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Huskers Fight for Season Sweep of Illini

Huskers Fight for Season Sweep of Illini
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Fight for Season Sweep of Illini
• The Nebraska women’s basketball team shoots for its second sweep of a Big Ten season series when the Huskers take on Illinois Thursday night in Lincoln. Tip-off between the Huskers (16-6, 7-2 Big Ten) and the Fighting Illini (9-14, 0-9 Big Ten) is set for 6 p.m. (MT) at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

• A live radio broadcast will be produced by the Husker Sports Network, with Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch teaming up for their 17th season together on the call. The game will be carried for free on Huskers.com and over the air on B107.3 FM in Lincoln and ESPN 590 AM in Omaha. Free audio also can be found on the Huskers App and the TuneIn App.

• A live video stream will be provided to BTN Plus subscribers as a BTN Student U production.

• The Huskers defeated Illinois, 80-72, at the State Farm Center in Champaign on Jan. 10. Hannah Whitish led Nebraska with 20 points on a career-high six three-pointers, as the Huskers hit a season-high 12 threes against the Illini.

• Nebraska’s 7-2 record matches its best nine-game conference start since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12. That Husker team, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament, opened with an 8-2 record and finished 10-6.

• Five of Nebraska’s seven Big Ten wins have come against NCAA RPI Top 50 teams (through games Jan. 27), including at Rutgers (17), Iowa (27, twice), at Minnesota (47) and Purdue (49). NU’s only conference losses have come to RPI No. 6 Ohio State and RPI No. 22 Michigan in overtime.

• Nebraska entered the week at No. 47 in the official NCAA RPI, its first top-50 appearance of the year.

• Nebraska, which is a perfect 8-0 in true road games this season including 5-0 in the Big Ten, is coming off its most impressive performance of the season in a 92-74 victory at Iowa on Sunday.

• Nebraska is one of only six NCAA Division I teams in the nation that is unbeaten in true road games this year joining Mercer (11-0), UConn (9-0), Louisville (9-0), Georgia (8-0), Mississippi State (5-0).

• Nebraska is one of only two teams nationally (through games Jan. 28) that owns a plus-nine or better improvement in the win column over 2016-17. The team that has shown the most improvement is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are plus-11 in the win column at 17-6 (6-24, 2016-17).

• Compared to last season, Nebraska is 8.4 points per game better offensively (71.2-62.8 ppg) and 12.5 points per game better defensively (63.8-76.3 ppg).

Nebraska Cornhuskers (16-6, 7-2 Big Ten)
24 – Maddie Simon – 6-2 – Jr. – F – 11.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg
31 – Kate Cain – 6-5 – Fr. – C – 10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg
3 – Hannah Whitish – 5-9 – So. – G – 13.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg
5 – Nicea Eliely – 6-1 – So. – G – 8.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
34 – Jasmine Cincore – 5-10 – Sr. – F – 7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Off the Bench
33 – Taylor Kissinger – 6-1 – Fr. – G – 10.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg
12 – Emily Wood – 5-5 – Sr. – G – 4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg
13 – Janay Morton – 5-10 – Sr. – G – 3.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg
15 – Bria Stallworth – 5-6 – So. – G – 3.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg
14 – Grace Mitchell – 6-2 – So. – F – 2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg
43 – Rachel Blackburn – 6-3 – So. – F – 1.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg
50 – Darrien Washington – 6-2 – Jr. – F – 1.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg
Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998)
Second Season at Nebraska (23-28)
11th Season Overall (216-137)

Illinois Fighting Illini (9-14, 0-9 Big Ten)
35 – Alex Wittinger – 6-1 – Jr. – F – 14.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg
50 – Ali Andrews – 6-2 – So. – F – 7.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
1 – Brandi Beasley – 5-7 – So. – G – 12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg
5 – Cierra Rice – 5-9 – So. – G – 5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
30 – Courtney Joens – 5-10 – So. – G – 3.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Off the Bench
13 – Petra Holesinska – 5-9 – So. – G – 7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg
25 – Kennedy Cattenhead – 5-10 – RSr. – G – 5.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg
3 – Alli Ball – 6-1 – Sr. – F – 2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg
23 – Jaelyne Kirkpatrick – 5-7 – Jr. – G – 3.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg
24 – Jnaya Walker – 6-1 – Fr. – F – 1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg
2 – Lyric Robins – 5-11 – Fr. – F – 2.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg
14 – Addaya Moore – 5-11 – Fr. – G – 1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg
11 – Cydnee Kinslow – 6-2 – So. – F – 0.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg
Head Coach: Nancy Fahey (Wisconsin, 1981)
First Season at Illinois (9-14)
31st Season Overall (746-147)

