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Husker Women’s Basketball vs Virginia Tech: Preview & Game Thread

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The Nebraska women’s hoopsters face a stiff challenge on the road against the unbeaten Hokies. Join us to cheer on the young Huskers!

Gallery: Shepard, Huskers Notch First David McGee

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3) at Virginia Tech Hokies (6-0)

Thursday, Dec. 1, 6 p.m. (CT)

Blacksburg, Va.

Live Radio: Husker Sports Network

Lincoln - B107.3 FM, Omaha - CD105.9 FM

Free Live Audio: Huskers.com/Huskers App

Live Video Stream: Watch ESPN

The Nebraska women’s basketball team will face its first true road opponent of the season when the Huskers journey to Blacksburg to battle Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Thursday.

Tip-off for the first-ever meeting between the 3-3 Huskers and the 6-0 Hokies is set for 6 p.m. (CT) at Cassell Coliseum. Nebraska travels to Virginia Tech after dropping back-to-back games to Washington State and Virginia.

Virginia Tech enters Thursday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge with a 6-0 record after a 67-63 win over then-No. 17 Tennessee in Blacksburg Sunday. The Hokies were ranked No. 7 by RealTimeRPI.com Monday and received 33 votes (30th) in this week’s Associated Press Top 25.

Thursday’s game will feature a pair of first-year coaches for the schools, as Nebraska’s Amy Williams is leading a transition in the Husker program. Kenny Brooks is heading a new direction at Virginia Tech after 14 successful years as the head coach at his alma mater James Madison.

Nebraska’s game with Virginia Tech continues a challenging non-conference schedule for the Huskers. The Hokies will be NU’s second straight ACC foe, after falling to 5-1 Virginia Saturday. Thursday’s game will be the first of back-to-back games against unbeaten teams for the Big Red. The Huskers will take on 6-0 California on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The only opponent Nebraska has faced this season that owns a sub-.500 record is 2016 Mountain West champ Colorado State, which has been dealt losses at top-15 foes Washington and Oklahoma, in addition to the Rams’ three-point setback to the Huskers.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-3, 0-0 Big Ten)

32 - Jessica Shepard - 6-4 - So. - F - 17.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg

22 - Allie Havers - 6-5 - Sr. - C - 5.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg

5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Fr. - G - 7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg

11 - Esther Ramacieri - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 3.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg

34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Jr. - G - 6.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Off the Bench

3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 6.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg

24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - So. - G - 5.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg

12 - Emily Wood - 5-5 - Jr. - G - 2.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg

14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - Fr. - F/G - 1.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg

2 - Rylie Cascio Jensen - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 1.5 ppg, 0.8 rpg

50 - Darrien Washington - 6-2 - So. - F - 1.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg

Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998)

First Season at Nebraska (3-3); 10th Season Overall (196-112)

Virginia Tech Hokies (6-0, 0-0 ACC)

11 - Regan Magarity - 6-3 - So. - F - 10.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg

2 - Sidney Cook - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg

5 - Vanessa Panousis - 5-7 - Sr. - G - 6.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg

12 - Chanette Hicks - 5-6 - So. - G - 18.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg

25 - Samantha Hill - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Off the Bench

10 - Kendyl Brooks - 5-8 - Fr. - G - 5.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg

3 - Diandra DaRosa - 5-7 - Jr. - G - 2.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg

14 - Kaela Kinder - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 2.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg

1 - Genesis Parker - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg

40 - Erinn Brooks - 5-9 - So. - F - 2.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg

Head Coach: Kenny Brooks (James Madison, 1992)

First Season at Virginia Tech (6-0); 15th Season Overall (343-122)

Scouting Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech enters the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Nebraska off to its best start in more than a decade under first-year head coach Kenny Brooks. The Hokies improved to 6-0 on the young season with a 67-63 win over then-No. 17 Tennessee on Sunday at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg.

Tennessee led 31-28 at the half, but Virginia Tech sprinted to a 27-13 edge in the third quarter to take a 55-44 lead to fourth quarter before holding on for the win.

Hokie guard Chanette Hicks earned espnW National Player-of-the-Week honors after producing 24 points, five rebounds, three assists and a whopping eight steals against the Vols. That performance followed a 22-point, six-steal game in a win over the College of Charleston on Nov. 22. For the week, the 5-6 sophomore averaged 23.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 7.0 steals. For the season, Hicks leads four Hokies averaging in double figures with 18.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.7 steals per game. She is shooting 50.7 percent (38-75) from the field, including 44.4 percent (4-9) from three-point range.

The production by Hicks comes a year after averaging 8.5 points and 2.8 steals per game as a freshman starter last season.

Hicks is surrounded by 5-8 senior guard Samantha Hill (10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and 5-7 senior guard Vanessa Panousis (6.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) in an experienced Hokie backcourt. Panousis returns to the starting lineup with Hicks, while Hill played primarily off the bench a year ago. Hill has replaced Hannah Young (10.3 ppg,4.5 rpg in 2015-16) in the starting five from last season. Young was the only Hokie to start all 32 games in 2015-16.

Sidney Cook, a 6-2 senior forward, gives the Hokies more experience in the post while averaging 13.5 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game. Virginia Tech’s top returning scorer, Cook averaged 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds as a part-time starter for the Hokies last season.

