The Nebraska women’s basketball team shoots for a perfect three-game home stand to open the season when the Huskers tip Big Ten Conference play against Illinois on Thursday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tip-off against the Fighting Illini (2-1) is set for 7 p.m. (CT)
Nebraska opened its 2020-21 season with a 2-0 start over the weekend. The Huskers ran to a 90-61 season-opening win over Oral Roberts on Friday night (Dec. 4) before completing the weekend sweep with a 64-51 win over Idaho State on Sunday (Dec. 6) at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Husker senior (graduate student) Kate Cain produced a solid opening weekend by averaging 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocked shots, including the 13th double-double of her career with 14 points, 11 rebounds and six rejections in the win over ORU. The three-time Lisa Leslie Award candidate enters the Illinois game with a school-record 288 career blocks and needs two rejections to move into a tie for seventh with Ashley Adams (Ohio State) on the Big Ten all-time list. Cain is just five blocks away from sixth (Morgan Johnson, Iowa, 293) and needs 12 blocks to become just the sixth player in Big Ten history to record 300 career blocked shots.
Sophomore Isabelle Bourne enjoyed a strong opening weekend as a Husker starter, averaging 11.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists to help the Huskers. Bourne had nine second-half points in Sunday’s win over Idaho State and her older sister, Callie, a junior guard for the Bengals.
Junior Sam Haiby continued to show her all-around game. Nebraska’s top returning scorer averaged 10 points, 9.5 rebound and 5.0 assists over the weekend. The 5-9 guard had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists through the first three quarters of Nebraska’s opening-night win over Oral Roberts. She followed with a career-best 11 rebounds in the win over Idaho State.
Redshirt sophomore Ashley Scoggin started both games to open her Husker career and erupted for a career-high 16 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting in the win over Idaho State.
Freshman Annika Stewart was the only Husker to produce double figures in both wins, totaling 27 points in just 24 minutes off the bench. The 6-3 forward hit the first five shots of her NU career and buried four threes over two games. She is averaging a team-best 13.5 points per game.
Coach Nancy Fahey brings her fourth Fighting Illini team to Lincoln with a 2-1 record this season following 53-50 win over Omaha on Sunday in Champaign.
Sophomore starter Kennadi Myles produced a double-double against the Mavericks with 13 points and 14 rebounds. The 6-2 forward is averaging a double-double (10.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg) through three games after averaging 8.9 points and 8.7 rebounds in 29 games as a starter for the Illini last season.
Fellow sophomore Jada Peebles led Illinois in the scoring column with 15 points against the Mavs and has matched Myles with 10.3 points per game on the season. The 5-10 guard also sank two free throws with four seconds left to help Illinois secure the win. Last season Peebles averaged 5.4 points while making 11 starts for the 11-19 Illini, who finished 2-16 in the Big Ten.
A third sophomore, 5-11 guard Jeanae Terry, leads Illinois in scoring at 14.0 points per game, while adding 9.3 rebounds. Terry opened the season with a career-high 24 points in a win over Indiana State (Nov. 25), before producing her first career double-double with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in a loss to Valparaiso (Dec. 2). However, she was held to just two points in the win over Omaha.
Terry has hit a team-best four three-pointers (4-12) over three games, while Peebles has gone 3-for-11 from beyond the arc. As a team, Illinois has struggled to hit just 10-of-54 three-point attempts (.185) over the first three games.
J-Naya Ephraim, a 5-9 junior guard, is one of the most experienced members of the Illini program. Ephraim has played in 61 games with 23 starts in her Illinois career and is averaging 8.3 points per game this season. She averaged 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds while playing in all 30 games with 16 starts a year ago. Ephraim ranks third on the team with two three-pointers (2-9) early this season, but is shooting 17.4 percent (8-46) over her career.
Redshirt junior Eva Rubin rounds out the Illinois projected starting five. The 6-5 center who transferred from Arizona State in December of 2019 after playing nine games as a sophomore in 2018-19, is averaging 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds after getting 11 points in the win over Omaha. Rubin was a freshman on the 2017-18 Sun Devil squad that defeated Nebraska in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, but she did not play in the game.
Brazilian post player Geovana Lopes has provided the biggest contributions outside the starting five, averaging 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds over three games. Lopes had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench in the win over Indiana (Nov. 25), before getting six points and five rebounds in her first career start in the loss to Valpo (Dec. 2). The 6-3 junior did not score or get a rebound in eight minutes against UNO.
Freshman guard Aaliyah Nye (3.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg), sophomore guard Aaliyah McQueen and sophomore forward Solape Amusan (2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg) provide Illinois with more depth alongside senior forward Lyric Robins (0.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg) and redshirt junior Nancy Panagiotopoulou Andritsopoulou (0.0 ppg, 0.7 rpg).
As a team, Illinois has hit just 35.4 percent (64-181) of its shots from the field and 64.6 percent (42-65) of its free throws but the Illini did seal Sunday’s win by going 13-for-16 (.813) at the line.
While they have struggled to shoot it, Illinois has been an excellent rebounding team through three games with a plus-11.0 rebound margin (44.7-33.7). The Illini also carry a plus-one turnover margin. Illinois has averaged 60 points per game, but has surrendered just 53.7 points per contest.
Nebraska vs. Illinois Series History
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Illinois 14-5, including four consecutive victories. Last season, the Huskers notched an 80-58 win over the Illini on Senior Day (Feb. 22, 2020) at Pinnacle Bank Arena, making Illinois NU’s last Big Ten home opponent a year ago and first Big Ten home opponent this season.