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Nebraska’s Jaz Shelley (1) drives the ball into the paint during the game against Indiana State at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After Nebraska women’s basketball went perfect in nonconference play as well as in its Big Ten matchup against Minnesota, the Huskers start a long stretch of Big Ten play on Thursday.

The Huskers’ next test will come in the form of a road matchup as they head to East Lansing, Michigan for a matchup against the Michigan State Spartans.

The Huskers are currently the No. 7 scoring offense in all of Division I, averaging 83.5 points per game. Their 1,002 total points rank No. 11 nationally. 

Nebraska has been prolific on offense in part because of the performance of sophomore guard Jaz Shelley. The Oregon transfer currently leads the team with 14.3 points per game. 

The Spartans will have their hands full trying to guard the Moe, Australia native, especially from beyond the 3-point line. Shelley leads the team in all 3-point shooting categories, converting 34-of-65 attempts for a sparkling 52.3%. Shelley ranks No. 6 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage.

The Huskers as a whole have been lethal from the 3-point range, as they are No. 7 in Division I with a 3-point percentage of 38.69%. Nebraska’s style of basketball was one of the deciding factors in last year's matchup against the Spartans. The Huskers won their last matchup 68-64 and shot 42.9% from 3-point range.

Michigan State’s offense has been the glue that has led it to a 7-6 record thus far, but its defense has been a liability. The Spartans have the No. 270 scoring defense nationally, allowing an average of 68 points per game.

Both teams will have tough tasks in slowing down their opposition's star playmakers. The Huskers have a lot more reliable depth on their roster, which could prove advantageous on Thursday. Recent performances from two freshman forwards off the bench, Alexis Markowski and Annika Stewart, have driven that point home. 

As red hot as the Huskers’ offense has been, the defense has been just as impressive by holding opposing offenses to a stringy 55.4 points per game. The Huskers sit at No. 4 in Division I with 32.3 defensive rebounds per game and limit opponents to 32.8% from the field, which ranks No. 8 in the country. 

Nebraska’s defense will have a tall task to limit an explosive Michigan State offense, though. The Spartans sit inside the top-50 in Division I at 34th in scoring offense as they enter Thursday, averaging 76.9 points per game. 

The Spartan offense has been led by senior guard Nia Clouden, who averages a team-high 21.8 points per game. Clouden is one of the country’s top scorers, ranking No. 7 among all Division I players in points per game. On Dec. 20, Clouden poured in an incredible 50 points in Michigan State’s double-overtime loss to Florida Gulf Coast, shooting 17-of-28 from the field and 15-of-17 from the free throw line. 

Along with Cloden, the Spartans boast another playmaker in freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh, who is third on the team averaging 10 points per game. She leads the team with 24 made 3-pointers, averaging 45.3% from the 3-point range. 

If Nebraska’s season so far has been any indication, the Spartans should have their hands full trying to stop an in-form Huskers team. As long as the Huskers can keep the game out of Clouden’s hands, they should keep their winning streak alive. Nebraska, after all, holds a statistical edge in every major category over Thursday’s opponent. 

Nebraska comes into Thursday receiving votes in the latest AP Top 25 and if victorious against the Spartans, the Huskers could finally be ranked. The game’s tip-off will be at 2:00 p.m. on Dec. 30 and can be viewed on the Big Ten Network, as well as listened to on Huskers Radio Network. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com