Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Tip Regular Season with SIUE

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-0, Big Ten) vs. SIUE Cougars (0-0, Ohio Valley)
Saturday, Nov. 11, 3 p.m. (CT)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Promotions: Military Appreciation/Toys for Tots
Tickets: Huskers.com
Live Video Stream: BTN Plus (Brody Jantzi, Emma Young)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network
Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst)
Lincoln - 107.3 FM; Omaha - 105.9 FM
Free Live Audio: Huskers.com/Huskers App

Huskers Set for Regular-Season Opener with SIUE
• The Nebraska women’s basketball team opens its 2017-18 regular season by taking on SIU Edwardsville on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Lincoln. Tip-off between the Huskers and Cougars is set for 3 p.m., as the first part of a men’s and women’s basketball double-header at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Husker men will face Eastern Illinois with a 7:30 p.m. tip.

• A live radio broadcast will be produced by the Husker Sports Network, with Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch teaming up for their 17th season together on the call. The game will be carried live for free on Huskers.com and over the air on select Husker Sports Network stations, including B107.3 FM and 105.9 FM in Omaha. Free audio also can be found on the Huskers App. 

Big Red to Honor Military at Season Opener
• The Nebraska women’s basketball program will show its appreciation to veterans, former military members and those active in service at its 2017-18 regular-season opener at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday afternoon.

• Military members with active duty, reserve military or retired military photo ID cards will be admitted for free at Saturday’s game. VA Medical ID cards, Legion or VFW cards or DD214 Form can also be used to gain free admission to the SIUE game.

• As part of Military Appreciation Day, the Marines and the UNL ROTC will be collecting new in package, but unwrapped toys along with monetary donations near the entrances of Pinnacle Bank Arena to benefit the Toys for Tots program.

Nebraska Briefly
• Nebraska returns three starters and eight letterwinners from a team that went 7-22 overall and 3-13 to tie for 11th in the Big Ten in 2016-17.

• Sophomore Hannah Whitish (9.0 ppg) is Nebraska’s top returning scorer, while senior Jasmine Cincore and sophomore Nicea Eliely both started all 29 games in the Husker backcourt a year ago.

• Eliely and senior guard Janay Morton enter the season with injuries and will likely be unavailable for Saturday’s season opener. Both are hopeful to return to full strength early in the non-conference season. 

• Freshmen Taylor Kissinger (Minden, Neb.) scored a team-high 22 points, while sophomore Bria Stallworth (Chicago, Ill.) added 15 points in the exhibition win over Minnesota State. Kissinger and Stallworth will likely see their first regular-season action in Husker uniforms on Saturday.

• Sophomore Rachel Blackburn, who redshirted in 2016-17 after undergoing multiple knee surgeries, is likely to return to regular-season action at Pinnacle Bank Arena for the Huskers on Saturday.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
(0-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 4.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg
50 - Darrien Washington - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 2.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 9.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg
33 - Taylor Kissinger - 6-1 - Fr. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - G - 6.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Off the Bench
12 - Emily Wood - 5-5 - Sr. - G - 2.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg
13 - Bria Stallworth - 5-6 - So. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - So. - F - 1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg
34 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
43 - Rachel Blackburn - 6-3 - So. - F - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
Injured
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
13 - Janay Morton - 5-10 - Sr. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
Head Coach: Amy (Gusso) Williams (Nebraska, 1998)
Second Season at Nebraska (7-22); 11th Season Overall (200-131)

SIU Edwardsville Cougars
(0-0, 0-0 OVC)  
10 - Elina Berzina - 5-10 - Sr. - G/F - 2.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg
34 - Sydney Bauman - 6-3 - Jr. - C - 4.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg
2 - Nakiah Bell - 5-5 - Jr. - G - 10.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg
12 - Lauren White - 5-8 - RSr. - G - 12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg
31 - Donshel Beck - 5-9 - Sr. - G - 14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Off the Bench
5 - Jay’Nee Alston - 5-8 - Jr. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
14 - Micah Jones - 6-1 - RSr. - G - 5.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg
15 - Cloe Churchill - 5-9 - So. - G - 1.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg
22 - Amri Wilder - 5-8 - Jr. - G - 6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg
23 - Allie Troeckler - 5-10 - Fr. - G/F - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
24 - Lyric Boone - 5-11 - Fr. - F - 4.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg
25 - Zaria Whitlock - 6-0 - Fr. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
44 - Gwen Adams - 5-11 - Sr. - F/C - 8.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Head Coach: Paula Buscher (Missouri State, 1986)
Sixth Season at SIUE (78-76); 21st Season Overall (288-302)

