LINCOLN — Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel has full respect for Creighton All-American Doug McDermott.
“He does a good job of scoring in all three ways — from the 3, mid-range and at the basket,” Ubel said Wednesday. “He’s tough to guard.”
Don’t look for any fear, though, when the 6-foot-10 Husker senior shadows the Bluejays’ 6-8 junior — cover boy of this month’s Basketball Times — in Thursday’s in-state matchup at the Devaney Center.
Not after three seasons in which Ubel has tangled with the following collection of All-Americans, NBA draft choices or first-team all-conference picks:
Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, Iowa State’s Craig Brackins and Kansas State’s Curtis Kelly.
“I’ve kind of been through the gauntlet already,” said Ubel, who held USC’s Dewayne Dedmon to two points and six rebounds Monday night in front of six NBA scouts. (Eight more scouts are scheduled to attend Thursday.)
“Doug McDermott’s probably near the top of that list. He’s a good player. So it will be fun.”
Fun has come in limited supply during Ubel’s time at Nebraska. The Huskers were 46-49 in his first three years, including a 1-2 mark against Creighton.
That’s why this year’s unexpected 6-1 start has put pep in the step of the team picked to finish last in the Big Ten.
“We’ve been getting better every game,” said Ubel, whose point and rebound totals have gone from 6.7 and 5.3 last year to 14.0 and 6.9 now.
“With the exception of Kent State (a 74-60 loss), there has been a growth from game to game in the way we play and the way we play together. So I think you’ll see another step forward come Thursday.”
Nebraska’s first-year coach Tim Miles isn’t claiming to have moved mountains yet.
“I don’t think we’re raising any eyebrows unless we win on Thursday,” he said. “We’re just going out and trying to win every possible game. And the next one is Creighton.”
Miles has known Creighton coach Greg McDermott for two decades and has never beaten him. The oddsmakers don’t see that changing Thursday, and Miles knows why.
“They have a great team — the team of a lifetime,” Miles said. “Look at all the pieces of the puzzle they have. Greg is a great coach. Doug is a great player.”
Miles said he likes the rivalry with Creighton and hopes the series can continue even if the Big Ten plays more league games in the future.
“They are a highly successful program, and we’re trying to chase ’em up there,” he said. “I think it’s healthy for the state.”
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