Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-6, 7-2 Big Ten) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (9-14, 0-9 Big Ten)Thursday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m. (CT)
Huskers Fight for Season Sweep of Illini
The Nebraska women’s basketball team shoots for its second sweep of a Big Ten season series (the first was against Iowa) tonight. The Huskers defeated Illinois, 80-72, at the State Farm Center in Champaign on Jan. 10. Hannah Whitish led Nebraska with 20 points on a career-high six three-pointers, as the Huskers hit a season-high 12 threes against the Illini.
Nebraska entered the week at No. 47 in the official NCAA RPI, its first top-50 appearance of the year. The Huskers are a perfect 8-0 in true road games this season including 5-0 in the Big Ten and are coming off their most impressive performance of the season in a 92-74 victory at Iowa on Sunday.
Nebraska is one of only six NCAA Division I teams in the nation that is unbeaten in true road games this year joining Mercer (11-0), UConn (9-0), Louisville (9-0), Georgia (8-0), Mississippi State (5-0). Nebraska is one of only two teams nationally (through games Jan. 28) that owns a plus-nine or better improvement in the win column over 2016-17. The team that has shown the most improvement is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are plus-11 in the win column at 17-6 (6-24, 2016-17).
Compared to last season, Nebraska is 8.4 points per game better offensively (71.2-62.8 ppg) and 12.5 points per game better defensively (63.8-76.3 ppg).
Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-6, 7-2 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 11.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 13.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - F - 7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Illinois Fighting Illini (9-14, 0-9 Big Ten)
35 - Alex Wittinger - 6-1 - Jr. - F - 14.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg
50 - Ali Andrews - 6-2 - So. - F - 7.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
1 - Brandi Beasley - 5-7 - So. - G - 12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg
5 - Cierra Rice - 5-9 - So. - G - 5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
30 - Courtney Joens - 5-10 - So. - G - 3.8 ppg, 1.9 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, has won 746 games as a head coach, including a 9-14 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, but Illinois is still looking for its first Big Ten win this season.
• Junior forward Alex Wittinger leads Illinois by averaging 14.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Wittinger also ranks third in the Big Ten with 64 blocked shots. Wittinger had 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in Nebraska’s 80-72 win over Illinois in Champaign on Jan. 10. She produced a triple-double at Penn State (Jan. 23) with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks in a loss.
• Point guard Brandi Beasley, a 5-7 sophomore is averaging 12.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and team highs of 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Beasley had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists in the first meeting this season in Champaign. It was her second double-double against the Huskers in her career, joining 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the Illini’s 2017 regular-season win over the Big Red in Champiaign on Jan. 15, 2017.
• Sophomore forward Ali Andrews has added 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Last season, the 6-2 Andrews scored a game-high 24 points while hitting 6-of-10 threes in the Illini’s Big Ten Tournament win over Nebraska. Andrews managed 13 points on 3-of-6 three-point shooting against Nebraska in the first meeting this season. She leads the Illini with 29 threes (.392) this season.
• Sophomore guard Cierra Rice has made eight Big Ten starts, averaging 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in conference play. She had five points and three rebounds in 18 minutes in this season’s first meeting with Nebraska. Rice came off the bench in non-conference play behind junior guard Jaelyne Kirkpatrick, but Kirkpatrick was injured at the start of Big Ten play
• Kirkpatrick, a 5-7 junior guard, has averaged 2.0 points in 12.7 minutes per game since returning to action three games ago for the Illini.
• Courtney Joens (3.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg) has assumed a part-time starting role for Illinois in Big Ten play, averaging 5.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in league play as primarily a three-point specialist. Joens came off the bench to score 13 points on 3-of-5 three-point shooting in the first meeting this season with NU.
• Sophomore Petra Holesinska, a 5-9 guard from the Czech Republic, led the Illini with 19 points in last year’s regular-season win over the Huskers. Holesinska hit a pair of threes while going 7-for-11 from the field. She added six rebounds and three assists. She was even better in the Big Ten Tournament, scoring 21 points, including 9-of-12 free throws, while adding four assists. In this season’s first meeting, Holesinska scored just two points and did not hit a field goal. She is averaging 5.7 points and 3.4 rebounds this season in Big Ten play after getting 18 points off the bench in a loss to Wisconsin (Jan. 28).
• Fifth-year senior Kennedy Cattenhead was also a regular starter in non-conference play for the Illini. She has averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds, but the 5-10 guard has a turnover-to-assist ratio of 2.7-to-1 (30-11) on the season. She had four points in six minutes in the first meeting with Nebraska this season.
• Alli Ball (2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg) and Jnaya Walker (1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg) have also been regular contributors in the Illini playing rotation.
• Illinois is averaging just 57.9 points per game in the Big Ten, while allowing a whopping 78.3 points per contest. The Illini have a minus-8.0 team rebound margin and a minus-4.1 team turnover margin in conference play, while shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, including 31.5 percent from three-point range. Big Ten opponents are hitting 43.3 percent from three-point range against Illinois.