Husker hoops primer: Nebraska, Texas Tech set for title tilt in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If Nebraska raises its first tournament championship trophy in 18 years tonight, the Huskers will have earned it.
NU takes on Texas Tech for the championship of the Hall of Fame Classic at 8:30 p.m. at the Sprint Center.
Here are a few notes to get you ready for the matchup, which is set to air on ESPN2.
Nebraska’s last tournament title of any kind came in 2000, when the Huskers beat SMU to win the San Juan Shootout.
Texas Tech (4-0) will be a stiffer test. The Red Raiders went to the Elite Eight last season, going 27-10, earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and beating Purdue in the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual national champion Villanova in the national quarterfinals.
The Red Raiders lost five seniors off that team, but coach Chris Beard’s squad still has the trademark toughness and physicality he inherited from coaching under Bobby Knight.
Sophomore Jarrett Culver leads Texas Tech, averaging 16.8 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and 38 percent from three point range. Another sophomore, Davide Moretti, averages 12 points per game, while grad transfer Matt Mooney, formerly of South Dakota, averages 11 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest.
The Red Raiders trailed USC by as many as 13 in the first half of their Monday night semifinal, and went into the locker room down by nine. But a near-perfect second half offensively — Tech went a whopping 16-for-20 from the field over the final 20 minutes — allowed the Red Raiders to outscore the Trojans 55-31.
The matchup will pit two of the nation’s best early-season defenses against each other. Nebraska is allowing 47.8 points per game to rank fourth nationally while Texas Tech is right behind at 48. Nebraska’s field goal percentage defense is second in the nation (30.2 percent) while Texas Tech is seventh at 32.8.
Nebraska (4-0) has held 30 consecutive opponents to 50 percent or less shooting from the field.
The teams, besides being former Big 12 conference foes, share plenty of other connections as well.
NU assistant Michael Lewis was a graduate assistant at Texas Tech from 2002-2004. Tech chief of staff Tim MacAllister is the husband of Nebraska rifle coach Ashley MacAllister. Tim MacAllister was on the staff at Creighton before going to Texas Tech. Two players on Texas Tech’s roster, freshman guard Kyler Edwards and the graduate transfer Mooney, both received recruiting interest from NU before choosing Texas Tech.
The last time Nebraska won a basketball tournament in Kansas City provided one of the great weekends in program history. Led by Eric Piatkowski, NU won the 1994 Big Eight tournament title at Kemper Arena.