Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

After 20-Win Season, Return to NCAA Tournament, Huskers Look to Future

By NU Athletic Communications

2017-18 Season Highlights
• The Nebraska women’s basketball team earned its 14th NCAA Tournament bid in school history and its first under second-year head coach Amy Williams when Nebraska was included in the 64-team 2018 NCAA Tournament field.

• The Huskers (21-11, 11-5 Big Ten) claimed a No. 10 seed, before falling to No. 7 seed Arizona State, 73-62 in the NCAA Tournament First Round at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, on March 17.

• Nebraska earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2015 and fifth in the past seven years. 

• Nebraska produced its 17th 20-win season in school history and its eighth since 2006-07.

• Big Ten Coach of the Year Amy Williams and her staff led the nation’s top turnaround in 2017-18. The Huskers were 14 victories better in the win column than 2016-17 (7-22), including eight wins better in the Big Ten (3-13). Nebraska earned the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the Big Ten semifinals in 2018, after tying for last and losing in the 2017 Big Ten first round.

• Williams, who was the Summit League Coach of the Year in both 2015 and 2016 at South Dakota, was one of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach-of-the-Year award.

• Sophomore Hannah Whitish earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. She led the Huskers in scoring (12.6 ppg), assists (4.7 apg), steals (1.3 spg) and three-pointers (73) on the year. The 5-9 point guard from Barneveld, Wis., was the only Husker to start all 32 games in 2017-18. 

• With Whitish leading the way with 73 three-pointers, Nebraska knocked down a school-record 250 three-pointers on the season, shattering the previous mark of 231 set in 2013-14.

• Kate Cain made an impressive debut by earning spots on the five-player Big Ten All-Defensive Team and the five-player Big Ten All-Freshman Team. She was the only freshman or sophomore in the conference to earn a spot on the All-Defensive Team. Cain, a 6-5 center from Middletown, N.Y., averaged 9.9 points and team bests of 7.0 rebounds and a school-record 3.1 blocks.

• Cain set a Nebraska season record with 100 blocked shots, smashing the previous mark of 78. She led the Huskers to a school-record 163 blocks as a team.

• Fellow freshman Taylor Kissinger averaged 10.0 points per game while knocking down 50 three-pointers on the year. Kissinger and Cain became the first pair of Husker freshmen to each average 9.9 points per game since Debra Powell and Crystal Coleman in 1981-82.

• Nebraska led the Big Ten with a school-record .371 field goal percentage defense. The Huskers’ .299 three-point field goal percentage defense also led the Big Ten and ranked No. 4 in school history.

• Nebraska was one of just 28 NCAA Tournament teams to post a perfect 100 percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), and the Huskers produced a perfect 100 percent GSR for the 13th season overall.

• Five Huskers (Jasmine Cincore, Grace Mitchell, Janay Morton, Maddie Simon, Emily Wood) earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.

Big Red Return Young, Hungry Huskers in 2018-19
• Although Nebraska loses three key seniors (Jasmine Cincore, Janay Morton, Emily Wood) from the 2017-18 campaign, the 2018-19 version of the Huskers will feature several experienced weapons.

• In fact, Nebraska will return each of its top five scorers from 2017-18, led by second-team All-Big Ten sophomore point guard Hannah Whitish (12.6 ppg). Junior forward Maddie Simon (10.1 ppg), freshman guard/forward Taylor Kissinger (10.0 ppg), freshman center Kate Cain (9.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Nicea Eliely (8.2 ppg) all return for the Huskers in 2018-19.

• Overall, the Huskers are scheduled to return 79 percent of their total points, 83 percent of their rebounds and 78 percent of their assists from the 2017-18 roster. Nebraska also returns 154 of its school-record 163 blocks from 2017-18.  The previous school block record was 147.

• In 2018-19, Nebraska is scheduled to return 171 of its school-record 250 three-pointers from 2017-18, including 73 from Hannah Whitish and 50 from Taylor Kissinger. It will mark the first time in school history that Nebraska returns two players from the previous season who each hit 50 or more threes.

• Nebraska posted a plus-2.4 rebound margin in 2017-18. The Huskers are scheduled to return five of the six players who averaged 4.0 or more rebounds in 2017-18. • Nebraska’s 2018-19 freshman class was ranked No. 20 in the nation by the ESPN at the start of the early signing period, giving the Huskers back-to-back top 20 classes.

• Ashtyn Veerbeek, a 6-2 forward out of Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa, is ranked as the No. 55 player in the nation by Blue Star, No. 66 by Prospects Nation and No. 68 by ESPN, which also ranked Veerbeek as the No. 9 forward in the Class of 2018. As a senior, Veerbeek was named one of the 50 greatest girls players in Iowa history by the Des Moines Register. She led the state in rebounding (14.4 rpg) while ranking third in scoring (25.8 ppg) and eighth in blocked shots (86) across all players and classes. She finished her career with 1,871 points, 1,041 rebounds, 227 blocks, 203 assists and 99 steals.

