Nov 21, 2023

Huskers MBB host Duquesne in Cornhusker Classic finale on Wednesday

Posted Nov 21, 2023 4:16 PM

Story by NU Athletic Communications

The Nebraska men's basketball team faces its biggest test of the early season on Wednesday, as the Huskers will take on Duquesne in the Cornhusker Classic. 

Tipoff between the Huskers and Dukes is set for 7 p.m. and tickets are available for the matchup by visiting, calling 800-8-BIGRED during business hours (Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) or at PBA beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. 

The Cornhusker Classic is a four-team event with Nebraska, Rider, Stony Brook and Duquesne that takes place between Nov. 13-22. All four teams will play each other during that time frame. Nebraska and Duquesne are both 2-0 in the event heading into this week's action.  

The Huskers (5-0) are looking for their best start since the 2008-09 season following an 84-63 win over Oregon State on Saturday. Brice Williams led Nebraska with 25 points, while Rienk Mast (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Juwan Gary (12 points, 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles. The Huskers took control with a 32-4 spurt, including a 20-0 run, in the first half to take a commanding lead. NU held the Beavers to 35 percent shooting and enjoyed a commanding 44-31 advantage on the glass.


Williams has been an impact transfer, as he averages 15.4 points per game on 44 percent shooting, including 44 percent from 3-point range, and 5.4 rebounds per game. He has also been a solid playmaker, averaging 2.6 assists per game while posting a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Duquesne is 4-1 on the season following a 77-58 win over Rider on Nov. 17. The Dukes already have a marquee win, a 22-point win over defending CAA champion Charleston on a neutral court.  Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III both average over 17.5 points per game for the Dukes, who average nearly 80 points per contest.

Numbers to Know+13.4 - Nebraska has a +13.4 rebound margin after five games which leads the Big Ten and ranks 21st nationally. NU out-rebounded its last four opponents by at least 10 rebounds, the first time NU has done that since 2004.

8:50 - Nebraska held Oregon State scoreless for a span of 8:50 in Saturday's win. Nebraska's 20-0 run against the Beavers was its longest of the season and longest since also using a 20-0 run against Iowa on Dec. 29, 2022.

6- The 5-0 start in 2023-24 marks the sixth time since 2000 that Nebraska has opened a season with at least five straight wins (2008-09, 2006-07, 2005-06, 2003-04 and 2000-01). It is the Huskers' best start since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12.

46 - Nebraska's 46 3-pointers thru five games is the second most by any Husker team in the last 20 seasons. Only the 2018-19 team - with 49 in the first five contests - made more 3-pointers in the first five games than the 2023-24 squad. 

2.67 - Nebraska enjoyed one if its best assist-to-turnover ratios in the Fred Hoiberg era in Saturday's win over Oregon State. NU's 2.67-to-1 ratio (16-to-6) was the third-best total in the last five seasons, trailing a 3.13-to-1 mark vs. Doane (25-to-8) in 2020 and a 3.00-to-1 (12-to-4) at No. 22 Ohio State in 2022.

Looking at DuquesneDuquesne comes to Lincoln with a 4-1 record following a 77-58 win over Rider. The Dukes returned three starters and eight letterwinners from a team that went 20-13 and reached the CBI. Duquesne has four Division I transfers in a 10-member class, and they were picked to finish fourth in that A-10 preseason poll. The Dukes are averaging 79.6 points per game and have scored 75 or more points four times in five games, including a season-high 90 points against Charleston. Duquesne's only loss was a three-point loss to unbeaten Princeton, a game where the Dukes missed a shot in the final seconds which would have given them the lead. 

The Dukes are led by the backcourt of Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III, who were both chosen to the preseason all-conference team. Grant earned second-team All A-10 honors last season and the senior guard comes into Wednesday's game averaging 20.2 points per game. He leads the A-10 in scoring and has three 20-point games in the first five games. Clark, who was on the all-conference defensive team, is averaging 17.8 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting and ranks among the NCAA leaders with 3.2 steals per game.

Keith Dambrot is in his seventh season in charge of the Dukes program and guided Duquesne to 20 wins and an appearance in the 2023 CBI. Prior to taking over at Duquesne, he spent 13 seasons at Akron, guiding the Zips to four Mid-American Conference regular-season titles and 10 postseason appearances, including NCAA bids in 2009, 2011 and 2013. He also coached at Central Michigan, Ashland (Ohio) and Tiffin (Ohio) and St. Vincent-St. James High School in Akron, Ohio, where he won two state titles.

Nebraska is 1-2 all-time against Duquesne, but the teams have not played since a 75-53 Dukes win on Dec. 6, 1971. The other two meetings took place in 1948 and 1969. The Huskers are 12-13 all-time against teams from the Atlantic 10 but have not played anyone from the A-10 since 2019 (George Mason).

Last Time Out:Brice Williams had a game-high 25 points while Rienk Mast and Juwan Gary put together double-doubles in Nebraska’s 84-63 win over Oregon State on Nov. 18. Williams finished with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting, as Nebraska took control early with a 32-4 first-half run and continued its best start since 2008-09.

Rienk Mast finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Juwan Gary added 12 points and 10 boards off the bench, as NU had a pair of double-doubles for the first time since 2021. Nebraska out-rebounded OSU, 44-31, and had 22 second-chance points, including 18 in the first half when the Huskers built a 44-24 advantage.

The Huskers trailed 11-6 early, as Jordan Pope hit his first four shots from the floor for Oregon State, but from that point it was all Huskers. NU went on a 32-4 spurt over the next 13 minutes, including a 20-0 spurt, to take a 38-15 lead after Gary’s 3-pointer. The Huskers held Oregon State (3-1) scoreless for a stretch of 8:50 and held the Beavers to 35 percent on the afternoon.

Oregon State got to within 18 in the opening minute of the second half, but the Huskers responded with a 15-2 spurt to build a 29-point lead with just over 14 minutes remaining after a Mast basket. The Huskers led by as many as 31 before cruising to the 21-point win. 

Worth Noting

  1. The Huskers are 11-3 over the last 13 games dating back to Feb. 1, 2023. A big reason for that is NU's offense, as NU has averaged 76.2 ppg on 48 percent shooting in that stretch. For the first 23 games last year until Feb. 1, NU was at 65.4 ppg. NU has scored 70+ points in 12 of the past 14 games after reaching that mark just seven times in the first 23 games of last season. 
  2. NU's 9.2 3-pointers per game is third in the Big Ten entering this week's games. NU has averaged more than 8.0 3-pointers/game twice in program history (2001-02 and 2020-21).
  3. Nebraska has been stout on the defensive end during the early portion of the season. The Huskers are among the Big Ten leaders in points per game (56.4, second), field goal percentage defense (.332, first) and rebound margin (+13.5, first). NU is also 42nd nationally in defensive efficiency according to KenPom as of Nov. 20.
  4. Nebraska's bench has provided a spark early on, averaging 27.4 points per game in the first five contests. The Huskers' leading scorer has come from the bench three times (Hoiberg-Lindenwood; Wilcher-Rider; Gary-Stony Brook), and NU has had at least one double-figure effort from its bench in the first five contests.
  5. Rienk Mast now has 23 career double-doubles entering Wednesday's game with Duquesne. The 6-foot-10 forward is 20th nationally among all active players and trails only Zach Edey (41) among current Big Ten players. Mast's three double-doubles leads the Big Ten and is third nationally as of Nov. 20.
  6. Nebraska is 18-4 under Hoiberg when scoring at least 80 points including 13-1 over the last three seasons. The only loss was a 104-100 quadruple overtime game at North Carolina State on Dec. 1, 2021. NU has won its last 11 games when reaching the 80-point plateau.
  7. Nebraska regained its top two returning scorers last week, as Keisei Tominaga (13.1 ppg in 2022-23) returned from an ankle injury on Monday and Juwan Gary (9.6 ppg, 6.5 pg) made his 2023-24 debut on Wednesday vs. Stony Brook. Tominaga missed NU's first two games, while Gary, who had off-season shoulder surgery had not played since suffering the injury on Jan. 10, 2023.
  8. Nebraska is 61-15 (.803) in non-conference games at Pinnacle Bank Arena since the building opened in 2013.

Finding Balance Nebraska relied on its depth and balance early in the season. While the Huskers have four players averaging double figures, five others are between 4.0 and 7.0 ppg after five games.

  1. • Nebraska has had eight different players reach double figures and have had a different leading scorer in each of the first five games. That group does not include Keisei Tominaga, who was NU's leading returning scorer.
  2. • No Husker averages more than 27.5 minutes per game, while 10 Huskers are averaging double figures in minutes. Despite the number of different lineups NU has been forced to use, the Huskers have had at least eight players play double-figure minutes in each of the first five games.
  3. • NU has gotten at least one double-figure effort from its bench in each of the first five contests. The Huskers have gotten nearly 35 percent of their scoring from the bench over the first five contests.
  4. • Seven of the 12 players who played in the season opener were making their Husker debut. In fact, junior C.J. Wilcher was the only player who appeared in both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 openers.

