s-WBBIllinoisPreview

Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski (40) defends Michigan’s Naz Hillman (navy) during the game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Editor's Note: On Friday, Jan. 21, the Nebraska women's basketball program announced that Sunday's game against Illinois has been postponed due to health and safety issues within the Huskers' program. The Big Ten is working with both programs to reschedule the contest for a later date. The original preview of Sunday's matchup can be found below. 

The Nebraska women’s basketball team looks to stop a three-game skid as it heads to Champaign, Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini in a mid-afternoon battle on Sunday, Jan. 23. 

Nebraska, since its big win against then-No. 8 Michigan, has dropped games to then-No.22 Iowa twice, as well as No. 6 Indiana. The Huskers' most recent defeat came at the hands of the Hawkeyes in a 93-83 defeat on Jan. 16. 

In the loss, the Huskers were without two of their main contributors in sophomore guard Jaz Shelley and junior guard Sam Haiby. Shelley leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game. Haiby currently sits as the Huskers third-best scorer, averaging 11 points per game.

Nebraska, without its key pieces, still led for the majority of the game, with the game only slipping away in the closing minutes. The Huskers had no answer for the Iowa duo of sophomore guard Caitlin Clark and senior forward/center Monika Czinano, who each finished the game with 31 points. Other than the 62 combined points from two Hawkeyes, the Huskers also found themselves outrebounded 37-32 and committed 28 fouls to Iowa’s seven. 

Setting aside disappointments from the defeat, the Huskers shot the ball well. They finished the game 32-of-69 from the field, 14-of-30 from 3-point range and 5-of-8 from the free-throw line. Another positive take away is Husker freshman forward Alexis Markowski finishing with 27 points and six 3-pointers, both career highs. 

Markowski follows Shelley in the scoring column for the Huskers, averaging 11.2 points per game. Markowski has found herself in the starting lineup the past four games to fill in for injured Huskers junior forward Bella Cravens. The Lincoln native has taken to her starting role well, and has become one of the key contributions to the Huskers offense. 

Rounding out the top five for the Huskers in scoring are a pair of sophomores in center Isabelle Bourne and guard Ashley Scoggin with 10.1 and nine points per game, respectively. Scoggin currently ranks No. 16 in Division I in 3-point percentage with 44.7%, Shelley follows close behind, coming in at No. 23 with 43.5%. 

Offensively, the Huskers still rank No. 8 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 81.4 points per game. The Huskers’ shooting percentages also rank inside the top-30 in Division I entering Sunday, with a 45.9 field goal percentage currently ranked No. 19 and a 36.4 3-point percentage coming in at No. 22

Defensively, the Huskers have taken a substantial dip in the rankings, sitting at No. 150 in Division I in scoring defense. Opponents average 62.1 points per game against the Huskers’ defense. 

Despite lacking a strong defense, the Huskers still sit No. 14 nationally in defensive rebounds, averaging 30.1 per game. They also sit top-30 in blocked shots per game, coming in at No. 29 nationally with 4.9 per game. 

The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, find themselves at 6-9 on the season and 1-3 in conference play. Illinois, in its solo Big Ten victory, beat Wisconsin 68-47. On the other hand, its losses in Big Ten play were against Michigan State, Ohio State and most recently Penn State. 

Offensively, the Illini currently sit as the nation's No. 162 scoring offense, averaging 66 points per game. Defensively, Illinois is coming into this game at No. 298 in scoring defense nationally, allowing the opposing team 69.7 points per game. 

In its 90-72 defeat against the Nittany Lions, Illinois was led by junior guard De’Myla Brown with 19 points and senior guard Sara Anastasieska with 11 points. Rounding out the double-digit scorers for Illinois was sophomore guard Aaliyah Nye, who finished with 10 points. 

Nye is Illinois’ leading scorer with 11.7 points per game with Brown following closely with 10.2 points per game. Third on the team is freshman guard Adalia McKenzie, who is averaging nine points per game.

Rounding out the top five for Illinois is junior guard Jada Peebles and sophomore guard Kendall Bostic. Peebles is currently averaging 8.9 points per game while Bostic is averaging 6.5 per game. Bostic, however, is No. 5 nationally in rebounds per game, averaging 12.1 per contest. 

The Huskers are looking for their seventh straight win against the Fighting Illini in their lone matchup against Illinois this season. The last time the two faced off, it ended in a 57-53 victory in favor of Nebraska back in January 2021. 

Tipoff for the showdown is set for 2:00 p.m. at State Farm Center. The matchup can be viewed on Big Ten Plus or listened to on Huskers Radio Network. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com