Nebraska Cornhuskers at Northwestern Wildcats
Sunday, Jan. 7, 2 p.m. (CT)
Evanston Township High School (Evanston, Illinois)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-5, 1-1 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 11.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 11.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 13.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - F - 7.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Off the Bench
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - Fr. - G - 12.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg
12 - Emily Wood - 5-5 - Sr. - G - 6.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg
15 - Bria Stallworth - 5-6 - So. - G - 4.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - So. - F - 3.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg
13 - Janay Morton - 5-10 - Sr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 0.9 rpg
43 - Rachel Blackburn - 6-3 - So. - F - 1.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
50 - Darrien Washington - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 1.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998).Second Season at Nebraska (17-27). 11th Season Overall (210-136)
Northwestern Wildcats (8-9, 1-2 Big Ten)
4 - Bryana Hopkins - 6-2 - So. - F - 3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg
14 - Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 10.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg
44 - Abi Scheid - 6-3 - So. - F/C - 12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg
10 - Lindsey Pulliam - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 14.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg
24 - Jordan Hamilton - 5-8 - Fr. - G - 6.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Off the Bench
12 - Lydia Rohde - 5-10 - Sr. - G - 6.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg
22 - Byrdy Galernik - 5-8 - So. - G - 4.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
34 - Oceana Hamilton - 6-4 - Sr. - C - 4.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg
21 - Abbie Wolf - 6-4 - So. - F/C - 1.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg
11 - Brooke Pikiell - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 0.3 ppg, 0.6 rpg
Head Coach: Joe McKeown (Kent State, 1979)
Nebraska enjoyed the mid-week off after working its way to an impressive 79-74 road win at Minnesota on New Year’s Eve. The Huskers trailed by eight points late in the third quarter and were down by one with 30 seconds left before rallying for their fifth consecutive road win. The Big Red also handed the Golden Gophers their first home loss of the season at Williams Arena.
The Huskers, who have produced three more wins (10) than last season (7), provided another example of their drastically improved defense. Nebraska held the nation’s No. 9 scoring offense 20 points below its home scoring average (94.2 ppg), including just 33 points in the second half. That effort came just three days after holding the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense (Ohio State) 19 points below its season average.
This season includes a balanced Big Red offense that features four players averaging in double figures, including freshman center Kate Cain (11.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.6 bpg) and freshman guard Taylor Kissinger (12.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg).
Cain is a four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and will set Nebraska’s freshman season blocked shot record with her next block. She enters the Northwestern game with 54 rejections, matching career school record holder Janet Smith’s freshman total from 1978-79.
Scouting the Northwestern Wildcats
• Coach Joe McKeown brings a new look Northwestern team into Sunday’s game with the Huskers. The Wildcats were hit harder by graduation than any other team in the Big Ten this season, losing four-year starters Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary and Christen Inman, along with Lauren Douglas.
• All four of those Wildcats were 1,000-point career scorers and combined for 6,021 points, led by Coffey who was a four-time first-team All-Big Ten choice who finished second in school history with 2,287 points. Coffey also closed as the school’s top rebounder (1,183) and shot blocker (229).
• Northwestern opened Big Ten play with a 90-63 loss to Minnesota in Evanston (Dec. 28), before bouncing back for a 74-59 road win at in-state rival Illinois (Dec. 31). The Wildcats suffered an 81-51 loss at Michigan State in East Lansing on Wednesday night.
• Freshman Lindsey Pulliam has stepped in immediately to help the Wildcats. The 5-10 guard from Silver Spring, Md., is averaging a team-high 14.5 points while adding 4.1 rebounds per contest.
• Another freshman, 5-8 guard Jordan Hamilton, has started 14 games and is averaging 6.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, a team-best 5.1 assists and a team-best 20 blocked shots. Hamilton missed Northwestern’s final three non-conference games with a lower body injury suffered in a loss to DePaul (Dec. 13).
• Sophomore Abi Scheid, a 6-2 forward, has stepped into a leadership role for the Wildcats, averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while playing a team-high 33.5 minutes per game.
• Fellow sophomore Bryana Hopkins (3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg) has started all three of Northwestern’s Big Ten games, while 6-2 junior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah has provided an outstanding athletic presence by averaging a double-double with 10.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and a team-best 22 steals.
• Senior guard Lydia Rohde has provided consistency and outside shooting, averaging 6.5 points per game while hitting 39.3 percent (24-61) of her threes. Rohde missed Northwestern’s first two Big Ten games with an upper body injury, but returned off the bench at Michigan State.
• Senior center Oceana Hamilton (4.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg) has played in all 17 games to provide post depth, while sophomore 6-4 sophomore Abbie Wolf and freshman guard Brooke Pikiell round out the Wildcat contributors.
• As a team, Northwestern is averaging 62.7 points per game while shooting 43.8 percent of its shots from the field, including 36.5 percent (73-200) of its three-pointers. The Cats also have hit 72.2 percent of their free throws. They own a plus-3.0 rebound margin, but a minus-3.5 turnover margin, while holding opponents to 63.4 points per game.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern Series History
• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 8-6, but the Wildcats won the last meeting between the two teams 62-58 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln on Dec. 28, 2016.
If Nebraska continues to play the outstanding defense they have shown in the first two Big Ten games, they should come away with a win. Even though Northwestern is a young team (in the same spot Nebraska was last season), no one can be overlooked in the Big Ten. If this game stays close and competitive, the Huskers have shown repeatedly this season that they can keep their cool and scrap their way to a win. If Hannah Whitish is “on”, I expect a comfortable win. If not, it will be more of a battle, but one I expect the Huskers to begin to assert their will in the third quarter and be the superior team in the fourth.
Huskers 72 Northwestern 60