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Nebraska WBB vs Maryland Preview

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The Husker women have never beaten the Terrapins. Do I see that changing anytime soon?

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

Leigha Brown got robbed. She didn’t get named freshman of the week by the Big Ten.

OK, maybe not robbed. She had one great game and one meh game for the week. She did get named to the “honor roll” for player of the week - basically the three or so players that were considered, but not selected, for that honor.

Regardless, the Huskers are going to need a big night from someone, and probably a couple someones if they hope to topple the #7 Terrapins. Whether it be Brown, Whitish, Haiby or one of the sophomores (Kissinger and Cain) knocking them down, the Huskers will have to score a lot of points to stay in this one. I don’t see the “W” happening, but I would gladly eat those words.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at 7/8 Maryland Terrapins
Thursday, February 14, 2019, 7 p.m. (CT)
Xfinity Center (17,950) - College Park, Maryland
Live TV: BTN (Lisa Byington, Christy Winters Scott)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (6:45 p.m.) Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln-B107.3 FM; Omaha-ESPN 590 AM
Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn

In the first meeting with the Terrapins this season, no Husker managed double figures in points, as juniors Hannah Whitish and Nicea Eliely led the Big Red with nine each. Sophomore Kate Cain added five points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots and two assists as all 10 Huskers scored.

Nebraska’s bench outscored Maryland’s reserves 28-14 in the first meeting, including eight points apiece for Sam Haiby and Kayla Mershon, while Ashtyn Veerbeek added six points and Leigha Brown pitched in four points and five boards. Mershon has since been inserted in the starting lineup - and it may be no coincidence that the Husker defense started to improve. Mershon doesn’t fill up any stats columns, but she is the most polished defender of the freshman four and that seems to be the ticket to playing time with Amy Williams.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-13, 6-7 Big Ten)
44 - Kayla Mershon - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 2.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - So. - C - 7.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 9.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Jr. - G - 7.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - So. - G - 9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg

Off the Bench
32 - Leigha Brown - 6-1 - Fr. - F - 10.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 9.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
13 - Ashtyn Veerbeek - 6-2 - Fr. - F - 7.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 1.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg
11(out) - Kristian Hudson 5-5 Sr. G 2.4 1.6

Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998) Third Season at Nebraska (39-46); 12th Season Overall (232-155)

7/8 Maryland Terrapins (22-2, 11-2 Big Ten)
24 - Stephanie Jones - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 12.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg
1 - Shakira Austin - 6-5 - Fr. - F - 8.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg
5 - Kaila Charles - 6-1 - Jr. - G/F - 16.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg
11 - Taylor Mikesell - 5-11 - Fr. - G - 14.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg
22 - Blair Watson - 6-0 - Jr. - G - 8.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Off the Bench
34 - Brianna Fraser - 6-3 - Sr. - G - 7.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg
3 - Channise Lewis - 5-8 - So. - G - 3.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
32 - Sara Vujacic - 5-11 - Jr. - G - 3.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg
35 - Olivia Owens - 6-4 - Fr. - C - 1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg
21 - Sarah Myers - 6-0 - Jr. - G - 1.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Head Coach: Brenda Frese (Arizona, 1993) 17th Season at Maryland (451-121); 20th Season Overall (508-151)

Scouting the Maryland Terrapins

Coach Brenda Frese has Maryland contending for a Big Ten title while trying to make a push for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as the Terrapins approach mid-February. The Terrapins are No. 7 in this week’s AP Poll with a 22-2 record that includes an 11-2 conference mark to lead the Big Ten.

Maryland has won seven straight games since a 77-60 loss at then-No. 17 Michigan State (Jan. 17). None of the Terps’ last seven opponents have stayed closer than 12 points.

Maryland’s starting five features three experienced juniors in Kaila Charles (16.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Stephanie Jones (12.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Blair Watson (8.1 ppg, 3.9 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 had 19 points in the first meeting at Nebraska, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last year after averaging 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore. The 6-1 wing out of Riverdale Baptist School in Maryland, is a Naismith and Wade Trophy candidate this season. She was a Big Ten All-Freshman choice and earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament team in 2016-17.

Watson, a 6-0 guard out of New Jersey, has produced double figures seven times including 12 points at Nebraska when she went 4-for-7 from three-point range. Watson has returned from a knee injury that ended her sophomore season after starting Maryland’s first 17 games. She 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. Stephanie is averaging 12.9 points and 6.0 rebounds. The 6-2 forward from Havre de Grace, Md., scored 12 points in this year’s first game at Nebraska.

The Terps showcase a pair of impact freshman starters in guard Taylor Mikesell (14.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and 6-5 forward Shakira Austin (8.6 ppg, 10.0 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 five-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week. She owns eight double-doubles, including three in Big Ten play since scoring seven points and grabbing 10 rebounds at Nebraska. Austin and Nebraska’s Kate Cain are tied for second in the Big Ten with 2.5 blocks per game. Austin is averaging 8.6 points and 10.0 rebounds on the year, including 6.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in the Big Ten.

Mikesell, a 5-11 guard, has proven herself as one of the Big Ten’s best shooters by knocking down 71-of-165 threes (.430). She has added 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Mikesell has hit at least one three in all 24 games for the Terps. She had 16 points and hit 4-of-7 threes in Lincoln.

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 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 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in just 17.5 minutes per game off the bench. She averaged 10.2 points and 5.8 boards last season. She is expected to play in the 125th game of her career on Thursday.

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 3.6 points and a team-best 5.1 assists this season.

As a team, Maryland is averaging 75.7 points while allowing 58 points per game. The Terps own a plus-10.7 rebound margin, but a minus-0.6 turnover margin. Maryland is shooting 47.3 percent from the field, including 37.4 percent from three-point range and 70.3 percent at the free throw line.

In the first meeting between Nebraska and Maryland, the Huskers out-rebounded the Terps 38-37, but Maryland hit 51.6 percent (32-62) of its field goals and 58.8 percent (10-17) of its threes. As noted previously, the Husker defense has improved a fair bit since that game, but Maryland is hot right now.

The Huskers played blow-for-blow with the Terps in their first meeting this season - through three quarters. Maryland put down the hammer in the fourth and rolled to a 18 point win. The Huskers will likely be looking to slow the game down and keep it as close as possible in hopes that they have one of their signature fourth quarter rallies in them. The Terrapins on the other hand, are likely looking to squash a Husker team that was pesky last time out and erase any thoughts of an upset victory by building a big early lead.

The Huskers have been too inconsistent to think we’ll see more than a quarter or two of competitive play against a top 10 team. But then again, young teams like Nebraska sometimes surprise.