The Nebraska women’s basketball team shoots for its third straight Big Ten win when the Huskers play host to Northwestern on Thursday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
• Tip off between the Huskers (9-9, 4-3 Big Ten) and the Wildcats (11-7, 4-3 Big Ten) is set for 7 p.m. (CT) in Lincoln. Live radio coverage (beginning at 6:45 p.m.) can be heard in Lincoln on B107.3 FM, in Omaha on ESPN 590 AM, in Lexington on KRVN 880 AM, and across the state on the Husker Sports Network. Free live audio can be found at Huskers.com, the Huskers App and on TuneIn.
• A live video stream will be available for subscribers of BTN Plus.
• Nebraska is coming off its first win over a top-25 opponent this season after rallying for a 63-57 victory over No. 23 Minnesota at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday evening. The Huskers trailed by nine points with eight minutes left, before closing the game on a 12-0 run. Nebraska held the Gophers without a field goal for the game’s final six minutes to secure its third fourth-quarter comeback win in Big Ten Conference play this season.
• Junior guard Hannah Whitish (10), sophomore guard Taylor Kissinger (9) and freshman guard Sam Haiby (6) combined for all 25 of Nebraska’s points in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, while junior guard Nicea Eliely grabbed five of her career-high six steals in the final period.
• A talented Northwestern team brings an identical 4-3 Big Ten mark to Lincoln, including a pair of wins over top-25 foes. Last week, Northwestern fought to a 75-69 win at No. 25 Indiana, just two weeks after knocking off Michigan State in Evanston, 70-62.
• This Nebraska/Northwestern game has all the makings of a close game. The two teams not only have identical league marks, they are separated by fewer than 10 spots in the RPI and they are both battling for a top-four spot in the conference standings.
• Nebraska is certainly no stranger to close games. While the Huskers own a pair of six-point wins, five of Nebraska’s nine losses have been by two possessions or less, with three of those coming against teams that have been ranked in the top 25 this season.
• Nebraska is the only team in the Big Ten with two freshmen as its top two scorers, and the Huskers are the only team in the conference with two non-starters leading the team in scoring.
• Leigha Brown, a 6-1 freshman from Auburn, Ind., shares the team scoring lead with 10.3 points per game including a team-best 13.0 points in Big Ten play. Fellow freshman Sam Haiby, a 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., has added 10.3 points per game off the bench.
• Nebraska’s active roster is one of the most collectively inexperienced in the Big Ten, entering Thursday’s game with just 10,222 cumulative collegiate minutes. Northwestern sits right in the middle of the Big Ten pack in experience with 11,776 career minutes from its active roster.
• Nebraska’s bench is the most productive unit in the Big Ten, averaging 33.7 points per game in conference play. Northwestern uses a relatively large rotation of players and has received 9.8 points per game off the bench so far in league play, which ranks 11th in the conference.
