. Although he shot just 1-of-6 from the field and finished with a mere five points, Ryan Evans made an impact with his team-high 11 rebounds in the triumph. Evans leads the way on the glass overall for the program with an even seven boards per outing, his 19 blocked shots also tops on the unit. Berggren, who is second in blocks with 18, accounts for a team-best 12.5 ppg, followed by Taylor (12.2 ppg) who is responsible for 65 assists in 13 games and already has more than three times as many dishes as he does turnovers (20). Clearly the key to this team's success has been a defense which has held foes to a meager 44.7 ppg on 33.5 percent shooting from the floor and 24.2 percent behind the three-point line. Needless to say, Wisconsin entered the week ranked first in the nation in scoring defense, with only one other team (Virginia) holding opponents to less than 50 ppg.
The Huskers made good on 58.3 percent from the floor in the first half, but then dropped down to 40.9 percent in the second half against Central Michigan last week. Luckily, Nebraska saved itself by connecting on 19-of-25 at the free-throw line after the break as it dealt with not having two of its top scorers in action. All five starters scored in double figures as Bo Spencer and Brandon Richardson both delivered 15 points, the former also handing out nine of the team's 17 assists. Brandon Ubel, Toney McCray and Caleb Walker all tossed in 11 points for the group, with McCray clearing eight boards as well. Without Brian Jorge Diaz (10.9 ppg) and Dylan Talley (9.1 ppg) the Huskers are leaning more heavily on Spencer who is putting up a team-leading 16.0 ppg in his first season with the program. Spencer has also handed out 47 assists and made 17 steals which helps to compensate for his 41.5 percent shooting from the floor thus far. While the Nebraska defense isn't anywhere near as powerful as that of the Badgers, the Huskers have to be pleased with the fact that they've been able to limit opponents to only 61.1 ppg to this point.