Mast's Massive NightRienk Mast put together a strong performance in Nebraska's win against Florida A&M on Nov. 9. The 6-foot-10 forward had game highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds for his first double-double as a Husker.

• He became the first Husker in the Big Ten era (2011-12 to present) to have a game with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds, and the first Husker to do so since All-Big 12 performer Aleks Maric in 2008.

• Since 1990, only six Huskers have had games with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds. That list includes Aleks Maric, Kimani Ffriend, Venson Hamilton, Mikki Moore and Eric Piatkowski.

• Mast’s 16 rebounds were the most by a Husker since Yvan Ouedraogo had 19 rebounds against Northwestern on March 1, 2020, and the second-highest rebound total in Hoiberg’s four-plus seasons at Nebraska.

• Mast is averaging 14.8 ppg while topping the Huskers in both rebounding (11.2 rpg) and assists (2.8 apg). He is one of 11 players averaging a double-double with at least 2.5 assists per game as of Nov. 19. 

New Faces, New RolesNebraska made a big splash in the transfer portal, adding five players to the roster, and their impact is already being felt during the early portion of the season. The group of Josiah Allick (New Mexico), Jarron Coleman (Bradley), Rienk Mast (Bradley), Ahron Ulis (Iowa) and Brice Williams (Charlotte) combined for more than 4,300 points, 2,100 rebounds and 800 assists entering this year. 

Mast is averaging 14.8 points per game while leading the Huskers in both rebounds (11.2 rpg) and assists (2.8 apg). He is one of three power conference players as of Nov. 20 averaging at least 10.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Mast currently ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounding and 16th in scoring.  The 6-foot-10 forward has been in double figures in all five contests - the only Husker to do so - including a 20-point, 16-rebound effort against Florida A&M. 

Allick has been a force inside, averaging 6.8 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game. He is second on the team and 20th in the Big Ten in rebounds and is a big reason why the Huskers lead the conference in rebound margin. He is fourth in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds (3.0) as of Nov. 20. Allick has two double-figure efforts, including 11 points and eight boards against Lindenwood. 

Williams has started all five contests and is second on the team in scoring (15.4 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (6.0 rpg) while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.  The 6-foot-7 guard is 14th in the Big Ten in scoring and has been in double figures four times this season, highlighted by a 25-point effort in the win against Oregon State on Nov. 17 and a 17-point, nine-rebound, four-assist effort against Stony Brook on Nov. 15. 

Coleman has come off the bench in all five contests and is tied for the team lead with 2.8 assists per game while also adding 3.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per outing. He has a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Improved Board WorkOne of the areas where Nebraska has made significant improvement is on the boards. The additions of Rienk Mast, Josiah Allick and Brice Williams along with the return of Juwan Gary have made the Huskers formidable on the glass.

• Nebraska has a +13.4 rebound margin through five games to lead the Big Ten. Last season the Huskers were 11th in rebounding margin (-1.0)

• NU had a positive rebound margin (+3.1) prior to Juwan Gary's season-ending injury last January. Gary was second on the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and 15th in the Big Ten in that category on Jan. 10. Over the final 16 games of the 2022-23 season, NU was outrebounded by 5.1 rebounds per game.

• Mast (MVC) and Allick (Mountain West) both ranked second in their respective conferences in 2022-23 in rebounding, while Williams was 15th in Conference USA. In addition, Mast led the MVC in rebounding during the 2021-22 season.

• NU has out-rebounded four straight opponents by at least 10 boards, the first time that has happened since the first four games of the 2004-05 season. 

Tominaga Named Preseason All-Big TenNebraska senior guard Keisei Tominaga was honored as one of 10 players selected to the preseason All-Big Ten team.  He became just the third Husker to be named preseason All-Big Ten since Nebraska joined the conference in 2011-12, joining James Palmer Jr. (2018) and Terran Petteway (2014). Last season, he averaged 13.1 points per game on 53 percent shooting, including 40 percent from 3-point range, while appearing in all 32 contests.  Tominaga led the Huskers in 3-pointers with 66 and was one of only six players nationally to average double figures and shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the foul line. 

During Big Ten play, he led NU in scoring at 14.2 ppg to rank 15th in the conference while also ranking among Big Ten leaders in field goal percentage (.512, seventh) and 3-pointers per game (2.3, sixth) as he shot 41 percent from beyond the arc. He had seven of his nine 20-point games during Big Ten contests, including a career-high 30-point effort against Penn State, and added 23 points in NU’s loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.