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Nebraska WBB Opens the Season vs Maine on Tuesday

The Huskers tip at noon vs the Black Bears

Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Maine Black Bears

Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, Noon (CT)

Pinnacle Bank Arena - Lincoln, Nebraska

Live Video: B1G+ (subscription required)

Live Radio: Huskers Radio Network (11:45 a.m.) Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst) Lincoln (B107.3 FM), Omaha (ESPN 590 AM), Huskers.com, Huskers App

The battle between the Huskers and Black Bears in the second meeting in series history. Nebraska opened its 2021-22 campaign with an 87-42 victory over Midland University in the Huskers’ only exhibition game of the season on Monday, Nov. 1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

True freshman Alexis Markowski led four Huskers in double figures by nearly posting a double-double with game highs of 15 points and nine rebounds in less than 17 minutes of action. Transfer Jaz Shelley added 14 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting to go along with a game-high six assists in less than 17 minutes of play.

Season Outlook

Coach Amy Williams has sixteen on her roster, but it was announced earlier that Nailah Dillard will miss her second consecutive season due to injury. Last season, it was a hip that sidelined her and this season it is a knee. Sophomore Trinity Brady opened the 2020-21 season as starter but only played in two non-conference games before being lost for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. She is not expected to return “for a while” this year (unsure if it is the same injury or a different one). Even with the roster being two short, it still leaves Coach Williams with more bodies than she had at any point last season. There were games where seven Huskers were available due to injuries. The constant mixing and matching led to some inconsistent performances where the Huskers beat multiple ranked teams and lost some baffling games to poor teams.

Overall, Nebraska hopes to improve on a .500 record and make an NCAA tournament appearance. The incoming freshman class: Kendall Coley (who enrolled early and played starting in January), Allison Weidner, Alexis Markowski, Kendall Moriarity, and Tatiana Popa are collectively ranked in the top 25 recruiting classes in WBB.

The only loss the Huskers suffered was a big one, literally. Center Kate Cain decided to forego her final year of eligibility and play pro ball. The 6’5” New York native destroyed the Husker career blocked shots record. Cain was a three-time all-defense pick for the Big Ten and an honorable mention player in 2020-21.

Cain was a great player, but I expect Coach Williams to run an offense with more movement and using athletic posts that have more offensive firepower than she’s had at that spot for several years. Bella Cravens is a royal pest (to the other team) on defense and in rebounding. She’s also very athletic and will sneak some points in when other teams focus on containing shooters elsewhere. Bourne proved her offensive and defensive versatility, playing at both the 3 and 4 spots, depending on injuries, in 2020-21 and earned honorable mention All-B1G honors. Annika Stewart seemed like she scored a point for every minute she was on the floor. She has to clean up foul issues and make some strides in overall defensive improvement, but is a floor-stretcher extraordinaire. Alexis Markowski has already announced her presence during the exhibition game and showed she has the attitude to play ball with anyone. Tatiana Popa did not appear in the exhibition game; I am unsure why.

Williams also has a plethora of guards at her disposal - a welcome change from a season ago. In 2020-21, Ashley Scoggin was called upon to run point, a position that she was a bit inconsistent at. She can be a deadly three-point shooter and if she’s allowed to focus on that, I expect her to help space the floor with her range. Transfer Jaz Shelley will likely be running point more than Scoggin. Shelley is also a prolific and accurate long range shooter - just like Amy Williams likes. Both of them should help create space for All-B1G guard Sam Haiby to do what she does best - get to the rim. Haiby isn’t a one-trick pony; she is also one of the best rebounding guards in the Big Ten and has worked hard to make other teams respect her three pointer. She is the kind of player that can (and has) run point but is best used when an effective can make space for her to get to the lane (and kickout to a long range assassin if the trees close in on her).