Regan Magarity, a 6-2 sophomore forward, rounds out the starting five by averaging 10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. She also leads the Hokies with six blocked shots. Last season, Magarity averaged 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.

Virginia Tech has overcome a lack of depth early in the season with 5-10 freshman Kaela Kinder joining the starters as the only Hokies to play in all six games. Kinder has averaged 2.5 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Freshman guard Kendyl Brooks has been one of Virginia Tech’s most productive contributors. The daughter of Coach Kenny Brooks, Kendyl is averaging 5.8 points while competing in four of the Hokies’ six games.

As a team, Virginia Tech is averaging 69.3 points, while holding opponents to 56.5 points per game. The Hokies are 6-0 despite carrying a minus-0.6 rebounding margin. They have made up for their lack of rebounding by notching 20 more steals than their opponents to help create a plus-5.7 team turnover margin. Virginia Tech owns a 109-59 edge in points off turnovers on the season. The 50 points account for nearly 65 percent of their 77 more combined points than their six opponents this season.

Virginia Tech is shooting 40.7 percent from the field, including 26 percent (33-127) from three-point range and 66.4 percent (89-134) from the free throw line. The Hokies have held their opposition to 37.5 percent shooting, including just 22.7 percent (25-110) success from beyond the arc.

Husker Nuggets

• Entering the week, Nebraska’s first eight opponents (including Virginia Tech and Cal) had combined for a 34-13 record. Of the 13 losses, three were to the Huskers, four were to top-20 teams and three more were to 2016 conference champions.

• Jessica Shepard leads the Huskers with averages of 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. She produced her 12th career double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds in Nebraska’s win over Colorado State Nov. 17. It was her second double-double of the year, joining a 17-point, 15-rebound effort in a win over UTRGV on Nov. 12. Shepard will move into a tie for 10th on Nebraska’s career double-double list with her next double-double.

• Shepard leads Nebraska in three-point field goals made (9) and three-point field goal percentage (.500), including a game-clinching three with one minute left in the win over Colorado State on Nov. 14, and a 60-foot heave at the first-half buzzer in the win over UTRGV on Nov. 12.

• Nebraska freshman Nicea Eliely ranks second on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg), tied for third in rebounding (4.0 rpg), first in assists (3.5 apg) and first in steals (1.8 spg) through the first six games of her collegiate career.

• Freshman guard Hannah Whitish produced double digits off the bench for the second straight game with 10 points in NU’s win over Omaha on Nov. 22. Whitish is averaging 6.3 points per game and owns a 5.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Nebraska Ranks Near Top in Attendance

• Nebraska closed the 2015-16 season ranked No. 9 nationally in total attendance (102,682) and No. 12 in NCAA Division I in average home attendance (5,404). It marked the third consecutive season inside Pinnacle Bank Arena that the Big Red have ranked among the top 12 nationally in both categories.

• In 56 all-time home games at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers own an impressive 46-10 record (.821 winning percentage) while averaging 5,736 fans per game (321,220 total fans/56 games).

• Nebraska attracted a non-conference school-record crowd of 9,750 to open its stay in the building with a win over UCLA on Nov. 8, 2013.

Big Red To Battle one of Nation’s Best Schedules

• Nebraska will likely face the toughest overall schedule in school history in 2016-17. The Huskers will play 10 games against NCAA Tournament teams and 11 more regular-season games against Postseason WNIT teams in 2016-17.

• Nebraska’s appearance in the 2016 Preseason WNIT to open the year featured three games against postseason foes, including NCAA Tournament teams Missouri and Colorado State.

• Virginia, Virginia Tech, Drake and Creighton all competed in the 2016 WNIT and the Huskers will play three of those games on the road. Nebraska closes non-conference play at home against UConn, which has won four consecutive NCAA titles.

• A total of 13 of Nebraska’s 16 Big Ten Conference games will come against postseason foes, including seven games against NCAA qualifiers and six more against WNIT teams from a year ago.

• Nebraska’s 16-game regular-season home schedule will feature 13 games against postseason teams, including all eight Big Ten Conference home games.

Nebraska Streaks

• Nebraska senior Allie Havers has competed in 102 consecutive games since the first game of her freshman season in 2013-14. The Huskers own a 68-34 record in those contests over the last four years.

• Junior Jasmine Cincore owns the longest streak of consecutive starts among the Huskers with 11. Havers has made nine straight starts, while Esther Ramacieri has started seven consecutive games dating back to the end of last season.

• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three-pointer in 257 straight regular-season games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008.

• Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 136 consecutive games.

• Jessica Shepard has hit at least one three-pointer in all six games for the Huskers this season - the only Husker to hit at least one three in every game this year.

• Nebraska has had at least two players earn first- or second-team All-Big Ten honors in each of its first five seasons in the Big Ten.

• Nebraska finished with a 9-9 Big Ten record to mark the fifth consecutive season the Huskers have posted a .500 or better Big Ten record. Nebraska is the only Big Ten team with a .500 or better record in each of the last five seasons. In fact, no other Big Ten team has had four straight .500 marks. The only other team with three straight .500 or better Big Ten seasons is Minnesota, which went 11-7 in both 2015 and 2016 after going 8-8 in 2014.