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Nebraska WBB: NCAA Tourney Preview vs Arizona State

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The 10 seed Husker women’s basketball team takes on the 7 seed Sun Devils on Saturday

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Maryland vs Nebraska Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

(10) Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-10, 11-5 Big Ten) vs. (7) Arizona State Sun Devils (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12)
Saturday, March 17, 2:30 p.m.
Erwin Center (Austin, Texas)
Television: ESPN2/Watch ESPN (Pam Ward, Gail Goestenkors)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (2 p.m.) Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln - B107.3 FM; Omaha - ESPN 590 AM
Free Live Audio: Huskers.com/Huskers & TuneIn Apps
Austin First & Second Round Central
NCAA Interactive Bracket

The Nebraska women’s basketball team earned its 14th NCAA Tournament bid in school history and its first under second-year head coach Amy Williams. Nebraska, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015, earned its fifth bid in the past seven years. The Huskers will be playing their first postseason game against the Sun Devils, but Nebraska owns a 4-3 record against ASU in the all-time series.

Big Ten Coach of the Year Amy Williams and her staff led the nation’s top turnaround in 2017-18. The Huskers are 14 victories better in the win column than last season’s 7-22 squad, including eight wins better in the Big Ten (3-13). Nebraska earned the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the Big Ten semifinals this season, after tying for last and losing in the 2017 Big Ten first round. Williams, who was the Summit League Coach of the Year in both 2015 and 2016 at South Dakota, is one of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach-of-the-Year award.

Sophomore Hannah Whitish earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. The 5-9 point guard from Barneveld, Wis., is the only Husker to start all 31 games this year.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-10 11-5 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 12.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - G - 6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Arizona State Sun Devils (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12)
42 - Kianna Ibis - 6-1 - Jr. - F - 12.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg
33 - Charnea Johnson-Chapman - 6-3 - Jr. - C - 6.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg
1 - Reilli Richardson - 5-11 - So. - G - 5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
11 - Robbi Ryan - 5-9 - So. - G - 10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg
22 - Courtney Ekmark - 6-0 - Jr. - F/G - 10.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Scouting No. 7 Seed Arizona State

Charlie Turner Thorne leads Arizona State into its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament and 13th in her 21 seasons as the head coach of the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils, who have made a pair of NCAA Elite Eight appearances, have advanced to the postseason in 18 of the last 19 seasons.

This season’s set of Sun Devils climbed into the top 25 in January with a six-game winning streak that included back-to-back Pac-12 wins over California (80-71, Jan. 5) and Turner Thorne’s alma mater, Stanford (73-66, Jan. 7). However, ASU dropped six of its next 10 Pac-12 games to slip to 17-9 and 8-6 in the conference heading into Valentine’s Day. The Sun Devils went 4-4 to close the year with three lopsided wins over Arizona and a solid win over NCAA Tournament-bound Oregon State (57-51, March 2) at the Pac-12 Tournament. ASU closed the conference tournament with a loss to Stanford (58-46, March 3).

Overall, Arizona State went 5-10 against the 2018 NCAA Tournament field including a 76-57 win over Buffalo in Tempe on Dec. 2. Nebraska suffered an 82-72 loss to the Bulls in Daytona Beach, Fla., Nov. 23.

ASU’s only other common opponents with Nebraska this season were Arkansas and Washington State. The Huskers defeated the Razorbacks 80-69 in Lincoln on Nov. 16, while the Sun Devils smashed Arkansas 89-43 in Tempe on Dec. 21. One day later, Nebraska dropped a 73-61 decision to Washington State in Lincoln, while ASU crushed the Cougars 77-51 in Tempe on Feb. 4.

Arizona State is led on the court by Nebraska native Kianna Ibis. The 6-1 junior forward out of Omaha Benson High School averages 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. She is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and 41 percent (16-39) from three-point range while knocking down 76.9 percent of her free throws. She is also one of five Sun Devils with more than 30 steals on the year. She increased her production to 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in Pac-12 play, while hitting 44.4 percent (12-27) of her threes. Ibis is one of four active juniors on a young Arizona State roster that does not include a senior.

Junior Courtney Ekmark, a 6-0 wing who transferred to ASU after starting her career at UConn, averages 10.0 points and 4.5 rebounds while leading the Sun Devils with 58 threes (.387) on the year. She is also tied for the team lead with 37 steals. Ekmark upped her production to 10.8 points and 4.7 boards in the Pac-12, while hitting 41.4 percent (36-87) of her threes.

Sophomore Robbi Ryan has pitched in 10.0 points and 3.8 rebounds, including 10.9 points and 4.0 boards in Pac-12 action, while 6-3 junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman has contributed 6.9 points and a team-leading 6.5 rebounds per game, but just 5.7 points and 6.4 boards in conference play.

Reilli Richardson, a 5-11 sophomore guard, has added 5.6 points per game and a team-leading 4.8 assists per game. Richardson is shooting just 31.8 percent from the field, including just 23.4 percent from three-point range. She was just 9-for-42 (.214) from beyond the arc in Pac-12 play.

Like Nebraska, Arizona State features a balanced offense and a stingy defense. The Sun Devils have averaged 67.8 while surrendering just 56.8 points per game. Against NCAA Tournament teams, ASU has managed just 59.7 while allowing 63 points per contest.

Arizona State is shooting 44.4 percent from the field, including 33.5 percent (4.8 threes per game), while hitting 71 percent of its free throws. The Sun Devils have allowed opponents to hit 41.5 percent from the field, but have shut down foes from three-point range (.299, 4.8 per game).

ASU has dominated the possession game. The Sun Devils own a plus-6.8 team rebounding margin and a plus-3.2 team turnover margin. They have committed just 11.8 turnovers per game while allowing just 8.2 offensive rebounds per contest.

Nebraska vs. Arizona State Series History

Nebraska leads the all-time series with Arizona State 4-3, including a 62-58 win in the last meeting at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln on Dec. 28, 2008.