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Nebraska WBB vs Maryland Preview

The Huskers host powerhouse Maryland tonight

NCAA Womens Basketball: Nebraska at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskers have never beaten Maryland in women’s basketball.

In 2018, Nebraska came really close in a 77-75 defeat in College Park, but when all was said and done, the Huskers lost three games to Maryland - two during the regular season and one in the Big Ten Tournament.

Both teams have seen an infusion of young talent, but the Terrapins haven’t missed a beat, currently ranked #9 or #4 (depending on which poll you read) while the Huskers seem to still be figuring out how to put it all together on the court.

The only loss suffered by Maryland this season was to defensive buzzsaw Rutgers. Rutgers is led by a hall of fame coach and is almost always successful at dragging its opponent into a muddy slog of a game. In the past couple seasons, Nebraska has been good at muddying things up for opponents, but this year’s squad is near the bottom of the conference defensively. Do the Huskers have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with a top 10 team? It seems like an uphill battle for Amy Williams’ squad, but they certainly have a puncher’s chance to pull off the upset.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-7, 2-1 Big Ten) vs. 9/4 Maryland Terrapins (13-1, 2-1 Big Ten)
Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 7 p.m. (CT)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) - Lincoln, Nebraska
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, Huskers App, TuneIn

The Huskers enter Tuesday’s game looking to rebound from a hard-fought 77-71 loss at No. 19 Iowa last Thursday in Iowa City. Freshman Leigha Brown led the Huskers in scoring for the second straight game by putting up a career-high 20 points off the bench for the Big Red. The reigning B1G Freshman of the Week is averaging 10.4 points per game for an extremely balanced Nebraska offense.

However, Brown is not the top freshman scorer for the Huskers on the season. That honor belongs to Sam Haiby. The 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., is averaging a team-best 10.7 points per game off the bench. She is averaging 9.7 points per game in Big Ten play to rank sixth among Big Ten freshmen in league play.

Tuesday’s game will feature five of the Big Ten’s top-11 scoring freshmen overall on the season, including Maryland’s Taylor Mikesell (1st, 14.7 ppg) and Shakira Austin (8th, 9.0 ppg), along with Nebraska’s Sam Haiby (6th, 10.7 ppg), Leigha Brown (7th, 10.4 ppg) and Ashtyn Veerbeek (11th, 8.0 ppg). Maryland’s Austin (1st, 11.1 rpg) and Nebraska’s Veerbeek (4th, 6.5 rpg) are among the Big Ten’s top freshman rebounders and both currently lead their teams on the glass.

Nebraska features one of the Big Ten’s most balanced lineups with eight players averaging 7.8 or more points per game and nine active players averaging double-figure minutes. Returning Nebraska starters Maddie Simon, Nicea Eliely and Hannah Whitish are all averaging 8.6 points per game.

Tuesday’s game will also showcase two of the Big Ten’s most accurate and active three-point shooters in NU’s Taylor Kissinger (1st, .477, 31-65) and Maryland’s Taylor Mikesell (3rd, .413, 43-104). Mikesell leads the Big Ten in threes per game (3.0), while Kissinger ranks fourth (2.2 pg).

Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-7, 2-1 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 8.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - So. - C - 7.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 8.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Jr. - G - 8.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - So. - G - 9.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Off the Bench
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 10.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg
32 - Leigha Brown - 6-1 - Fr. - F - 10.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg
13 - Ashtyn Veerbeek - 6-2 - Fr. - F - 8.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg
44 - Kayla Mershon - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 2.4 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 (35-40); 12th Season Overall (228-149)

No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (13-1, 2-1 Big Ten)
24 - Stephanie Jones - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 13.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg
1 - Shakira Austin - 6-5 - Fr. - F - 9.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg
5 - Kaila Charles - 6-1 - Jr. - G/F - 16.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg
11 - Taylor Mikesell - 5-11 - Fr. - G - 14.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
22 - Blair Watson - 6-0 - Jr. - G - 8.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg

