The Nebraska women’s basketball team embarks on its first Big Ten Conference road trip of the season while closing the 2019 calendar year against Michigan State in East Lansing on Tuesday afternoon.
Tip-off between the Huskers (11-1, 1-0 Big Ten) and Spartans (7-5, 0-1 Big Ten) is set for noon (CT) at the Breslin Center. Live television coverage will be provided by the Big Ten Network with Chris Vosters and Vera Jones on the call.
Live radio coverage for Tuesday’s New Year’s Eve date at Michigan State can be heard on B107.3 FM in Lincoln and ESPN 590 AM in Omaha beginning at 11:45 a.m. (CT). Stations across the state will also carry the broadcast on the Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network. Free live audio can be found at Huskers.com, the Huskers App and TuneIn.
Nebraska opened Big Ten play with a solid 78-69 win over defending Big Ten Tournament champion and NCAA Elite Eight qualifier Iowa on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.
Junior Kate Cain led the Huskers by recording her first double-double of the season and eighth of her career with 16 points and a season-high 12 rebounds. The 6-5 center from Middletown, N.Y., is a Lisa Leslie Award candidate this year and is averaging 10.6 points and team bests of 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.
Nebraska sophomore Leigha Brown leads Nebraska and ranks 12th in the Big Ten in scoring (14.3 ppg). She closed non-conference play with a season-high 25 points against Manhattan (Dec. 22) to earn a spot on the Big Ten Weekly Honor Roll (Dec. 23). Brown opened Big Ten play with 10 points and six rebounds and is a top contender for Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year honors. She is the only non-starter in the Big Ten averaging more than 12 points per game.
Fellow sophomore Sam Haiby earned spots on the Big Ten Weekly Honor Roll (Nov. 11, Dec. 16) after big performances in Husker wins. Haiby, who had 10 points in the win over Iowa (Dec. 28), scored a career-high 28 points in a win over Missouri (Nov. 10) and added 20 points in a win over Oral Roberts (Dec. 14). She ranks second among the Huskers with 10.7 points per game.
Senior leaders Nicea Eliely (12 points, 5 assists) and Hannah Whitish (11 points, 3 assists) completed a group of five Huskers who scored in double figures against Iowa. Whitish is a two-time All-Big Ten pick who is the only Husker in history to reach the combined career milestones of 1,000 points (1,061), 400 assists (412) and 200 made three-pointers (217).
Scouting the Michigan State Spartans
• In her 13th season at Michigan State, Coach Suzy Merchant had her Spartans in the top 25 throughout the non-conference season until losing back-to-back games to Syracuse (77-63) and West Virginia (63-57) at the Sunshine Challenge before the holiday break. The Spartans suffered their third straight setback with a 79-67 loss at No. 14 Indiana on Saturday.
• MSU’s only other losses this season came against LSU at the Junkanoo Jam and unbeaten Florida State in Tallahassee to open a December schedule that so far has seen the Spartans go 1-4 with its only win against Morehead State at home amidst four losses away from the Breslin Center.
• Michigan State is 5-0 at home this season with no games against a Power Five conference foe and an average winning margin of 40.6 points per game. Those five opponents combined to go 15-44 through games Dec. 29. The Spartans are just 2-5 away from East Lansing with all seven contests against Power Five teams and a minus-7.6 scoring margin.
• Michigan State’s most explosive and consistent player is sophomore Nia Clouden. The 5-8 guard ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring at 15.7 points per game. She also ranks third in the Big Ten with 2.5 steals per game. Clouden, who was a two-time Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Maryland, was one of five newcomers on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in 2018-19. Clouden has started each of the first 45 games to open her career.
• The only other Spartan to start all 12 games this season and each of the last 45 over the past year-and-a-half is senior Taryn McCutcheon. The 5-5 point guard is the motor that makes the Spartans go and has been for 110 starts in 110 games in her career. McCutcheon is averaging more than 30 minutes per game and played nearly 35 minutes at Indiana. She is averaging 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and nearly three assists per game. McCutcheon had 15 points at Indiana to reach the 1,000-point scoring mark in her career. She has added more than 500 assists and 300 rebounds in her career.
• McCutcheon is the catalyst for one of the oldest starting fives in the Big Ten, which includes fifth-year senior starters Shay Colley and Victoria Gaines.
• Colley, who was a first-team All-Big Ten choice last year and a preseason All-Big Ten selection entering this season, is averaging 9.7 points and 4.2 rebounds despite battling injury early this season. Colley was a transfer from South Carolina/Pittsburgh prior to the 2016-17 season and has helped MSU play up-tempo basketball and pressure defense when she is healthy and at her best. She had eight points and four rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench in the loss at Indiana. She also battled foul trouble against the Hoosiers. Colley has played just six games with four starts so far this year.
• Gaines, a 6-3 forward, is averaging 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds with nine starts in 10 games. Gaines had 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the loss at Indiana. Gaines owns 61 career starts in 117 career games. In four career games against Nebraska Gaines has averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.
• A fourth senior, Nia Hollie, made her first start of the season and 16th of her career at Indiana. The 6-0 forward is averaging 3.2 points and 2.5 rebounds.
• While the Spartans are experienced, they have not been settled on a starting five because of several factors including injuries. Junior forward Mardrekia Cook (5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg) has made five starts but did not play at Indiana.
• Tory Ozment, a 6-1 sophomore, has made six starts and is averaging 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds. Ozment also ranks third among the Spartans with 13 three-pointers.
• Fellow sophomore Kayla Belles, a 6-3 forward, has added three starts and is averaging 4.7 points and 3.0 boards.
