The Nebraska women’s basketball team will take the floor at Pinnacle Bank Arena against No. 9 Maryland tonight at 7 p.m. The game presents another opportunity for Nebraska to knock off a ranked opponent, something the Huskers haven’t done in three tries this season and not since Jan. 21, 2018.
Maryland, specifically, has been a thorn in Nebraska’s side. Since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten, Nebraska is 0-7, and overall, Nebraska is 0-9 in the series. The Terrapins were ranked in all three games between the teams last year and beat Nebraska by a combined 22 points in those matchups.
This year, both teams enter the matchup with 2-1 records in conference play, resulting in a five-team tie for second place.
Nebraska rallied to beat Michigan 70-56 in the conference opener to bring its record back to .500 before defeating Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, 78-69. In both those games, Maddie Simon, Nicea Eliely and Leigha Brown all scored in double figures, providing the Huskers with a balanced offensive attack.
Nebraska’s first conference loss came to No. 19 Iowa in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes beat the Huskers 77-71 thanks to Megan Gustafson, who tallied a monster double-double of 28 points and 17 rebounds, which helped Iowa gain a 41-36 advantage in rebounds.
Brown and Hannah Whitish were the only two Huskers to score in double figures, scoring 20 and 14 points, respectively.
Maryland beat Penn State 77-61 to begin conference play before suffering its first defeat of the year against Rutgers, falling 73-65. The Terrapins bounced back to defeat Ohio State 75-69 on Saturday, Jan. 5.
Rebounding has been a challenge for Nebraska in conference play. The team has been outrebounded in all three games, and that trend will likely continue tonight against Maryland.
6-foot-5 freshman Shakira Austin has pulled down a team-high 155 rebounds (44 offensive) through 14 games, an average of 11 rebounds per contest. Guard Kaila Charles and forward Stephanie Jones are both over 6 feet tall and have snagged 90 rebounds each.
Offensively, Charles and Jones are two of Maryland’s three main options. Charles leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 82.7 percent from the free throw line. Jones averaged 13.4 points per game as the primary post option.
Freshman Taylor Mikesell is the Terrapins’ second-leading scorer, operating mostly from long range. This season, she has shot 104 threes and made 43 of them, a 41.3 percent success rate. She averages three made 3-point shots per game and two made 2-pointers, sprinkling in free throws to reach her 14.7 points per game average.
Nebraska will need center Kate Cain to control the paint while its forwards, including Simon, Brown and Ashtyn Veerbeek help clean up available rebounds. Veerbeek has snared 91 rebounds and Cain 90. Cain is the same height as Austin from Maryland but stronger, while Austin is more lithe.
Maryland’s depth of talented post players will likely give Nebraska fits, but the Huskers can find an advantage in guard play, especially 3-point shooting.
Taylor Kissinger shoots 47.7 percent from long range while Eliely shoots 44.4 percent. Hannah Whitish has slumped this year but has been a capable shooter in the past, while Brown and Sam Haiby have proven to be occasional threats from outside.
If Nebraska can connect on threes at a healthy clip, it could be able to keep pace with Maryland, which has scored less than 65 points only once this season. If Brown and Veerbeek can reliably hit jump shots from the mid-range and beyond, that will help Nebraska draw some of Maryland’s shot-blocking length out of the paint, freeing the guards to drive and giving Cain more space to operate.