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Nebraska WBB Wins Big vs Sacred Heart 72-49

Suffocating defense helped the Huskers get off to an early lead and they never looked back

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 31 Women’s Nebraska at Ohio State Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first quarter and a half, Sacred Heart could only manage one field goal as the Huskers jumped out to a 29-9 lead early. This comes a day after the Husker defense held USC to zero field goals in the fourth quarter of the previous game.

That is 25 minutes of basketball and one field goal allowed for those of you keeping score at home.

The Husker women absolutely stonewalled Sacred Heart early on their way to a 72-49 win in Las Vegas. Nebraska is now 7-1 on the season and has three more non-conference games (Duke, Oral Roberts, and Manhattan) left before starting Big Ten play.

Nebraska’s scoring this season has largely been powered by the super group of sophomores on the team, but last night it was the upperclassmen who stepped up and delivered. Senior point guard Hannah Whitish scored 15 points (five three-pointers) to go along with four assists and three steals. Junior Taylor Kissinger added 11 points, including a pair of threes. Junior Kate Cain added eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal in a strong all-around effort, while senior Nicea Eliely pitched in eight points, five boards, a season-high five assists, two steals and a block of her own.

Every Husker who was available scored points, including freshman Makenzie Helms who broke into the scoring column for the first time in her Husker career. Helms has been sitting out most of the season, presumably due to the injury that required offseason surgery and kept her from participating in much of the summer and fall activities. Freshman Trinity Brady continues to sit out while in the concussion protocol.

The third freshman in this year’s group of newcomers, Isabelle Bourne, has already become a significant part of the post rotation and has shown a level of polish not usually seen in freshmen. Her international playing experience has really shown through and allowed her to not only score and rebound when needed, but make really smart plays that do not show up in the stat column.

As a team, Nebraska hit 45.5 percent (25-55) of its shots from the field, including 7-of-23 three-pointers (.304). The Huskers also knocked down 15-of-20 free throws (.750). NU outworked Sacred Heart on the glass, 38-25, and won the turnover battle, 20-16.

Defensively, the Huskers held their sixth opponent to fewer than 55 points in eight games to open the season. For the contest, Sacred Heart hit just 31.8 percent (14-44) of its shots from the field, including 7-of-27 threes (.259). Nebraska limited the Pioneers to just 1-for-12 three-point shooting in the first half to help build a 36-18 halftime lead. SHU did hit 14-of-23 free throws (.609) scoring seven of its first nine points in the game at the free throw line.

Amy Williams even did some experimenting with different lineups including a “big” group with three wings (Eliely, Kissinger and Brown), a forward and center on the floor (no point guards). Everyone on the floor for the Huskers was over six feet tall. She also experimented with a “small” lineup in which three points guards (Whitish, Haiby and Helms) were on the floor with two posts. Whitish and Helms are true point guards while Haiby normally plays more at the two. Her ball handling ability and late shot clock smarts led to the coaching staff working with her more at point during the offseason and she has taken to it like a duck to water.

I don’t think we will see either lineup for significant stretches anytime this season, but both were intriguing and could show up for a set play or an end-of-quarter situation.

Nebraska returns home to play host to Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday. Tip-off between the Huskers and Blue Devils at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 6 p.m. It will be televised on the Big Ten Network.