Off the Bench
34 - Brianna Fraser - 6-3 - Sr. - G - 8.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg
3 - Channise Lewis - 5-8 - So. - G - 3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg
32 - Sara Vujacic - 5-11 - Jr. - G - 2.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg
35 - Olivia Owens - 6-4 - Fr. - C - 1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg
21 - Sarah Myers - 6-0 - Jr. - G - 1.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg

Head Coach: Brenda Frese (Arizona, 1993) 17th Season at Maryland (442-120); 20th Season Overall (499-150)

Scouting the Maryland Terrapins

Maryland is led by unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection Kaila Charles, who is averaging a team-best 16.8 points per game, including 20.7 points in Big Ten play. The Terps have featured a seven-player rotation early in conference play.

In her 17 seasons at Maryland, Frese has led the Terps to the 2006 NCAA title, three NCAA Final Four appearances and 14 NCAA Tournament bids. Last year, Maryland finished 26-8 overall and 12-4 in the Big Ten to finish second in the conference. The Terps lost in the NCAA second round.

Maryland’s starting five features three experienced juniors in Kaila Charles (16.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Stephanie Jones (13.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Blair Watson (8.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg). Charles and Watson were both McDonald’s High School All-Americans in 2016 and ranked among the top-30 players in the nation. Jones was ranked No. 35 in the country by All-Star Girls Report and No. 51 by ESPN.

Charles, who has scored in double figures in all but one game also has a pair of double-doubles this season. She is averaging 20.7 points in Big Ten play. Charles earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season after averaging 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Watson, a 6-0 guard out of New Jersey, has produced double figures four times this season after returning from a knee injury that ended her sophomore season for Maryland after starting the first 17 games. Watson averaged 13.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals in 2017-18.

Jones, whose sister Brionna also starred at Maryland (2014-17), is in her second season in the Terp starting five. Last season, she averaged 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds. The 6-2 forward from Havre de Grace, Md., owns a pair of double-doubles this season and has scored in double figures 11 times.

The Terps also showcase a pair of impact freshman starters in guard Taylor Mikesell (14.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and 6-5 forward Shakira Austin (9.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg). Austin was a McDonald’s and WBCA All-American who was ranked as the No. 3 overall player in the nation coming out of high school at Riverdale Baptist - the same school as Kaila Charles. Mikesell was an honorable-mention WBCA All-American in high school and ranked as the No. 32 overall player in the country by ESPN. Austin is a four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

Mikesell, a 5-11 guard, has proven herself as one of the Big Ten’s best shooters by knocking down 43-of-104 threes (.413) early in the season. She has added 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

While all five Maryland starters ranked among the top 35 players in the nation coming out of their respective high school senior classes, the Terps feature even more explosive talent off the bench. Maryland’s lone senior - Brianna Fraser - came out of high school as the No. 12 player in the nation by All-Star Girls Report and No. 15 by ESPN. She is averaging 8.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in just 17.5 minutes per game off the bench. She averaged 10.2 points and 5.8 boards off the bench a year ago and has played in 113 games for the Terps with just three starts in her career.

Channise Lewis, a 5-8 sophomore who started 32 games at point guard last year and added 10 starts ahead of Mikesell early this season, was ranked as the No. 55 player in the nation by ESPN coming out of Miami Country Day High School. She is averaging 3.1 points and a team-best 5.1 assists this season.

As a team, Maryland is averaging 77.0 points per game while allowing just 55.4 points per contest. The Terps own a plus-14.5 team rebound margin, but a minus-0.4 turnover margin. Maryland is shooting 46.4 percent from the field, including an impressive 35.6 percent from three-point range and 71.8 percent at the free throw line.

Keys to the Game

The Huskers are going to need to take care of the ball and to score points in transition when they turn Maryland over. The stingy Terrapin defense is likely to cause some fits for the Huskers. The good news in that is that Nebraska is a very balanced team on offense, with anyone capable of stepping up and shouldering the load. Maryland won’t be able to key in on anyone in particular and expect to shut the Huskers down.