• Freshman Moira Joiner has made eight starts in her first season. The 5-10 guard has managed 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds.
• Fellow freshmen Alyza Winston (4.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg) and Taiyier Parks (4.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg) have joined Joiner in playing all 12 games. Winston and Parks have both averaged double-digit minutes but neither scored in the Big Ten opener at Indiana.
• As a team, Michigan State is averaging 74.3 while allowing 60.3 points per game (nearly identical to Nebraska’s 74.5-60.2). However, the Spartans are shooting just 40.8 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three-point range. MSU is also shooting just 63.2 percent at the free throw line. MSU owns a plus-4.5 rebound margin and a plus-5.0 turnover margin.
• Against Power Five teams, MSU has a minus-4.9 rebound margin and plus-3.0 turnover margin.
• At home against non-Power Five teams, the Spartans are shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range but just 61.4 percent at the line. Away from home against Power Five teams, MSU has hit just 35.6 percent of its shots, including just 28.2 percent of its threes. The Spartans have hit 64.2 percent of their free throws away from home.
Nebraska vs. Michigan State Series History
• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan State 8-3 with all 11 meetings as Big Ten Conference foes, including a 79-69 win over the Spartans in East Lansing on Feb. 14, 2018. The Huskers are 2-3 against Michigan State all-time at the Breslin Center.
• The Huskers are 5-0 against the Spartans in Lincoln, including an 82-71 win over then-No. 24 Michigan State at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln on Feb. 17, 2019.
• Four of Nebraska’s eight wins have been by 10 or more points, while NU’s most lopsided win in the series came with an 86-58 victory over the Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on March 8, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
• Michigan State’s three series wins have all been by double digits in East Lansing, including a 73-53 victory in the first-ever meeting on Feb. 23, 2012. Two years later, the Spartans worked their way to a 70-57 win on Jan. 9, 2014, before rolling to a 93-73 victory over the Huskers on Jan. 7, 2017.
• In four career games against Michigan State, Hannah Whitish has averaged 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals.
• In two games against NU, Shay Colley has averaged 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
• Kate Cain owns Nebraska’s longest streak of consecutive starts (73).
• Nicea Eliely owns Nebraska’s second-longest streak of starts (68).
• Kate Cain has recorded at least one block in all 12 games this season, and has blocked a shot in 14 straight games dating back to last season.
• As a team, Nebraska has blocked at least one shot in 81 consecutive games.
• Kate Cain has produced double-figure points in four consecutive games, the longest active double-digit scoring streak among the Huskers. Cain has produced double figures in six of the last seven games.
• Kate Cain, Nicea Eliely, Leigha Brown and Isabelle Bourne are the only Huskers to score points in each of Nebraska’s first 12 games this season.
• Kate Cain, Nicea Eliely and Isabelle Bourne are the only Huskers to record at least one rebound for the Huskers in all 12 games this season.
• Eliely was the only Husker to score in all 30 games last season, and the only Husker to score in all of Nebraska’s games against Big Ten Conference foes. She has scored in 46 consecutive games overall. She did not score in a win over Penn State on Feb. 22, 2018, the only time in the past three seasons (including 2019-20, 71 games) that Eliely was shut out.
• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three in 354 straight games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008. Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 233 consecutive games.
Numbers to Watch
(3) Kate Cain needs three blocks to match Catheryn Redmon (216, 2008-11) at No. 2 on Nebraska’s career blocked shot list. Cain would also match Casey Leonhardt (37, 1999-00) at No. 4 on the Husker junior single-season block list.
(3) Kristian Hudson needs three assists to reach 400 in her career (383 at FIU).
(5) Nicea Eliely needs five rebounds to reach 400 in her career. When she achieves that milestone she will become just the 12th player in Nebraska history to reach the combined career milestones of 800 points, 400 rebounds and 200 assists.
(7) Kristian Hudson needs seven rebounds to reach 400 in her career (372 at FIU).
(19) Kate Cain needs 19 rebounds to reach 500 in her career.
(98) Nicea Eliely is expected to make her team-leading 98th career start on Tuesday.
• Nebraska’s 11-1 start is its best under Coach Amy Williams and NU’s best start since also opening 11-1 in its first season in the Big Ten in 2011-12. The Huskers opened 15-1, including 3-0 in the Big Ten during a 16-game conference season in 2011-12.
• Entering the week, Nebraska was one of 27 teams nationally (5 Big Ten) with 11 or more wins. The Huskers were one of 30 teams with one loss or less (4 Big Ten). Only nine unbeatens remain among the 344 NCAA Division I teams.
• Nebraska is No. 34 in the Massey Ratings (Dec. 30). Other Big Ten teams in the top 40 included: Indiana (11), Maryland (15), Northwestern (20), Minnesota (22), Rutgers (24), Purdue (31), Iowa (33), Nebraska (34) and Michigan (39).
• Through 12 games, Nebraska is allowing an average of 60.2 points per game, after allowing 70.1 points per game last season. NU’s 2018 NCAA Tournament team allowed 63.6.
• Opponents are shooting 34.6 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from three-point range against NU. Last year, Husker foes hit 41.1 percent, including 33.4 percent from three. In 2017-18, Nebraska led the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (.371) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.299).
• Nebraska has held seven opponents to 55 points or less this season. Last year, NU held only two foes (Radford-39, Kansas-52) to 55 or less. NU held 11 opponents to 55 or less in 2017-18.
• NU’s bench has outscored opponent reserves in all 12 games in 2019-20, and 40 of the last 42 games overall. The Husker bench has outscored opponent benches by double digits in 30 of the last 42 games.
• This season, NU’s bench has outscored opposing benches 340-166 (28.3-13.8 ppg).