Last season, the Nebraska women broke a losing streak (I believe it was around five games) when they swept the Hawkeyes, including an impressive demolition on Iowa’s home court in which the Huskers led by 36 points in the third quarter before cruising to a 92-74 win.
This season, Iowa is bound to be looking for revenge and has the tools take advantage of a young Husker squad still trying to find its identity. The Huskers have opened Big Ten play with an impressive 2-0 record while Iowa currently sits at 0-1 after a loss to Michigan State. Forget that for a moment - the Hawkeyes are ranked #19 in the nation behind All-American Megan Gustafson who returned for her senior season at Iowa and is averaging nearly 27 points per game. The Hawkeyes also have an all-conference point guard in Kathleen Doyle (who was originally committed to Nebraska until Connie Yori resigned).
Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-6, 2-0 Big Ten) at 19/20 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3, 0-1 Big Ten)
Thursday, January 3, 2019, 7 p.m. (CT)
Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,400) - Iowa City, Iowa
Live Video: BTN Plus
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (6:45 p.m.); Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln-B107.3 FM; Omaha-ESPN 590 AM; Lexington-KRVN 880 AM
Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn
Nebraska is coming off its first road win of the season, a 78-69 come-from-behind win at defending Big Ten champion Ohio State on New Year’s Eve. Junior Nicea Eliely led Nebraska’s second straight fourth-quarter comeback by scoring 10 of her 14 points in the final period, as the Huskers outscored the Buckeyes 27-16 in the fourth. The 6-1 wing from Colorado Springs, Colo., is averaging 14.0 points in Big Ten play, including 12.0 points in the fourth quarter in Nebraska’s two Big Ten wins.
Freshman Leigha Brown kept the Huskers within striking distance of the Buckeyes by scoring a career-high 19 points through the first three quarters. Through two Big Ten games, Brown is averaging a team-best 15.0 points in just 18.5 minutes per game off the bench.
Nebraska’s only active senior, Maddie Simon is averaging 13.0 points in just 20.0 minutes in two Big Ten games. The 6-2 forward out of Lincoln Pius X High School has hit 11-of-18 shots (.611) in conference play.
Freshman Sam Haiby has averaged 10.0 points per game off the bench in Nebraska’s two Big Ten wins. The 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., is NU’s leading scorer overall at 10.8 points per game.
Overall, Nebraska’s top two scorers on the season are both freshmen reserves, as Sam Haiby (10.8 ppg) and Leigha Brown (9.6 ppg) help give the Huskers eight players averaging better than 8.0 points per game. A third freshman off the bench, Ashtyn Veerbeek has contributed 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Veerbeek, a 6-2 forward from Sioux Center, Iowa, ranks second on the team in rebounding and blocked shots.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-6, 2-0 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 8.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - So. - C - 8.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 8.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Jr. - G - 8.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - So. - G - 9.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Off the Bench
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 10.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg
32 - Leigha Brown - 6-1 - Fr. - F - 9.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg
13 - Ashtyn Veerbeek - 6-2 - Fr. - F - 8.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg
44 - Kayla Mershon - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 2.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 1.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg
11(out) - Kristian Hudson - 5-5 - Sr. - G - 2.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998) Third Season at Nebraska (35-39); 12th Season Overall (228-148)
No. 19/20 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3, 0-1 Big Ten)
21 - Hannah Stewart - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg
10 - Megan Gustafson - 6-3 - Sr. - F - 26.8 ppg, 12.6 rpg
3 - Mackenzie Meyer - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 10.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg
11 - Tania Davis - 5-3 - Sr. - G - 11.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg
22 - Kathleen Doyle - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 12.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Off the Bench
5 - Alexis Sevillian - 5-5 - So. - G - 7.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg
43 - Amanda Ollinger - 6-1 - Jr. - F - 3.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg
25 - Monika Czinano - 6-3 - Fr. - F/C - 3.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg
24 - Zion Sanders - 5-8 - So. - G - 2.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg
1 - Tomi Taiwo - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg
23 - Logan Cook - 6-1 - Fr. - F - 1.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg
31 - Paula Valino Ramos - 6-3 - So. - F/C - 0.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Head Coach: Lisa Bluder (Northern Iowa, 1983) 19th Season at Iowa (376-213); 35th Season Overall (732-355)
Scouting the Iowa Hawkeyes
Lisa Bluder brings an explosive and experienced Iowa team into Thursday’s meeting with Nebraska. The 9-3 Hawkeyes are averaging 83.6 points per game with all five starters averaging in double figures, led by All-American and 2019 Preseason Big Ten Player-of-the-Year Megan Gustafson.
Gustafson, a 6-3 senior forward, is averaging 26.8 points and 12.6 rebounds in 32 minutes per contest while shooting a remarkable 72.9 percent from the field and 79.2 percent at the free throw line. She has won six of the eight Big Ten Player-of-the-Week awards this season, most recently on Christmas Eve after exploding for 44 points and 14 rebounds in a 91-82 win at Drake (Dec. 21).
Fellow senior forward Hannah Stewart is enjoying her best season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field and 79.2 percent at the line in her first year as a starter. Stewart and Gustafson have not attempted a three-pointer this season.
Senior guard Tania Davis has had each of the last two seasons cut short by injuries. She has returned this year to average 11.2 points and 4.6 assists through 12 games. The 5-3 Davis is shooting 37.7 percent from three-point range and 87.5 percent from the free throw line.
Junior guards Kathleen Doyle and Mackenzie Meyer round out one of the Big Ten’s most experienced starting fives. Doyle, who recently returned from a broken left hand, has averaged 12.2 points and 4.6 assists over the last five games after missing the first seven games of the year with the injury. Meyer has pitched in 10.6 points and a team-leading 4.8 assists per game, while leading the Hawkeyes with 23 three-pointers (.324). Meyer is also a perfect 18-for-18 at the free throw line.
Sophomore guard Alexis Sevillian gives Iowa a sixth experienced starter. In her first two seasons on the court, Sevillian has made 32 starts and is averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 assists this season.
In addition to averaging 83.6 points per game, the Hawkeyes are shooting a blistering 51.8 percent from the field, 34.2 percent from three-point range and 79.6 percent at the free throw line. Iowa also carries a plus-7.0 rebound margin and averages a whopping 22.1 assists per game. The Hawkeyes do own a minus-1.1 turnover margin, but eight Hawkeyes carry positive assist-to-turnover ratios.
On the defensive side, Iowa is surrendering 71.2 points per game with opponents shooting better than 40 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three-point range.
What To Expect
Given that these teams are two of the top three in the Big Ten in scoring and both are in the bottom three in scoring defense, expect a lot of points. The Huskers are a good offensive rebounding team, but so-so in defensive rebounding. Given that Iowa doesn’t miss very many shots when they’re on offense, that may not hurt the Huskers as much as against other teams.
The Huskers have shown some signs of improvement on defense, but I don’t think this team will approach the lockdown levels of Amy Williams’ first two squads. This team is going to have to score consistently and force some turnovers to keep pace with Iowa.
I’m expecting the Huskers to come away with their first conference loss, but anything can happen if the pieces continue to click into place.