Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Padding the Stats: Nebraska’s Dynamic Duo

February 22, 2023

I’ve written plenty about Keisei Tominaga this season, but his continued good play and a reader request (shoutout to 1620 the Zone’s Gary Sharp) have me returning to that well.

Tominaga has now scored 20 or more points in five straight games, and at this point it’s certainly no fluke. The scouting report has caught up to Tominaga. He’s drawing plenty of defense attention, yet he’s still finding a way to get loose.

Tominaga’s 20-point outing against Maryland was his least efficient game of the last five, but it was just as impressive as the others in my mind. Maryland made him work really hard to get his points, putting plenty of length on him to minimize his looks from the perimeter and make it tough for him to finish at the basket (though one of the shots he had blocked was a clear goal tend, so he should have had 22 on 8-of-17 shooting). He only hit two 3s yet still found his way to 20 points.

I’ve broken down his offensive success this season and shown how he’s evolved into an all-around scorer, but we’re focusing on his assisted buckets today. Of his 130 buckets this season, 79 have been assisted.

Of those 79 assists, 35 have come from Derrick Walker — 41.6% of his total assists on the season. Those two have developed fantastic chemistry, and that connection has truly become the centerpiece of Nebraska’s offense over the last 11 games. Walker accounted for 22 of the 45 assists delivered to Tominaga during that span as the two have shared the court more and more — recall that Walker missed the first five games of the season and that Tominaga’s playing time and shot total fluctuated up until the road game at Purdue in mid-January.

Tominaga has grown into an elite cutter (93rd percentile nationally scoring 1.531 points per possession while shooting 76.7%, according to Synergy), and no one sets him up quite like Walker. Nineteen of his 35 assists have come on cuts in the halfcourt (plus another in transition for a layup on a defensive breakdown).

Eleven of his assists were on catch-and-shoot 3s (either spotting up, running off screens or in transition) while another four came off of hand-offs for 3-pointers.

Enjoy this collection of Walker-to-Tominaga goodness.

First, the cuts:

Then, the 3s:

Walker has almost twice as many assists to Tominaga as the man in second place, Sam Griesel. The team’s point guard has 19 assists to Tominaga, 11 of which were for catch-and-shoot 3s and three of which were on cuts to the basket. Emmanuel Bandoumel is still in third despite his season-ending injury with eight, all for catch-and-shoot 3s.

Let’s shift our focus from the finisher to the passer now, because the player Walker has grown into has been so much fun to watch. There aren’t many players in the country that play like him. 

In fact, there are only two other players that average better than 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 55% shooting (Walker is at 14.0, 7.2 and 3.7 on 59.9%): Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis (20.5, 11.3, 3.6 and 57.4%) and Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts (13.3, 7.3, 4.8 and 56.3%).

There were at least a couple possessions against Maryland where Nebraska completely inverted its offense with Walker handling the ball and initiating offense while Griesel ran down to the dunker spot (along the baseline outside the lane, the traditional domain of the big man).

Walker was the best player on the floor against the Terrapins, finishing with an efficient 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists, his sixth game of the season with at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assist (and third with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists).

Walker can beat teams with both the score and the pass — all without being a threat to shoot the ball outside of 5 or so feet. However, if there’s one big weakness in his game right now, it’s turnovers. As good of a passer as he’s been with those 84 assists, he also has 85 turnovers. He’s had four or more giveaways in 12 of his 23 games, many of which have been a result of mental mistakes from Walker.

Turnovers aside, the two-man game between Walker and Tominaga (eight of Tominaga’s 22 assists on the year have gone to Walker) has developed into one of the Big Ten’s best weapons, and Nebraska fans will get three more regular season games plus whatever postseason path awaits the Huskers to enjoy it.

It may be a long time before players with Walker’s and Tominaga’s skill sets don the scarlet and cream again. Add in the local kid in Griesel who came home to spearhead an effort to change the narrative surrounding the program he grew up cheering, and I’d say there’s a lot to celebrate during these final two home games of the 2022-23 season. 

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