Maryland women’s basketball starts its toughest stretch of the season Sunday at Nebraska. Five of the Terps’ last seven games are on the road, all of them against teams that could end up making the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskers have won five games in a row and have put together a bounce-back season. After going 8-22 and 3-13 last year, Nebraska is 17-6 and is second in the Big Ten with an 8-2 conference record. Leading scorer and rebounder Jessica Shepard transferred to Notre Dame over the summer, which makes this season even more impressive.
The Huskers have beaten Iowa twice and won at Rutgers, and their only two Big Ten losses are to Michigan and Ohio State at home. Maryland is coming off an 88-60 win over the Scarlet Knights, and will need to continue to execute at a high level down the stretch.
Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET, and the game will be streamed on BTN Plus.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (17-6, 8-2)
2016-17 record: 8-22, 3-13
Head coach Amy Williams is in the second year of rebuilding her alma mater. Before coming to Lincoln, she went 96-44 in four years at South Dakota, including Summit League regular season conference titles in 2015 and 2016.
Players to know
Hannah Whitish, sophomore, guard, 5’9, No.3. Whitish makes Nebraska’s offense go. She leads the Huskers in points (13.4) and assists (5.1) per game, and hits 40.4 percent of her three-point attempts.
Maddie Simon, junior, forward, 6’2, No. 24. Simon is one of Nebraska’s main options inside, averaging 11 points and six rebounds per game. She’s been inefficient this season due to her poor three-point shooting; Simon shoots 47.8 percent on two-pointers and 25 percent on threes.
Kate Cain, freshman, center, 6’5, No. 31. Not only has Cain been able in her first season at Nebraska, she’s been one of the best freshman in the Big Ten. She averages 10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and a conference-leading 3.3 blocks per game. Cain has the chance to be a difference maker, as Maryland has struggled with taller post players at times this season.
Taylor Kissinger, freshman, guard/forward, 6’1, No. 33. Kissinger is another impact freshman for the Huskers, averaging 10.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. She does most of her damage from outside, with 68 percent of her shots coming from behind the arc, and she’s hit 36.9 percent of those attempts.
Nicea Eliely, sophomore, guard, 6’1, No. 5. Eliely averages 8.7 points and 4.1 rebounds and has a good inside-out game. She’s shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 37.1 percent on three-pointers this season.
Defense. One of the biggest reasons for Nebraska’s unexpected turnaround has been its improvement on the defensive end. The Huskers give up just 63 points a game, which is 13 less than they gave up a year ago. They also lead the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (.365) and three-point defense (.297)
Free throws. The Huskers shoot an atrocious 62.1 percent from the line, which is the worst in the Big Ten and 326th in the NCAA. Maryland shoots a pedestrian 69.5 percent, so there could be plenty of points left at the charity stripe Sunday.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland break down another strong defense? Rutgers usually has an excellent defense, and Maryland picked it apart. If the Terps hit shots from inside and out early, that could break down Nebraska’s gameplan.
2. Will Nebraska have any answer for Kaila Charles? If Charles stays out of foul trouble, she can dominate. She’s averaged 23.7 points per game on 73.7 percent shooting in Maryland’s last eight games.
3. Can the Terps put together a good performance on the road? When not playing cupcakes or conference bottom-feeders, Maryland’s road performances have been subpar. Over 6,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday’s game, which will make it possibly the toughest atmosphere the Terps have played in this season.
Maryland wins, 78-69