• Northwestern features two of the Big Ten’s most explosive players in sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam and senior power forward/center Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah. Pulliam is averaging 19.4 points in 35 minutes per game in league play while getting to the free throw line an average of eight times per game. Akpanah averages a double-double with 12.9 points and 11.1 rebounds. She is a disruptive defensive force on the glass, blocking shots and forcing turnovers.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-9, 4-3 Big Ten)
44 – Kayla Mershon – 6-3 – Fr. – F – 3.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg
31 – Kate Cain – 6-5 – So. – C – 7.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg
3 – Hannah Whitish – 5-9 – Jr. – G – 8.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg
5 – Nicea Eliely – 6-1 – Jr. – G – 7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
33 – Taylor Kissinger – 6-1 – So. – G – 9.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Off the Bench
32 – Leigha Brown – 6-1 – Fr. – F – 10.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg
4 – Sam Haiby – 5-9 – Fr. – G – 10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg
13 – Ashtyn Veerbeek – 6-2 – Fr. – F – 8.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg
24 – Maddie Simon – 6-2 – Sr. – F – 7.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
14 – Grace Mitchell – 6-2 – Jr. – F – 1.1 ppg, 1.1 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 (37-42); 12th Season Overall (230-151)
Northwestern Wildcats (11-7, 4-3 Big Ten)
4 – Bryana Hopkins – 6-2 – Jr. – F – 2.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg
14 – Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah – 6-2 – Sr. – F – 11.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg
10 – Lindsey Pulliam – 5-10 – So. – G – 16.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg
12 – Veronica Burton – 5-9 – Fr. – G – 7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg
24 – Jordan Hamilton – 5-8 – So. – G – 9.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Off the Bench
44 – Abi Scheid – 6-2 – Jr. – F/C – 11.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg
21 – Abbie Wolf – 6-4 – Jr. – F/C – 4.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg
0 – Jess Sancataldo – 6-0 – Fr. – G – 4.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg
3 – Sydney Wood – 5-11 – Fr. – G – 3.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg
22 – Byrdy Galernik – 5-8 – Jr. – G – 3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg
32 – Amber Jamison – 6-0 – Jr. – G – 2.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Head Coach: Joe McKeown (Kent State, 1979)
10th Season at Northwestern (172-165); 33rd Season Overall (681-339)
Scouting The Northwestern Wildcats
• Head coach Joe McKeown brings a balanced and dangerous Northwestern team to Lincoln in his 10th season at the helm of the Wildcats. McKeown owns 681 career victories in his 33rd season overall as a head coach.
• Sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam leads the Wildcats with 16.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Pulliam has struggled from long range this year, hitting just 7-of-42 threes (.167) including 2-for-13 in Big Ten play. However, she is averaging 19.4 points per game in conference action. She had 21 points, including 11-of-12 free throw shooting, in Sunday’s win over Wisconsin.
• Senior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah continues to provide a dominant inside presence with 11.6 and 10.8 rebounds, while leading Northwestern with 31 blocks. She also ranks second on the team with 29 steals. Akpanah is averaging 12.9 points and 11.1 boards in league play after getting 21 points and 15 boards in a 72-46 win over Wisconsin Sunday.
• Sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton has pitched in 9.7 points and a team-leading 3.8 assists, while knocking down 36.2 percent (21-58) of her threes.
• Freshman guard Veronica Burton rounds out Northwestern’s starting backcourt with 7.9 points and a team-leading 2.6 steals per game. Burton has been the Wildcats’ most consistent threat from long range with 40.4 percent (21-52) success from beyond the three-point arc.
• Northwestern’s fifth starter has been affected recently by an ankle/foot injury suffered against Michigan (Jan. 8), as 6-2 junior forward Abi Scheid has missed the last three games. Scheid has averaged 11.0 points and 5.6 rebounds while stretching the defense at power forward/center by hitting 35.2 percent (19-54) of her threes on the season, including 8-of-15 (.533) in the first four Big Ten contests.
• Fellow junior Abbie Wolf, a 6-4 forward/center, has stepped into a starting role on one occasion and is averaging 4.9 points and 3.9 rebounds. She has not attempted a three on the year.
• Bryana Hopkins, a 6-2 junior forward who has made multiple starts in place of Scheid, has added 2.9 points and 2.9 rebounds. Hopkins has not made a three this season.
• Byrdy Galernik, a 5-8 junior guard, has made five starts this year and has managed 3.1 points and 2.5 assists, but is just 1-for-11 from three-point range.
• Sydney Wood, a 5-11 freshman guard, has contributed 3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds.
• As a team, Northwestern is averaging 65.4 points while hitting 40 percent of its shots in Big Ten play. The Wildcats have hit 34.5 percent (30-87) of their threes and 69.3 percent of their free throws in league action. Northwestern has played solid defense in the conference, allowing just 57.6 points and holding foes to just 36.2 percent shooting, including just 27.7 percent from three-point range. Northwestern’s Big Ten opponents have hit just 62.4 percent of their free throws.
