The Huskers are returning home following a two-game road trip to host Iowa (11-11, 2-7 Big Ten) on Saturday night.
Nebraska (15-8, 6-4 Big Ten) is nearly perfect at home this season, 11-1 with a one-point loss to Kansas, and will look to keep its tournament hopes alive. The Huskers are playing for wins at this point in the season and the Hawkeyes are playing for pride.
Losers of five of their previous six before routing Wisconsin at home on Tuesday, Iowa has disappointed this year. The Hawkeyes boast one of the conference’s top scorers in second-year forward Tyler Cook and a top-50 offense, per KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. Cook is sinking 56.4 percent of his shots on the season, a mark that ranks fourth among qualified Big Ten scorers, and netting just over 16 points a night in nine conference games.
It’s the other end where the Hawkeyes have had issues. Head coach Fran McCaffery’s unit is giving up 76.4 points a night, which puts them firmly at No. 282 nationally. Hawkeye opponents are shooting 45 percent from the field (227th-worst) and 36 percent from deep (230th-worst). If the Huskers are going to finally start clicking on offense — they’ve shot better than 45 percent once in the last nine games — the Hawkeyes feel like the team that could help them do it.
During their two-game road trip — a 64-59 loss to No. 13 Ohio State and a 60-54 win over Rutgers — the Huskers shot 39 percent from the field and missed 34 of their 47 3-point attempts. When guard James Palmer Jr. was on, like his career-high 34-point outing against the Buckeyes, his teammates were ice cold. When forward Isaac Copeland put forth his best night of the season with a 23-point performance against Rutgers, Palmer went cold. The Huskers have switched up the lineup but gotten nothing from their two-guard rotation and point guard Glynn Watson continues to struggle.
Nebraska’s defense has been stout all throughout conference play this season — they rank second in the Big Ten in opponent shooting percentage (38.7 percent) and third in scoring defense (65.1) — and rugged play on the less glamorous end has been the calling card of late, but Iowa could try to turn Saturday’s match into a track meet and dare the Huskers to try and keep pace on the scoreboard.
Fortunately, offense in front of the home crowd has been better. When Nebraska plays at Pinnacle Bank Arena, it puts up 77.5 points a game on 46.1 percent shooting. When it has gone on the road, the offense has plummeted to 62.9 points on 36.5 percent shooting. All six of the lowest-scoring games have come away from Lincoln.
The Hawkeyes will be the first of five of the Huskers’ final eight opponents to venture inside PBA.
Time: 7 p.m. CT
Line: Nebraska -4.5
TV: BTN, BTN2Go
Radio: Husker Sports Network
All-time: Iowa leads 19-10
Last meeting: Iowa 81, Nebraska 70
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.