Ruby Porter started quite a few games as a true freshman and showed a willingness to play whatever role was needed to make the game plan work. Whitney Brown was a walk-on a season ago and proved to be a reliable ball handler - managing to break presses when other Huskers couldn’t. She is also a threat from three-point land. Kendall Coley uses her length well on defense and is a willing shooter from anywhere on the floor. Coley has also shown the chops to post up and mix things up as needed. It is also no surprise that a 6’2” guard is a threat to block shots at the perimeter. MiCole Cayton took a while to recover from an injury after transferring to Nebraska, but once she got on the floor she made her presence known on defense. If you have followed the Amy Williams regime, playing lockdown defense is the way to your head coach’s heart and Cayton delivered in spades.

I’m not sure how to analyze the newcomers at guard. In the exhibition game, Allison Weidner hinted that she might be the heir apparent to Haiby as the slasher/make something happen player. Weidner also showed some defensive chops. Kendall Moriarty has length (she is 6’1”), which is an advantage on the perimeter. Her scouting report has her pegged as a defensive pest who can be developed into a productive offensive player. She seems to have the “do what it takes to win” quality that you need on every team.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) Expected Starters

14 - Bella Cravens - 6-3 - Jr. - F - 6.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg
34 - Isabelle Bourne - 6-2 - So. - F - 13.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg
0 - Ashley Scoggin - 5-7 - RSo. - G - 8.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg
1 - Jaz Shelley - 5-9 - So. - G - 4.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 16.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg

Off the Bench

2 - Trinity Brady - 5-11 - So. - G - 8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
21 - Annika Stewart - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 6.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg
11 - Ruby Porter - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg
10 - Whitney Brown - 5-8 - Fr. - G - 3.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg
5 - MiCole Cayton - 5-9 - Gr./RJr. - G - 2.7 ppg, 0.9 rpg
32 - Kendall Coley - 6-2 - Fr. - F/G - 1.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg
3 - Allison Weidner - 5-10 - Fr. - G - High School
15 - Kendall Moriarty - 6-1 - Fr. - G - High School
33 - Tatiana Popa - 6-5 - Fr. - C/F - High School
40 - Alexis Markowski - 6-3 - Fr. - F/C - High School

Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998) Sixth Season at Nebraska (72-75); 15th Season Overall (265-184)

Maine Black Bears (0-0, 0-0 America East)

0 - Sera Hodgson - 5-11 - Fr. - G - High School
5 - Maeve Carroll - 5-11 - Gr. - F - 10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg
3 - Anne Simon - 5-8 - Jr. - G - 12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg
4 - Alba Orois - 5-7 - So. - G - 3.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg
13 - Caroline Bornemann - 5-10 - So. - G/F - 0.7 ppg, 0.6 rpg

Off the Bench

23 - Abbe Laurence - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 2.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg
1 - Olivia Rockwood - 5-5 - So. - G - 0.7 ppg, 0.8 rpg
10 - Anna Kahelin - 5-11 - Jr. - G - 0.4 ppg, 0.5 rpg
12 - Katie White - 6-2 - So. - F - 0.2 ppg, 0.3 rpg
2 - Lexi Mittelstadt - 5-8 - So. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
15 - Paula Gallego - 6-1 - Fr. - G - High School
20 - Penelope Castillo - 5-11 - Fr. - F - High School
21 - Bailey Wilborn - 5-8 - Fr. - G - High School
33 - Adrianna Smith - 5-10 - Fr. - F - High School

Head Coach: Amy Vachon (Maine, 2000) Sixth Season at Maine (94-42); Sixth Season Overall (94-42)

The Huskers should handle Maine but may show some signs of growing pains as they try to incorporate exciting youngsters into an experienced lineup. It will be fun to see if Markowski’s attitude can be cultivated enough in the non-con to carry over into B1G play (where she will face equally athletic posts with equal attitude and greater experience). The three Aussies, Bourne, Porter and Shelley are all versatile players who can can play team ball. Sam Haiby is a known commodity who creates headaches for opposing teams. Amy Williams has a cast of players who have exceptional talents in some areas and need development in others. How she weaves together the game plans and skills at her disposal will be a very telling season for the Husker head coach.

Go Big Red!