Scouting the SIUE Cougars
• Southern Illinois Edwardsville will be one of the most experienced teams Nebraska plays all season. The Cougars return five starters and eight letterwinners from a team that went 14-17 overall and 9-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2016-17. 

• Coach Paula Buscher brings SIU Edwardsville to Lincoln for the first time to take on Nebraska. Buscher’s bunch returns all five starters from last season’s Cougar club that finished 14-17 overall and 9-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

• SIUE was picked to finish second behind only Belmont in the 12-team OVC this season after finishing third a year ago.

• The Cougars are led by senior Donshel Beck, who earned preseason All-OVC honors. The 5-9 guard from St. Louis averaged 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds as a junior. She needs just eight points in Saturday’s game against the Huskers to become the 24th 1,000-point scorer in SIUE history.

• Fifth-year senior Lauren White averaged 12.0 points and 4.3 rebounds a year ago. White scored 15 points, while Donshel Beck added 12 points but it was not enough to prevent Missouri-St. Louis from knocking off SIUE, 58-55, in exhibition play at the Vadalabene Center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Nov. 5.

• SIUE forced 25 UM-St. Louis turnovers, but hit just 21-of-61 (.344) of its shots, while the Tritons knocked down 19-of-45 shots (.422). UMSL went just 2-for-10 from three-point range, but SIUE hit just 1-of-14 shots from long range. UMSL also connected on 18-of-28 free throws, compared to just 12-of-19 free throw shooting for the Cougars. UMSL also won the battle of the boards, 40-36.

• Nakiah Bell, a 5-5 junior guard, averaged 10.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and a team-best 4.2 assists last season. • Elina Berzina, a 5-10 senior guard/forward from Riga, Latvia, returns after starting 15 games last season while averaging 2.4 points and 1.4 boards.

• Sydney Bauman, a 6-3 junior center, is the only player on SIUE’s roster taller than 6-1. She averaged 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a year ago.

• SIUE features more experience and production off the bench with 5-11 senior forward/center Gwen Adams who averaged 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds last year, while 6-1 redshirt senior Micah Jones contributed 5.9 points and 4.9 boards a year ago. Jones is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in preseason practice. • Christen King, Allie Troeckler, Lyric Boone and Zaria Whitlock are four true freshmen who could see their first collegiate action for the Cougars on Saturday.  Junior college transfer Jay’Nee Alston and sophomore transfer Jordi Harre also will be looking for their first official playing time for SIUE.

• SIUE joined the NCAA Division I ranks in 2008. The school won 16 NCAA championships across its sports prior to moving to Division I.

Young Huskers Ready to Rise, Compete on Defense 
• Nebraska will put one of the least-experienced lineups in the Big Ten on the court this season. Senior Jasmine Cincore leads the Huskers with 35 career starts, while true sophomore Nicea Eliely’s 29 starts rank second and Hannah Whitish’s 17 starts rank third. Those three Huskers have combined for 81 of Nebraska’s 96 combined career starts in Husker uniforms. Sophomore Rachel Blackburn (10) and junior Maddie Simon (5) are the only other current Huskers who have ever started a game for Nebraska, and neither one of them made a start last season. 

• Last season, the four least-experienced teams (Nebraska, Illinois, Rutgers, Wisconsin) tied for 11th in the Big Ten Conference.

• Although the Huskers will be relatively inexperienced, they are confident they can be a drastically improved defensive team in 2017-18. Last season, Nebraska ranked 14th in the Big Ten by allowing 76.3 points per game, including 80.4 points per game in Big Ten play. It marked the second straight season that Nebraska surrendered more than 65 points per game. Prior to the 2015-16 season, the Huskers had not allowed 65 points per game since 2004-05.

