Nebraska women’s basketball will meet Minnesota for the second time this season on Thursday, this time in Minneapolis.
There’s a lot to prove for both teams. Minnesota (12-8, 2-7 Big Ten) has struggled all of January. It started off the season 11-1, but hit a rough patch, only winning one of its last eight games. The Golden Gophers are currently coming off two straight losses, one being a 10-point loss to Wisconsin.
The last game the Huskers (15-5, 5-4) played was against Wisconsin, where they won by one point.
The Huskers seem to struggle more on the road, as they are 2-3 so far on the season. Proving they can win on the road will be an important step for the Huskers because when they get into postseason play, it’s uncertain if they’ll get to play at home at all.
When Nebraska played Minnesota in early January, the Huskers came out on top with a score of 72-58.
This wasn’t necessarily an expected win for the Huskers. Coming into the game, Minnesota was ranked No. 24. However, it has dropped out of the rankings since. Nebraska’s offense outplayed Minnesota throughout the game, as the Golden Gophers’ field goal percentage sat at 31.5%, while the Huskers shot at 44.3%.
What really put Minnesota at a deficit was its lack of accurate 3-point shooting. The Gophers are known for their efficient long-range shooting, and when they aren’t performing in that area, it’s hard for them to make up that scoring in other ways. Minnesota’s 3-point field goal percentage was 27.8, while Nebraska’s was 52.6. Through those numbers, it’s evident how much those long-range shots mattered.
Junior center Kate Cain was the star of the game, recording a double-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots. Cain stepping up, along with Minnesota struggling to lock down Nebraska’s long-range shooters were the main contributors to Nebraska’s win.
It will be crucial this time around for the Huskers to not only perform well offensively, but also keep the Golden Gophers’ 3-point shooters covered. Despite Minnesota’s poor long-range shooting performance earlier this month, it still remains one of the best in that aspect. With a 37.8% 3-point percentage, they are the best 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten and rank 13th in the nation.
If Nebraska can force Minnesota to shoot inside the arc, that will be huge for the Huskers because Minnesota’s 3-point defense is lacking, sitting near the mid-bottom of the conference in eighth.
Minnesota is also the best free-throw shooting team in the conference. When fouled and forced to the line, they perform well, shooting at 75.3%.
Offensive rebounds are where Minnesota struggles and Nebraska excels. The Huskers are second in the Big Ten, while the Golden Gophers are down at 11th. Continuing to be able to get those second-chance shots will be a big asset for Nebraska.
Minnesota junior guard Destiny Pitts is the team’s standout player. Averaging 16.3 points per game, she’s the fifth-leading scorer in the Big Ten. Nebraska’s leading scorer, Leigha Brown is averaging 13.7 points per game and is sitting at 14th in the conference.
Pitts especially stands out when she’s behind the arc and is the second-best in the conference, shooting 3-pointers at 45.9%. Pitts also leads the Big 10 in free-throw percentage, making 85.7% of them.
Cain and Minnesota senior forward Taiye Bello are comparable, as both lead their teams in rebounds and blocks.
Minnesota’s biggest advantage comes from how deep its team is. It has four players who average double-digit scoring, while Nebraska only has two. The Huskers are often praised for how versatile and deep their team is, so this will be a big test to see if they can outlast the Golden Gophers once again.
Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, and the game can be listened to on Husker Sports Network.