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Nebraska WBB vs Michigan State Preview

The Huskers host the ranked Spartans on Sunday

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

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. 24/22 Michigan State Spartans
Sunday, February 17, 2019, 3 p.m. (CT)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) - Lincoln, Nebraska
Live TV: BTN (Mike Monaco, Brenda VanLengen)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (2:45 p.m.) Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln-B107.3 FM; Omaha-ESPN 590 AM
Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn

Sunday’s game with Michigan State will be Nebraska’s 10th meeting this year with a team that has been ranked in the top 25 at some point during the regular season. The Spartans, who were ranked as high as No. 15 in midseason, will give the Huskers their eighth game against a team ranked among the top 16 teams in the AP Poll at some point this year. NU’s lone win over a ranked foe this season came against No. 23 Minnesota (63-57, Jan. 20). The Golden Gophers were ranked as high as No. 12 in early January.

By the end of the regular season, at least 15 of Nebraska’s 29 games will have come against teams ranked in the top-26 of the national polls at some point during the year.

Although Nebraska is below .500 on the season, the Huskers have fought hard down to the wire, with a school-record 12 games decided by two possessions or less. Unfortunately, the Huskers are just 3-9 in games decided by six or fewer points, including 2-6 in Big Ten play. On the flip side, Michigan State has played just four two-possession game this season and is 2-2 in those games, with wins over Oregon and at Michigan, and losses to NC State and at Indiana.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-14, 6-8 Big Ten)
44 - Kayla Mershon - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 3.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - So. - C - 7.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 9.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Jr. - G - 8.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg

Off the Bench
32 - Leigha Brown - 6-1 - Fr. - F - 10.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 9.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg
13 - Ashtyn Veerbeek - 6-2 - Fr. - F - 7.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 6.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 1.2 ppg, 1.2 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 (39-47); 12th Season Overall (232-156)

24/22 Michigan State Spartans (17-7, 7-6 Big Ten)
10 - Sidney Cooks - 6-4 - So. - F - 9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg
33 - Jenna Allen - 6-4 - Sr. - C - 12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg
0 - Shay Colley - 5-9 - RJr. - G - 15.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg
4 - Taryn McCutcheon - 5-5 - Jr. - G - 10.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg
24 - Nia Clouden - 5-8 - Fr. - G - 11.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg

Off the Bench
15 - Victoria Gaines - 6-1 - RJr. - F - 7.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg
2 - Mardrekia Cook - 6-0 - So. - G - 6.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg
12 - Nia Hollie - 6-0 - Jr. - F - 3.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg
42 - Kayla Belles - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg
5 - Claire Hendrickson - 5-11 - RFr. - G - 2.3 ppg, 0.3 rpg
1 - Tory Ozment - 6-1 - Fr. - G - 7.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg

Head Coach: Suzy Merchant (Central Michigan, 1991) 13th Season at Michigan State (261-129); 24th Season Overall (462-249)

Scouting the Michigan State Spartans

MSU comes to Lincoln with a 17-7 overall record and a 7-6 Big Ten mark. Michigan State has lost two of its last three games, including a 79-62 loss at Wisconsin Thursday.

The Spartans feature one of the Big Ten’s most experienced and balanced lineups. Senior Jenna Allen is contending for All-Big Ten honors by averaging team bests of 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds to go along with 2.1 assists per game. The 6-4 center owns more than 1,000 career points and more than 500 rebounds. However, Allen’s production has slipped to 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in Big Ten play. In February, she is averaging just 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 17.9 percent (5-28) from the field.

Sophomore 6-4 forward Sidney Cooks has added 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Frequent starter Victoria Gaines, a 6-1 junior, has pitched in 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. The duo gives the Spartans versatility at the power forward spot.

Junior point guard Taryn McCutcheon has spent the most time on the court this season for the Spartans, averaging 32.8 minutes per game. She is averaging 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and a team-best 4.5 assists per contest. The 5-5 McCutcheon also ranks among Big Ten leaders by hitting 41.5 percent (61-147) of her threes, while knocking down 82.9 percent (29-35) of her free throws.

Fellow junior Shay Colley has taken over the team scoring lead recently with a hot start to February. The 5-8 Colley is averaging 15.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. In four February games, Colley is averaging 20.8 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Spartans. She helps MSU play up-tempo basketball and pressure defense.

Nia Clouden rounds out the Spartan backcourt as one of the Big Ten’s most productive freshmen. The 5-8 guard is averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Clouden has started every game alongside Allen and McCutcheon for the Spartans since coming to East Lansing as a two-time Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year. A dangerous penetrator, Clouden is also capable from three (.368, 14-38).

For the season, Michigan State is averaging 77.9 points per game, but the Spartan offensive production has dipped to 71.4 points per Big Ten game. MSU has hit 45.4 percent of its field goal attempts, including 36.9 percent from three-point range on the year. The Spartans have hit 69.6 percent of their free throws.

Michigan State is allowing 67.2 points per game, while opponents are hitting 41.1 percent of their field goal attempts. In Big Ten play, the Spartans carry just a plus-2.0 point scoring margin (71.4-69.4), and they have been outscored (207-158) at the free throw line.

MSU owns a plus-1.3 rebound margin and a plus-0.1 turnover margin in Big Ten play.

Husker Nuggets

• The Husker bench has outscored opponent benches in 22 of 24 games this year with the only exceptions coming in losses at Michigan (37-20, Feb. 7) and at No. 7 Maryland (22-19, Feb. 14).

• Sophomore Kate Cain owns the longest streak of consecutive starts by a Husker with 56.

• Junior Nicea Eliely owns Nebraska’s second-longest streak of starts with 51.

• (1) Taylor Kissinger is one three-pointer away from 100 in her career.

• (1) Hannah Whitish is one three away from moving up to No. 3 on Nebraska’s all-time three-point list (183, Yvonne Turner, 2007-10).

• (5) Kate Cain is five blocks away from tying Nebraska’s sophomore single-season record for blocked shots (69). Cain owns 64 blocks through 25 games this season.

• (6) Ashtyn Veerbeek needs six blocks to tie for the No. 5 total by a freshman in school history (31). She enters the Michigan State game with 25 blocks on the season.

• (8) Nicea Eliely needs eight steals to reach 50 on the season. She would become the first Husker to notch 50 steals in a season since All-American Lindsey Moore (60) in 2012-13.