The Nebraska men’s basketball team hits the road for the first of two games on Thursday night, as the Huskers travel to No. 25 Michigan. Tipoff from Crisler Center in Ann Arbor is set for 5:31 p.m. (CT).
Nebraska (7-22, 2-16 Big Ten) lost a heartbreaker against Northwestern on Sunday afternoon, falling 81-76 in overtime. Senior Haanif Cheatham had 20 points to pace four Huskers in double figures, while freshman Yvan Ouedraogo posted his second double-double in the last three games with 11 points and 19 rebounds. Nebraska was doomed by going 8-of-30 from the foul line, and committing a season-high 21 turnovers which led to 20 Northwestern points. Despite those numbers, the Huskers still led 67-65 with less than a minute to go in regulation, but couldn’t close out the win.
One bright spot over the last three week has been the growth and development of Ouedraogo. The 6-foot-9 freshman is averaging 8.8 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the field over the last five games. He is also grabbing 10.4 rebounds per game in that stretch, including a career-high 19 rebounds against Northwestern on Sunday. That performance – the most rebounds by a Husker since 2007 – also shattered the school freshman record for rebounds in a game. He is now averaging a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game.
Michigan (18-11, 9-9 Big Ten) looks to break a two-game losing streak following a 77-63 loss at Ohio State on Sunday. In that game, freshman Franz Wagner had 18 points and 11 boards, while Zavier Simpson had 12 points and seven assists. The Wolverines, who are ranked 25th, are one of a conference-record eight teams ranked in this week’s AP top-25. Thursday’s game is also senior night for Michigan for a group that includes Simpson and starting center Jon Teske.
Michigan comes into Thursday’s game with a 19-8 record (9-9 Big Ten) following a 77-63 loss to Ohio State on Sunday. Duane Washington Jr. had 20 points, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range to lead five Buckeyes in double figures. Michigan, which shot 45 percent from the field, but just 7-of-26 from 3-point range, was paced by freshman Franz Wagner, who had 18 points and 11 boards, while Zavier Simpson had 12 points and seven assists.
Michigan is led by first-year head coach Juwan Howard, who took over the Michigan program following John Beilein’s departure for the Cleveland Cavaliers in May of 2019. Howard, who starred at Michigan during the Fab 5 era, spent 19 seasons in the NBA playing for eight franchises and won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat in 2012-13. He worked in the Miami Heat organization for six seasons, the final five as an assistant coach before returning to his alma mater.
The Wolverines raced out to a 7-0 start, including wins over Creighton, Iowa State, North Carolina and current No. 2 Gonzaga to move from unranked to No. 4 in the country in early December. The Wolverines weathered a 2-5 stretch in January before their win in Lincoln began a stretch where they won seven of their next eight contests before dropping the last two games.
Michigan, which was without Isaiah Livers for a significant portion of the Big Ten slate, is one of the most balanced attacks in the league with five players averaging between 10.9 and 13.0 ppg. Livers leads UM in scoring at 13.0, while Simpson is also at 13.0 points and leads the nation with 7.9 assists per game. Senior center Jon Teske averages 11.7 points per game along with team highs in both rebounding (6.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.9 bpg). Wagner has been a focal point during the second part of the season and is averaging 11.4 ppg, including a team-high 13.4 ppg over the Wolverines’ last 10 games.
Series History: Michigan leads the all-time series, 17-3, in a series that dates back to 1949, although the Wolverines’ win over the Huskers in the 1992 Rainbow Classic was later vacated. Michigan has won 11 of the 12 meetings since Nebraska joined the Big Ten with the Huskers’ only win coming in a 72-52 win in Lincoln during the 2017-18 campaign. One of Nebraska’s three wins in the series was a 74-73 win over No. 1 Michigan at the NU Coliseum on Dec. 12, 1964. In that game, Fred Hare’s buzzer beater knocked off the Cazzie Russell-led Wolverines. That win is one of three wins over No. 1 ranked teams in Nebraska’s history.