Scouting the Illinois Fighting Illini
• Coach Nancy Fahey is in her first year leading the Fighting Illini but her 31st season as a head coach. Fahey, who came to Illinois from Washington University in St. Louis, has won 746 games as a head coach, including a 9-14 mark with Illinois this season. • Illinois already has matched its season win total from a year ago when the Illini finished 9-22, including 3-13 in the Big Ten, but Illinois is still looking for its first Big Ten win this season.

• Junior forward Alex Wittinger leads Illinois by averaging 14.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Wittinger also ranks third in the Big Ten with 64 blocked shots. Wittinger had 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in Nebraska’s 80-72 win over Illinois in Champaign on Jan. 10. She produced a triple-double at Penn State (Jan. 23) with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks in a loss.

• Wittinger, a three-year starter, is the lone junior in a starting five that features four sophomores, including returning starting point guard Brandi Beasley. The 5-7 sophomore is averaging 12.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and team highs of 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Beasley had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists in the first meeting this season in Champaign. It was her second double-double against the Huskers in her career, joining 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the Illini’s 2017 regular-season win over the Big Red in Champiaign on Jan. 15, 2017.

• Sophomore forward Ali Andrews has added 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Last season, the 6-2 Andrews scored a game-high 24 points while hitting 6-of-10 threes in the Illini’s Big Ten Tournament win over Nebraska. Andrews managed 13 points on 3-of-6 three-point shooting against Nebraska in the first meeting this season. She leads the Illini with 29 threes (.392) this season.

• Sophomore guard Cierra Rice has made eight Big Ten starts, averaging 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in conference play. She had five points and three rebounds in 18 minutes in this season’s first meeting with Nebraska. Rice came off the bench in non-conference play behind junior guard Jaelyne Kirkpatrick, but Kirkpatrick was injured at the start of Big Ten play

• Kirkpatrick, a 5-7 junior guard, has averaged 2.0 points in 12.7 minutes per game since returning to action three games ago for the Illini.

• Courtney Joens (3.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg) has assumed a part-time starting role for Illinois in Big Ten play, averaging 5.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in league play as primarily a three-point specialist. Joens came off the bench to score 13 points on 3-of-5 three-point shooting in the first meeting this season with NU.

• Sophomore Petra Holesinska, a 5-9 guard from the Czech Republic, led the Illini with 19 points in last year’s regular-season win over the Huskers. Holesinska hit a pair of threes while going 7-for-11 from the field. She added six rebounds and three assists. She was even better in the Big Ten Tournament, scoring 21 points, including 9-of-12 free throws, while adding four assists. In this season’s first meeting, Holesinska scored just two points and did not hit a field goal. She is averaging 5.7 points and 3.4 rebounds this season in Big Ten play after getting 18 points off the bench in a loss to Wisconsin (Jan. 28).

• Fifth-year senior Kennedy Cattenhead was also a regular starter in non-conference play for the Illini. She has averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds, but the 5-10 guard has a turnover-to-assist ratio of 2.7-to-1 (30-11) on the season. She had four points in six minutes in the first meeting with Nebraska this season.

• Alli Ball (2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg) and Jnaya Walker (1.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg) have also been regular contributors in the Illini playing rotation.

• Illinois is averaging just 57.9 points per game in the Big Ten, while allowing a whopping 78.3 points per contest. The Illini have a minus-8.0 team rebound margin and a minus-4.1 team turnover margin in conference play, while shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, including 31.5 percent from three-point range. Big Ten opponents are hitting 43.3 percent from three-point range against Illinois.

