Before this season started, I expected Indiana to be a team that faced a rebuilding year. The Hoosiers won the WNIT in 2018, but lost their best players to graduation. Well, I was wrong. A few weeks ago, Indiana was ranked in the polls. A two-game losing streak (and losing four of their last five) has knocked them out of that list, but they are a formidable team nonetheless.
The Huskers are coming off their most complete game, by far, of this season in a 20 point demolition of the Boilermakers. Hannah Whitish was unstoppable in that game. If Purdue sagged off her to take away passing lanes, she swished a three-pointer. If they came up to take away the shot, she found the open Husker for a basket. Her first career double double came courtesy of 28 points and 12(!!) assists. When your point guard is shooting AND dealing, everything just looks so much smoother.
Both teams sit at 5-5 in the B1G (tied for 7th). The winner of this game puts themselves in a much more favorable position in a tightly packed conference. Momentum favors the Huskers, but the Hoosiers are one of the best three point shooting teams in the conference while being the best at defending the three. In other words, they can score points in a hurry when they go on a run.
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers
Sunday, February 3, 2019, 2 p.m. (CT)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) - Lincoln, Nebraska
Live Video: BTN Plus (with radio call)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (1:45 p.m.) Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst); Lincoln-B107.3 FM; Omaha-ESPN 590 AM
Huskers.com, Huskers App, TuneIn
Nebraska’s win over Purdue was its third double-digit win in Big Ten play, but close games have been the norm for Nebraska this season. Unfortunately, the Huskers are just 2-7 in games decided by six points or less (2 possessions), including 1-4 in Big Ten play. Indiana is 4-5 in two-possession games, including 2-4 in the league.
Freshman Leigha Brown, an Indiana native, continues to be one of Nebraska’s leading scorers on the season, averaging 11.3 points per game in Big Ten play and 9.9 points per game on the year.
Nebraska features the Big Ten’s most productive bench, averaging 31.2 points per game in Big Ten play. Indiana relies extensively on its starters, but its bench has added 12.3 points per game in league play.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-11, 5-5 Big Ten)
44 - Kayla Mershon - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 3.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - So. - C - 7.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 10.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Jr. - G - 8.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - So. - G - 9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Off the Bench
32 - Leigha Brown - 6-1 - Fr. - F - 9.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
13 - Ashtyn Veerbeek - 6-2 - Fr. - F - 8.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 7.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 1.1 ppg, 1.3 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 (38-44); 12th Season Overall (231-153)
Indiana Hoosiers (16-6, 5-5 Big Ten)
11 - Kym Royster - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 5.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg
50 - Brenna Wise - 6-0 - RJr. - F - 13.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg
1 - Bendu Yeaney - 5-10 - So. - G - 10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg
13 - Jaelynn Penn - 5-10 - So. - G - 13.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
14 - Ali Patberg - 5-11 - RJr. - G - 15.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Off the Bench
10 - Aleksa Gulbe - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 6.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
34 - Grace Berger - 6-0 - Fr. - G - 5.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg
12 - Linsey Marchese - 6-4 - So. - C - 1.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg
2 - Keyanna Warthen - 5-10 - So. - G - 1.7 ppg, 0.8 rpg
Head Coach: Teri Moren (Purdue, 1992) Fifth Season at Indiana (98-59); 16th Season Overall (297-189)
Scouting The Indiana Hoosiers
Five of Indiana’s six losses this season have been by two possessions or less, and the Hoosiers own four wins by two or fewer possessions this season.
Indiana lost two of the top scorers in school history to graduation, led by two-time honorable-mention WBCA All-American guard Tyra Buss, who averaged 20.6 points per game last year while leading the Hoosiers to the 2018 WNIT title. She finished with school records of 2,364 points, 574 assists and 293 steals. She scored 37 points last season against Nebraska.
Amanda Cahill closed her career at Indiana at No. 4 on the scoring list with 1,884 points while ranking second in rebounds with 1,115 and third in three-pointers made with 200. She averaged 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last year.
Those two Hoosiers have been replaced by junior transfers Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise. Patberg, a fourth-year guard from Notre Dame, is averaging 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists. Wise, a 6-0 forward who transferred from Pittsburgh, has added 13.0 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds while hitting 44 percent (33-75) of her threes and 92.5 percent of her free throws.
The Hoosiers return sophomore Jaelynn Penn, who scored 21 points in last season’s win over the Huskers in Bloomington. Penn, a 5-10 guard, has been IU’s leading scorer in league play at 16.0 points per game, while hitting 47.2 percent (25-53) of her threes.
Fellow sophomore Bendu Yeaney gives the Hoosiers four starters averaging in double figures. The 5-10 Yeaney is averaging 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Indiana’s lone senior, Kym Royster, has joined Patberg, Wise and Penn in IU’s starting five all 22 games. Royster has managed 5.7 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 56.5 percent from the field.
Indiana’s most potent reserve is 6-3 freshman forward Aleksa Gulbe, who is averaging 6.6 points and 4.0 rebounds, while leading IU with 18 blocks. Gulbe is shooting 42.1 percent (8-20) from three-point range and 84.1 percent at the line.
As a team, Indiana is averaging 71.1 points per game on the season, but that production has slipped to 67.3 points in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers have allowed 63.4 points on the season, but 68.1 points in Big Ten games.
The Hoosiers have allowed Big Ten foes to shoot 42.6 percent from the field, but have limited three-point shooting by foes to just 26.9 percent. Indiana is shooting a scorching 38.3 percent (57-149) from three in the league, and knocking down an impressive 77.3 percent of its free throws in conference action.
The Hoosiers are great a taking away the three-ball from their opponents. The Huskers have one of the nation’s top long range shooters in Taylor Kissinger. Something will have to give and I hope it is the Indiana defense. Kissinger got blanked in the Purdue game, so I expect she will want to make a statement early in this game. Whitish is also feeling her oats now and she won’t be shy about launching the long ball. If those two can get some good looks, it bodes well for the Husker offense.
If the Hoosiers succeed in taking away the perimeter game, the Huskers will have to find ways to get paint points. Freshman Ashtyn Verbeek has shown she is capable of hitting tough shots. Kate Cain hasn’t been a big offensive threat yet this season, but she is more than capable of knocking them down if needed. Kissinger and fellow wing Nicea Eliely are both sneaky good at finding backcutting lanes and getting some cheap points behind the defense. That part of the Husker game hasn’t been there all season, but I’m more confident we could see it now that Whitish is getting her groove back.