• In a closed scrimmage with 2017 NCAA Tournament qualifier Iowa State in Ames on Oct. 29, Nebraska held the Cyclones to just 64 points and just 20 made field goals at Hilton Coliseum. NU’s dynamic work on defense against ISU was even more impressive considering 2017 Husker Defensive MVP Nicea Eliely and another of their top projected perimeter defenders, Janay Morton, did not play in the scrimmage because of injury.

• In Nebraska’s exhibition opener against Minnesota State-Mankato, the Huskers held an experienced Maverick team to just 55 points. The Huskers also held Minnesota State to just 28.8 percent field goal shooting. Earlier in the week, Minnesota State won an exhibition game 87-37 against NCAA Division III St. Olaf’s College.

• Last season, Nebraska allowed 82.8 points per game on the road. The Huskers were also minus-6.2 on the glass and minus-5.9 in turnover margin away from Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Huskers Prepare for Growth in 2017-18

• The Nebraska women’s basketball team laid the foundation for growth in Coach Amy Williams’ first season with the Huskers in 2016-17. Now the Big Red are ready to see some improved performance on the court. Nebraska has plenty of room to climb after tying for 11th in the 14-team Big Ten Conference last season and finishing with a 7-22 record.

• Although Nebraska must overcome the loss of a 2016-17 starting frontcourt that combined for 25.5 points and 15.1 rebounds while starting every contest last season, Williams and the Huskers are optimistic. • While the frontcourt took heavy losses, the starting backcourt returns intact and adds a pair of experienced Division I transfers and two talented freshmen.

• “This past offseason provided us a great opportunity to make big strides with our team’s strength and conditioning, as well as needed skill development,” Williams said. “A couple of big home wins toward the end of last season provided some very good motivation and something to build on throughout the offseason. We are eager for the 2017-18 season, and we expect progress and growth for our program.”

Whitish Working to Shine as Sophomore
• Nebraska’s growth in the backcourt is expected to start with sophomore Hannah Whitish. The 5-9 guard from Barneveld, Wis., is the Big Red’s top returning scorer after averaging 9.0 points per game a year ago. Whitish, who started every Big Ten game for Nebraska, averaged 11.1 points in conference play, while shooting a sizzling 41.8 percent (38-91) from three-point range. She was also Nebraska’s top playmaker, averaging 3.7 assists in Big Ten action.

• Whitish’s play blossomed throughout the season, as she produced double figures in each of Nebraska’s last four games including a career-high 24-point performance in an overtime upset of NCAA Tournament-bound Michigan State on Feb. 26, 2017. Whitish knocked down 5-of-8 three-pointers against the Spartans while adding five rebounds and five assists in 44 minutes of work.

• Whitish led Nebraska with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting while adding a team-high five assists in a closed scrimmage at Iowa State on Oct. 29. She scored 11 fourth-quarter points to lead a methodical Husker rally against the 2017 NCAA Tournament qualifiers.

• “It was a pleasure to watch Hannah’s growth throughout her freshman year, and she has continued that growth into the offseason,” Williams said. “She made significant gains in the weight room, and she is carrying herself with more confidence. We are excited about the leadership she is displaying.”

Eliely Sidelined By Injury Early in 2017-18
• Sophomore Nicea Eliely is expected to rejoin Whitish as a returning starter in the backcourt. Eliely, a 6-1 wing from Colorado Springs, Colo., started all 29 games for the Huskers as a true freshman, averaging 7.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a team-leading 1.6 steals per game.

• Eliely was Nebraska’s top defender throughout her freshman season, and with a year of experience under her belt, the Huskers expect to see even better defensive play from the long, athletic wing.

• She added strength during the offseason and also improved her skill level at the offensive end to give herself more options in not only scoring but also creating opportunities for her teammates.

• “Nicea had a good offseason and went to work on several areas of her game,” Williams said. “She has the capabilities of bringing more production in multiple areas, and we are looking for a big sophomore season from her.”

• However, Eliely suffered a foot/ankle injury in mid-October that sidelined her late in preseason. She is expected to make a full recovery but she may be slowed or limited by the injury early in the season.

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