Nebraska vs. Illinois Series History
• Nebraska owns an 11-5 edge in the all-time series with Illinois, including an 80-72 victory over the Fighting Illini in Champaign on Jan. 10, 2018. Hannah Whitish led four Huskers in double figures with 20 points and a career-high six three-pointers. Maddie Simon added 11 points and Janay Morton contributed a season-high 10 points. Kate Cain pitched in 10 points and four rebounds, while Jasmine Cincore added eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Big Red.

• The Fighting Illini swept a pair of games against the Huskers last season, including a 79-59 win over NU at the State Farm Center on Jan. 15, 2017. The Illini also eliminated Nebraska from the Big Ten Tournament, 79-70, at Bankers Life Fieldhosue in Indianapolis on March 1.

• Last year’s regular-season loss to Illinois snapped Nebraska’s six-game winning streak in the series. It also ended a four-game road winning streak for the Huskers in Champaign and a stretch of five straight wins away from home for the Huskers against Illinois.

• Overall, Nebraska is 5-2 against Illinois in Champaign, 1-2 on neutral courts and 5-1 against Illinois in Lincoln. Nebraska has won three straight games against Illinois in Lincoln.

• Nebraska’s series with Illinois dates back to an 89-86 Husker win over the Illini at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln on March 3, 1982.

Husker Nuggets
• A win for Nebraska over Illinois would be the Huskers’ 17th victory of the season, which would be a plus-10-win improvement from last season (7).

• A win would be NU’s fifth straight after recording four consecutive wins against current NCAA top-50 RPI teams. Iowa (twice), Rutgers and Purdue.

• At 8-0 in true road games, Nebraska is one of only six teams in NCAA Division I (349 teams) unbeaten in true road contests, joining UConn, Mississippi State, Louisville, Georgia and Mercer.

• Kate Cain ranks third on Nebraska’s season block list with 75. She needs two blocks to match Catheryn Redmon (77, 2010-11) in second on that list. The Nebraska school record is 78 by Olympic bronze medalist Danielle Page (78, 2007-08). Cain has at least one blocked shot in all 22 games this season.

• Cain’s 75 blocks rank No. 4 in the nation while her 3.4 blocks per game rank seventh in the country through games Jan. 28. No Nebraska individual has ever averaged 2.0 blocks per game in a career, and only two Huskers (Danielle Page, 2.4 bpg, 2007-08; Catheryn Redmon, 2.5 bpg, 2010-11) have ever averaged 2.0 blocks per game in a single season.

• Nebraska freshman Taylor Kissinger has come off the bench for the Huskers in their first nine Big Ten games. The 6-1 guard from Minden, Neb., is averaging 10.4 points per game on the year. Kissinger averaged a team-best 14.0 points per game over the first seven games this season as a starter before missing Nebraska’s final six non-conference contests with a knee injury.

• Junior Maddie Simon (+7.1 ppg) is one of the Big Ten’s most improved players in 2017-18. Simon, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 11.2 points per game after averaging 4.1 points through all 29 games a year ago. Simon has scored in double figures in 10 of the last 13 games. She had just five double-digit efforts in her first two seasons combined.

Nebraska Streaks 
• Nebraska heads into Thursday’s game with Illinois riding a four-game winning streak.

• The Huskers have won nine consecutive games away from Pinnacle Bank Arena, including seven straight true road games and five consecutive Big Ten road games.

• Sophomore guard Hannah Whitish (39) owns the longest current streak of consecutive starts by a Husker. Nebraska’s second-longest streak is 21 games by freshman Kate Cain.

• Whitish is the only Husker to start all 22 games this season.

• Nebraska has featured the same starting lineup in 14 consecutive games.

• Whitish has posted at least one assist in 24 consecutive games, and has three or more assists in 20 games this season.

• Whitish has knocked down a three-pointer in 19 consecutive games.

• Kate Cain has blocked at least one shot in each of the first 22 games of her career. She has 19 games with two or more blocks.

• Cain has at least two rebounds every game this season. • Maddie Simon has at least three rebounds in all 18 of her games this season.

• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three-pointer in 302 straight regular-season games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008.

• Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 181 consecutive games.

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