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Nebraska Women’s Basketball vs Illinois: Game Thread

The Husker women hit the road (again) and look for another Big Ten win.

Game Time: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m. (CT)
Live Video: BTN Plus
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network; Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln - B107.3 FM; Omaha - ESPN 590 AM
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The Nebraska women’s basketball team will try to complete another unbeaten three-game road swing when the Huskers square off with Illinois on Wednesday. The Huskers are 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. The Fighting Illini are 9-9 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten.

• Nebraska shoots for its seventh straight win away from home. The Huskers are coming off back-to-back Big Ten road wins at Minnesota (79-74, Dec. 31) and at Northwestern (69-59, Jan. 7). Last season, the Huskers went 0-13 away from Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.

• The Huskers are one of only six teams in the nation that have shown four or more games of improvement in the win column over last season through games Jan. 7. Big Ten leader Rutgers is a nation-leading plus-10 in the win column, while Butler is plus-five.

• Compared to last season, Nebraska is 7.8 points per game better offensively (70.6-62.8 ppg) and 11.9 points per game better defensively (76.3-64.4 ppg).

• Junior Maddie Simon has played outstanding basketball in Big Ten action. The 6-2 forward has matched sophomore guard Hannah Whitish for the team scoring lead in conference play with 14.0 points per game. Simon has added 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals in league play while shooting 53.1 percent. Last season, Simon averaged 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds in Big Ten play.

• Whitish, who leads Nebraska with 5.4 assists per game, joins Simon and true freshmen Taylor Kissinger (12.9 ppg) and Kate Cain (10.9 ppg) by averaging double figures on the season.

• Cain is a four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and has set Nebraska’s freshman season blocked shot record with 59. She leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally with 3.7 blocks per game.

• Kissinger, who missed Nebraska’s final six non-conference games with a knee injury, would rank third among Big Ten freshmen in scoring but does not meet the 75 percent playing requirement. Kissinger (28 3FG made) is one of only four Big Ten freshmen with more than 20 threes, even though she missed six games. Her 2.8 threes per game trail only Minnesota’s Destiny Pitts among Big Ten freshmen.

Probable Starters

Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 11.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 10.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 13.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - F - 6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg

Illinois Fighting Illini (9-9, 0-4 Big Ten)
35 - Alex Wittinger - 6-1 - Jr. - F - 13.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
50 - Ali Andrews - 6-2 - So. - F - 8.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg
1 - Brandi Beasley - 5-7 - So. - G - 11.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg
5 - Cierra Rice - 5-9 - So. - G - 4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg
13 - Petra Holesinska - 5-9 - So. - G - 7.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Scouting the Illinois Fighting Illini

• Coach Nancy Fahey is in her first year leading the Fighting Illini but her 31st season as a head coach. Fahey, who came to Illinois from Washington University in St. Louis. Fahey has won 746 games as a head coach, including a 9-9 mark with Illinois this season.

• Illinois already has matched its season win total from a year ago when the Illini finished 9-22, including 3-13 in the Big Ten.

• Junior forward Alex Wittinger leads Illinois by averaging 13.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Wittinger also ranks third in the Big Ten with 45 blocked shots. Wittinger had 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals in the Illini’s 79-59 regular-season win over the Huskers in Champaign on Jan. 15, 2017.

• Wittinger, a three-year starter, is the lone junior in a starting five that features four sophomores, including returning starting point guard Brandi Beasley.

• Illinois is averaging 63.6 points per game, while allowing 70.3 points per contest. The Illini have a minus-0.4 team rebound margin and a minus-1.1 team turnover margin. The Illini are shooting just 39.1 percent from the field, including 30.8 percent from three-point range. Opponents are hitting 37.5 percent from three-point range against Illinois.

• Through games Jan. 7, Illinois had not played a game against a team ranked between 53 and 109 in the official NCAA RPI. Nebraska is No. 72 in the RPI. All nine of the Illini’s wins have come against teams 110 or worse in the RPI. Five of Illinois’ nine losses have come to top-25 RPI teams and two more losses have come to top-55 RPI squads (New Mexico-47, and Virginia Tech-52).

Husker Nuggets

• With her next block Kate Cain will move into a tie for sixth on Nebraska’s season block list with 60, tying Olympic bronze medalist Danielle Page (60, 2006-07). Four blocks would pull Cain into a tie for fifth on that list with Catherine Redmon (63, 2009-10). Cain has blocked at least five shots in four games this season, owns at least two blocks in 12 consecutive games and a has block in all 16 games this year.

• Kate Cain’s 3.7 blocks per game and 59 total blocks ranked No. 3 nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten through games Jan. 7. No Nebraska individual has ever averaged 2.0 blocks per game in a career, and only two Huskers (Danielle Page, 2.4 bpg, 2007-08; Catheryn Redmon, 2.5 bpg, 2010-11) have ever averaged 2.0 blocks per game in a single season.

• Nebraska freshman Taylor Kissinger has come off the bench for the Huskers in their first three Big Ten games. The 6-1 guard has averaged 10.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 18.7 minutes in Big Ten play, after averaging a team-best 14.0 points as a starter through seven games. She missed Nebraska’s final six non-conference contests with a knee injury.

• Junior Maddie Simon (+6.9 ppg) is one of the Big Ten’s most improved players in 2017-18. Simon, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 11.0 points per game after averaging 4.1 points through all 29 games a year ago. The last seven games, Simon is averaging 13.7 points with six double-figure scoring efforts. She had just five double-digit efforts in her first two seasons combined. In Big Ten play, Simon is averaging 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals.