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Nebraska WBB vs Minnesota Preview

The Huskers face a former teammate as a struggling Gophers squad comes to Lincoln

Scott Bruhn

The Huskers have faced five high-quality opponents in their past five games, beating three ranked teams in the process. Nebraska has won four of those and lost the fifth by two points. Kate Cain is the reigning Big Ten player of the week.

The Golden Gophers are struggling, to put it mildly. They have a 2-7 record and are 1-6 in the Big Ten. Their lone win in the conference? It was an overtime affair vs Wisconsin, who currently occupies the bottom spot in conference standings. The Huskers cannot let their guard down (pun intended) at all despite seeming to have the edge in this matchup.

Former Husker Kayla Mershon, a 6’3” forward, is expected to come off the bench for Minnesota. She transferred from Nebraska to Minnesota in the offseason and was ruled eligible by the NCAA in late December.

Sophomore wing, Issie Bourne is likely still out (she was on the sideline with a scooter and a boot on her injured ankle on Saturday). If that is the case, Nebraska will again have just seven players available. I expect the Husker defense will be in the usual lockdown mode vs the Gophers. It just remains to be seen where the offensive production will come from. The Huskers should have a height advantage in the paint - will that be the difference?

Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-7, 1-6 Big Ten)

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, 3 p.m. (CT)

Pinnacle Bank Arena - Lincoln, Nebraska

Live Video: B1G Network (Larry Punteney, 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

Nebraska’s team defense has been outstanding in recent weeks. The Huskers are 4-1 over the last five contests - all against NET top-36 opponents that entered the game averaging better than 80 points per game. None of the opponents (Northwestern, Rutgers, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State) scored 65 points against Nebraska and the group averaged just 59.2 points.

Minnesota was handcuffed by an extremely limited roster at the start of fall practice and again at the start of the season due to complications caused by COVID-19 protocols. However, the Gophers have had 13 players see action this season, including four who have played in all nine games.

Jasmine Powell is the only Gopher to start all nine games. The 5-6 sophomore from Detroit leads Minnesota with 17.3 points, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals this season while ranking second on the squad with 5.2 rebounds.

Minnesota has recently been bolstered by the addition of early enrollee Katie Borowicz. The mid-year graduate of Roseau High School in Minnesota, was the No. 98 player and No. 19 point guard in the 2021 class according to ESPN. As a junior, she averaged 31.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 6.2 steals and scored more than 2,000 points in her five-year high school career. She has come off the bench in each of Minnesota’s last two games.

As a team, Minnesota is averaging 67.9 points but surrendering 81.9 points per game. The Gophers carry a minus-1.2 rebound margin and a minus-2.3 turnover margin, while shooting just 37.9 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from three-point range. Opponents are shooting 47.3 percent, including 39.5 percent against the Gophers. The opposition also has hit 79 percent of its free throws.

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (7-4, 5-3 BIG TEN)

No. Player Ht. Yr. Pos. PPG RPG
14 Bella Cravens 6-3 Jr. F 6.5 8.2
34 Isabelle Bourne 6-2 So. F 14.0 7.3
31 Kate Cain 6-5 Gr./Sr. C 9.3 6.4
0 Ashley Scoggin 5-7 RSo. G 7.5 2.3
4 Sam Haiby 5-9 Jr. G 16.2 7.8

Off the Bench
2 Trinity Brady 5-11 So. G 8.5 5.0
21 Annika Stewart 6-3 Fr. F 5.0 3.5
10 Whitney Brown 5-8 Fr. G 3.8 1.5
11 Ruby Porter 5-10 Fr. G 2.8 1.8
5 MiCole Cayton 5-9 Gr./RJr. G DNP

In Saturday’s game vs Ohio State, Ruby Porter stepped into Issie Bourne’s spot in the starting lineup. It seems likely Coach Williams will tap her or possibly Whitney Brown who had a career high 14 point performance vs the Buckeyes.

Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998) Fifth Season at Nebraska (66-66) 14th Season Overall (259-175)

Minnesota has had quite a few different starting lineups this season, so the lineup below may or may not be accurate. We’ll know more this afternoon.

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (2-7, 1-6 BIG TEN)

No. Player Ht. Yr. Pos. PPG RPG
30 Kadi Sissoko 6-0 RSo.F 12.4 6.6
25 Klarke Sconiers 6-2 So. C 6.0 5.1
4 Jasmine Powell 5-6 So. G 17.3 5.2
14 Sara Scalia 5-10 So. G 11.2 2.5
24 Gadiva Hubbard 5-9 RSr.G 10.1 3.1

Off the Bench
12 Laura Bagwell Katalinich 6-0 Gr. F 7.0 3.8
23 Katie Borowicz 5-7 Fr. G 5.0 0.5
1 Alexia Smith 5-8 Fr. G 4.4 1.4
15 Kayla Mershon 6-3 Jr. F 4.4 4.0
21 Caroline Strande 5-11 Fr. G 3.3 1.8
43 Grace Cumming 6-3 RFr. F 1.8 3.2
10 Erin Hedman 6-3 Fr. F 0.7 2.7
24 Justice Ross 6-0 RFr. F 0.7 1.3

Head Coach: Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota, 2004) Third Season at Minnesota (39-33) Third Season Overall (39-33)