• The Wildcats own a plus-3.7 rebound margin in conference play and a plus-1.6 turnover margin.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern Series History
• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 9-6, including a 69-59 win over the Wildcats in last season’s only meeting with the other NU on Jan. 7, 2018, in Evanston, Ill.
• Hannah Whitish led the Huskers with 16 points and seven assists, while Taylor Kissinger pumped in 14 points off the bench. Whitish and Kissinger both hit four threes as Nebraska knocked down 10-of-21 long range attempts at Evanston Township High School. Maddie Simon and Nicea Eliely both added 10 points in the win, as the Huskers shot a season-best 54.9 percent overall from the field.
• Lindsey Pulliam and Jordan Hamilton led the Wildcats with 15 points apiece last season against the Big Red, while Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah added 11 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
• Nebraska is 4-2 all-time against Northwestern in Lincoln, but the Wildcats won the last meeting at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 62-58, on Dec. 28, 2016.
• The Huskers are 4-4 all-time against Northwestern in Evanston and 1-0 at the Big Ten Tournament (88-56, 2012, Indianapolis).
• Through games Jan. 20, Nebraska sophomore Taylor Kissinger was No. 3 in NCAA Division I in three-point shooting percentage (.494).
• The Husker bench has outscored opponents in each of NU’s 18 games this year, including double-digit advantages 14 times.
• Overall, Nebraska’s bench has outscored opposition benches 593-284 (32.9-15.8 ppg) for a plus-17.1 margin.
• Nebraska is the only team in the Big Ten with two players off the bench (Leigha Brown, 10.3 ppg; Sam Haiby, 10.3 ppg) as its top two scorers.
• Nebraska is also the only team in the Big Ten with two freshmen as the team’s top two scorers.
• Nebraska’s bench outscored the opposition 149-53 over the final four non-conference games, including a season-high 45 points at Arkansas. NU’s bench posted a season-best scoring differential (+37) in its last non-conference home game by outscoring Denver’s bench, 40-3.
• Nebraska’s bench has scored 40 or more points five times, including 45 at Arkansas, 42 points against San Jose State, 41 points against Drake, 40 against Denver and 40 at Illinois.
• In Nebraska’s Big Ten-opening win over Michigan (Dec. 28), the Husker bench outscored the Wolverine bench 28-10, including 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
• In Big Ten play, NU’s bench has outscored opponent benches 236-124 (33.7-17.7, +16.0 ppg), including a 34-9 edge in a win over No. 23 Minnesota (Jan. 20).
• Nebraska’s bench has scored at least 28 points in each of its seven Big Ten games, including 40 at Illinois (Jan. 17) and 35 at Ohio State (Dec. 31).
• Against ranked Big Ten teams (Minnesota, 34-9, +25; Iowa, 28-11, +17; Rutgers 34-17, +17; Maryland 28-14, +14), Nebraska’s bench has outscored opponent benches 124-51.
• At least one Nebraska freshman has led the Huskers in scoring in 12 of 18 games this season (Haiby-6; Brown-5; Veerbeek-2).
• Sophomore Kate Cain owns the longest streak of consecutive starts by a Husker with 49.
• Junior Nicea Eliely owns Nebraska’s second-longest streak of starts with 44.
• Nebraska’s bench has outscored the opponent reserves in all 18 games this season.
• The Huskers closed their win over No. 23 Minnesota by scoring 12 consecutive points and holding the Gophers without a field goal for the final six minutes.
• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three in 330 straight games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008. Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 209 consecutive games.
Nebraska Numbers to Watch
• (2) Junior Nicea Eliely is two points away from 600 in her career.
• (3) Eliely is three rebounds from 300 career boards.
• (9) Taylor Kissinger is nine three-pointers away from 100 in her career.
