After beating Illinois on the road 75-56 on Sunday, the 12-3 Nebraska women’s basketball team returned home to prepare for the game against the 12-5 Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday at 8 p.m.
“It’s always fun playing on the road,” junior forward Emily Cady said. “We always get the team’s best effort.”
As the No. 18 Nebraska team returns home, it is looking to increase its 8-6 lead in the all-time series between the Huskers and the Gophers.
“It’s always good to be home,” coach Connie Yori said. “I know Minnesota is coming off a really good win against Northwestern. But every game is going to come down to who prepares well, who’s mentally prepared to play and then who executes.”
In Nebraska’s game against the Gophers in Minneapolis last season, Minnesota’s sophomore guard Shayne Mullaney contributed 10 points to the game, and senior forward Micaella Riche also added 10 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out.
Going into the Minnesota game, senior forward Jordan Hooper currently stands at 1,990 points in her college career. Hooper is looking to become the fourth Husker to reach 2,000 points alongside Karen Jennings, Kelsey Griffin and Maurtice Ivy.
“When we started recruiting Jordan, we knew she was special,” Yori said. “You just don’t see kids her size shoot it the way she does. Combined with her athleticism, she’s been everything we’d hope she’d be and we’d thought she’d be on the court and as a person.”
Hooper leads Nebraska in points and rebounds per game with 20.3 and 10.5, respectively. After her is Cady, who averages 13.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. In the last game against Illinois, Cady took home her sixth double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Rachel Banham leads the Gophers in scoring and is the Big Ten’s leading scorer with 21.3 points per game. In Minnesota’s last game against Northwestern, Banham contributed 28 points. By the end of the game, the Gophers had a 35-point lead, giving Minnesota its first Big Ten win of the season. The Huskers also recently beat the Wildcats in a close game, which ended with a final score of 66-65, Nebraska.
Minnesota coach Pam Borton has four returning starters on the team this year, one of whom is Banham. Redshirt freshman center Amanda Zahui leads the Gophers and the conference with 52 blocks.
As a team, Minnesota has managed to hit 98 of 226 attempted 3-pointers during the season, giving them a .434 3-point percentage — the top in the nation this season. In the last game against Illinois, the Huskers went 1 for 6 on 3-pointers in the first half, followed by a 6-13 performance in the second. They did, however, make 90 percent from the free throw line, giving them 18 points on the game.
“They present a lot of problems for us on the inside,” Yori said. “A small, little detail is they lead the nation in 3-point field goal percentage. They’re very good offensively in terms of their efficiency because they’ve got an inside-outside game, multiple shooters and just a very good offensive presence, so we will be challenged defensively.”
After the Minnesota game, the Huskers will stay at home once again as they prepare to compete against the No. 22 Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Pinnacle Bank Arena.