Central Michigan (6-4) vs. Nebraska (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: CMU 3-1, Nebraska 6-2. Away Record: CMU 1-3, Nebraska 1-1. Neutral Record: CMU 2-0, Nebraska 0-0. Conference Record: CMU 0-0, Nebraska 0-0. Series Record: Nebraska leads, 1-0.
GAMES NOTES: In the opening game of the Sun Bowl Invitational the Central Michigan Chippewas will tangle with the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
Central Michigan enters the two-day classic with a record of 6-4 after dropping Texas State 92-80 at home on Thursday. The win was the second straight for the Chippewas and the third in the last four games.
Nebraska put an end to a two-game skid last time out by out-lasting Jacksonville State, 59-55 at home. The win moves the Cornhuskers to a solid 7-3 this season although they have largely benefited from playing at home with a 6-2 mark at the Devaney Center.
Both of these teams will await the outcome of the Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Texas-El Paso contest later in the night to determine Sunday's matchups.
The Chippewas shot at a stellar 53.7 percent clip on their way to the win over Texas State on Thursday. Central Michigan also turned in a strong effort from beyond the arc (11-of-24) and outscored the Bobcats 23-6 from the free-throw line. Kyle Randall scored 18 points to pace the Chippewas with John Simons (17 points) and Austin Keel (17) also having strong outings.
In comparison to the rest of its conference, Central Michigan is an average offensive team. The Chippewas rank fifth in the Mid-American Conference in scoring (67.0 ppg) and seventh in field goal percentage (.409). Randall (15.2 ppg) is the only player on the roster scoring in double figures, though his shooting needs improvement (.374 FG percentage). Simons (9.8 ppg) is a capable scorer especially considering how efficient he is with his shot (.569 FG percentage). Blake Hibbitts (8.1 ppg) is the third option and adds a spark off the bench.
It was another low-scoring affair for Nebraska in its win over Jacksonville State. The Cornhuskers led by as many as 15 points in the second half but let up a 20-6 run to the Gamecocks and led 56-55 with 21 seconds remaining. The Cornhuskers survived by hitting 3-of-4 free throws in the final seconds.
In the win Brandon Ubel posted a 15-point, 10-rebound effort to give him his third double-double this year. Ubel (12.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is one of three players scoring in double figures for Nebraska. Dylan Talley (14.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) can score and rebound but needs to be more selective with his shot selection as he hits just 37.0 percent of his field goal attempts. Ray Gallegos (11.8 ppg) is the third scoring option. Low scoring games have been the norm for Nebraska this season, as the Cornhuskers score a Big Ten worst 59.3 percent per game. The Cornhuskers are also the worst rebounding team (32.6 pg) in the conference but have been successful by limiting opponents on the scoreboard (58.9 ppg).
With its slow, grinding style, Nebraska should be able to control the pace and limit Central Michigan on the offensive end. Expect a low-scoring contest with Nebraska coming through in the end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 61, Central Michigan 57
12/22 10:35:34 ET