• (14) Freshmen Leigha Brown and Sam Haiby each need 14 points to reach 200 for the season.
• (50) Kate Cain is expected to make her 50th consecutive start on Thursday.
Freshmen Contributing Early for Huskers
• Nebraska has received production early and often from its 2018-19 freshman class. The four-player class, which was ranked among the top 20 recruiting classes in the nation by ESPN last season, features Leigha Brown (10.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.2 apg), Sam Haiby (1 0.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg), Ashtyn Veerbeek (8.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Kayla Mershon (3.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg).
• Leigha Brown, who earned Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week honors (Jan. 7), shares Nebraska’s scoring lead 10.3 points per game, including a team-best 13.0 points per Big Ten game. She erupted for a career-high 20 points at No. 19 Iowa (Jan. 3). It was her second straight game leading the Huskers, after scoring a then-career-high 19 points at Ohio State (Dec. 31). She added 18 points and a career-high six rebounds in a narrow loss to nationally ranked Rutgers (Jan. 13). She also had 18 points in the win over San Jose State (Dec. 8), before adding 17 points and a career-high five assists in the win over Denver (Dec. 15).
• Brown, a 6-1 wing from Auburn, Indiana owns eight double-figure scoring efforts and has led the Big Red in scoring five times this season, including three of seven Big Ten games.
• Over the last 10 games, Brown is averaging 27.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals per 40 minutes (135 points, 29 rebounds, 16 assists, 10 steals, 199 minutes) while hitting 50.6 percent (43-85) of her shots from the field, including 41.2 percent (14-34) of her threes.
• In her first eight games, Brown averaged 16.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals per 40 minutes (54 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 130 minutes), while hitting 34 percent (16-47) of her field goals and 21.7 percent (5-23) of her threes.
• Haiby, a 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., shares Nebraska’s overall scoring lead with Brown at 10.3 points per game off the bench. Haiby has led the Huskers in scoring in six games, including a win over No. 23 Minnesota (16) and against nationally ranked Drake (13) and Miami (14), while also scoring a career-high 20 points at Washington State and adding 17 points at Creighton. She also had 16 points to lead the Huskers at Arkansas (Dec. 18). She owns eight double-figure scoring efforts overall, including 12 points at No. 5 Louisville (Nov. 29) and 12 more in Nebraska’s Big Ten-opening win over Michigan (Dec. 28).
• Haiby also ranks second among the Huskers in assists (2.7 apg).
• Ashtyn Veerbeek ranks third among the Husker freshmen in scoring with 8.2 points per game, while leading the freshmen and ranking second on the team with 6.1 rebounds. Veerbeek erupted for a career-high 19 points to go along with a team-high eight rebounds in the win at Illinois (Jan. 17). She produced her first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in a win over San Jose State (Dec. 8). She had 14 points in 14 minutes in the win over Denver (Dec. 15). She added 14 points for the third straight game at Arkansas (Dec. 18). She owns five double-digit scoring efforts on the year. She also ranks second among the Huskers with 17 blocks.
• Kayla Mershon has pitched in 3.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per game for the Huskers. Her production is on the rise in Big Ten play and she made her first career starts in wins at Illinois (Jan. 17) and over No. 23 Minnesota (Jan. 20). Mershon scored a career-high eight points against No. 9 Maryland (Jan. 8), before adding seven points against nationally ranked Rutgers (Jan. 13). She had a career-high seven rebounds in a win over Kansas (Dec. 5). The 6-3 forward from Chanhassen, Minn., also has dished out 14 assists and committed a team-best seven turnovers through 18 games.
• The freshmen have combined for 43.1 percent (575-of-1,334) of Nebraska’s points in just 36.4 percent of the team’s total minutes (1,329-of-3,650) on the season. They also have accounted for just 28.7 percent (81-of-282) of Nebraska’s turnovers.
• Nebraska’s four freshmen are combining to average 31.9 points and 14.3 rebounds per game.