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Women's Basketball Big Ten Tournament Open Thread: Nebraska vs. Rutgers

The #7 Husker women take on the #10 seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights for the chance to advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. Join us to cheer on the ladies!

David McGee

Thursday, March 3, 5:30 p.m. - Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)

Radio: Husker Sports Network (Matt Coatney, Jeff Griesch) B107.3 FM, Lincoln; ESPN 590 AM (Omaha); KRVN 880 AM (Lexington)

Free Live Audio:

Television: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Christy Winters-Scott, Shelley Till)

Nebraska's Starting Five

The expected starters are: Natalie Romeo (So, G), Jasmine Cincore (So, G), Maddie Simon (Fr, G), Jessica Shepard (Fr, F), and Allie Havers (Jr, C). This is a very young lineup made necessary by the season-ending injuries to senior guards Kyndal Clark and Rachel Theriot (an all-B1G honorable mention awardee). Another freshman, Rachel Blackburn (F) is likely to be the first off the bench.

  • No Husker has started all 29 regular-season games for Nebraska in 2015-16, the first time that has happened since Coach Connie Yori’s first year in Lincoln in 2002-03.
  • Nebraska has had 10 different starters this season, the most of any of Coach Yori’s 14 Nebraska teams. In 2002-03, nine players started games for the Big Red.
  • Three times (2003-04, 2006-07, 2011-12) in 14 seasons, Nebraska’s starting five has hit the floor for every game together, and five more times the Huskers have only featured six different starters in a season (2005-06, 2007-08, 2009-10, 2012-13, 2013-14).
  • Nebraska has sent eight different starting lineups onto the floor this season, including new lineups in each of the last four games.
  • The longest stretch Nebraska was able to play this season with a consistent starting five was eight games (Game 2 vs. North Florida, Nov. 16 - Game 9 at California, Dec. 12).

Scouting The Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers enters its second Big Ten Tournament with a 17-13 overall record that included an 8-10 Big Ten mark. The 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights closed the regular season with a 72-50 win over Michigan. The win also snapped a three-game losing streak that included a three-point loss to nationally ranked Michigan State, a loss to top-10 Maryland and an overtime loss at Purdue. That losing streak followed a stretch of four wins in five games that began with a 66-56 win over Nebraska at the RAC in Piscataway on Jan. 30.

While Rutgers has suffered through an up-and-down conference campaign, the Scarlet Knights (RPI 54) are 36 spots higher than RPI No. 90 Nebraska. The Scarlet Knights are led by an experienced tandem of second-team all-conference players in Tyler Scaife (17.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg) and Kahleah Copper (17.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg).

Scaife, who led Rutgers with 20 points in the win over NU on Jan. 30, is the lone junior in a Rutgers starting five that is expected to include four seniors, led by Copper and 6-4 senior center Rachel Hollivay (7.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg). Fellow senior center Ariel Butts (2.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg) had 10 points and 14 rebounds in RU’s loss to Nebraska in Lincoln, but was held scoreless in the Scarlet Knights’ win in New Jersey. Senior point guard Briona Canty (5.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg) gives Rutgers arguably the most experienced starting five in the Big Ten. Her 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists played a major role in the Rutgers win over the Huskers on Jan. 30.

Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer leads her 21st Rutgers team into the Big Ten Tournament in her 45th overall season as a head coach. She takes aim at her 450th win at Rutgers and her 970th career win overall. Stringer was not present for Nebraska’s win in Lincoln, as she tended to her ailing mother. Rutgers leads the Big Ten in scoring defense at 59.1 points per game, but ranks last in scoring offense at 62.7 points per contest.

The Scarlet Knights are plus-0.2 in rebounding margin and plus-0.1 in turnover margin, while shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from three-point range. RU also is shooting just 67.8 percent from the free throw line.

Bright Future: Big Red Freshman Classes

Nebraska’s four-player freshman class of Jessica Shepard, Rachel Blackburn, Maddie Simon and Darrien Washington is proving itself as one of the most productive classes in school history. Through 29 games, the 2015-16 freshmen have combined for 781 points, 415 rebounds, 102 assists, 37 blocks and 34 steals, despite three rookies missing a a combined 34 games (Washington, 19; Simon, 9; Blackburn, 6).

The group is averaging 26.9 points and 14.3 boards per game. Consider Nebraska’s 2011-12 freshman class of Emily Cady, Brandi Jeffery, Tear’a Laudermill and Hailie Sample led the Big Ten by a significant margin with 26.5 points and 17.7 rebounds per game in their first season, before becoming the most successful class in NU history with four NCAA Tournament bids. That group, which also included redshirt freshman Katie Simon, is the only freshman class at Nebraska under Coach Connie Yori to average 20 points and 15 rebounds per game.

In fact, the only other freshman class to combine to average a double-double was the 2005-06 group featuring first-team All-American Kelsey Griffin, which managed 18.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. The 2003-04 class averaged 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, while featuring three-time first-team All-Big 12 shooting guard Kiera Hardy and future Canadian Olympian Chelsea Aubry.