• Leigha Brown, a 6-1 guard out of DeKalb High School in Indiana, averaged 28.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks per game as a senior in 2017-18 to finish her career with 1,798 points, 810 rebounds, 325 assists, 161 steals and 86 blocks. Brown was ranked as the No. 21 forward nationally by ESPN.

• Sam Haiby was ranked as the No. 122 player in the country by Prospects Nation, No. 125 by Blue Star and as the No. 28 guard nationally by ESPN. The 5-9 guard at Class 4A Moorhead High School scored well over 2,000 points in her high school career while averaging 25.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the Spuds despite being limited by injury as a senior.

• A North Tartan club teammate of Haiby’s, Kayla Mershon comes to Lincoln as one of the top players in Minnesota. The 6-3 forward from Chanhassen, Minn., was ranked as the No. 132 overall player in the country by Prospects Nation and the No. 14 wing nationally by ESPN. As a senior at Minnetonka High School, Mershon averaged 12.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.

Husker Nuggets
• Coach Amy (Gusso) Williams is the first former Husker women’s basketball player in history to serve as Nebraska’s head coach.

• Williams was a player on two Nebraska teams (1996, 1998) that qualified for the NCAA Tournament before leading the Huskers to the NCAA Tournament as a coach in 2018. Williams also led South Dakota to the NCAA Tournament in her second season in Vermillion in 2014.

• Nebraska went 11-5 away from home in 2017-18, including wins in its first nine true road games of the year. Four of Nebraska’s five losses away from home came to NCAA Tournament teams (Buffalo, Sweet 16), Maryland-2, NCAA 2nd Round and Arizona State, NCAA 2nd Round), while its first true road loss of the season came at Indiana, which won the WNIT Championship.

• The Huskers produced top 50 RPI road wins over Iowa (21), Michigan (39, neutral), Rutgers (40) and Minnesota (41), while adding quality road wins at Drake (63) and Michigan State (65).

• Overall, 11 of Nebraska’s 16 away games in 2017-18 came against teams that ended the year in the top 65 of the final NCAA regular-season RPI rankings.

• Taylor Kissinger became just the fourth freshman in Nebraska history to hit 50 three-pointers in a season. She joins current Husker sophomore Hannah Whitish (57, 2016-17) in accomplishing that feat.

• Junior Maddie Simon (+6.0 ppg) was one of the Big Ten’s most improved players in 2017-18. Simon, a 6-2 forward, averaged 10.1 points per game after averaging 4.1 points as a sophomore in 2016-17. Simon ranked second among the Huskers in both scoring and rebounding (5.3 rpg) in 2017-18, while also ranking third on the team with 2.0 assists per game.

Nebraska Streaks 
• Sophomore guard Hannah Whitish (49) owns the longest current streak of consecutive starts by a Husker. Nebraska’s second-longest streak is 31 games by freshman Kate Cain. 

• Whitish was the only Husker to start all 32 games in 2017-18. 

• Nebraska featured the same starting lineup for each of the final 24 games of 2017-18. That will change for the opener of the 2018-19 season with the graduation of senior guard Jasmine Cincore. 

• Cain has at least two rebounds in every game of her Nebraska career (32).

• Whitish has hit multiple three-pointers in four consecutive games heading into 2018-19.

• Bria Stallworth has dished out an assist in each of her last 11 games. • Whitish hit her last seven free throws of 2017-18, dating back to a miss against Penn State (Feb. 22).

• Maddie Simon made her final seven free throws of 2017-18, dating back to a miss against Penn State (Feb. 22).

• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three-pointer in 312 straight games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008.

• Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 191 consecutive games.

Nebraska Ranks Near Top in Attendance
• Nebraska ranked No. 20 nationally with an average home attendance of 4,380 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2017-18. It marked the eighth consecutive year that the Huskers have ranked in the top 25 nationally in average home attendance.

• Nebraska has ranked among the top 20 nationally in average home attendance in each of its first five seasons inside Pinnacle Bank Arena.

• In 84 all-time home games at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers own a 60-24 record (.714 winning percentage) while averaging 5,351 fans per game (449,444 total fans/84 games). 

• Nebraska attracted a Pinnacle Bank Arena non-conference record crowd of 9,750 to open its stay in the arena with a win over UCLA on Nov. 8, 2013.  

• Nebraska set its all-time single-game record with a sellout crowd of 13,595 fans against Missouri at the Devaney Center on Feb. 27, 2010. NU drew 10 straight crowds of more than 10,000 fans at the Devaney Center in 2009-10. 

• Nebraska produced its top attendance season in school history by ranking No. 7 nationally with a record 7,390 fans per game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in 2009-10. The Huskers went 16-0 at the Devaney Center on their way to a perfect 29-0 record, a Big 12 title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Nebraska Posts 13th Straight Perfect GSR
In the eyes of the NCAA’s Division I Graduation Success Rate (GSR), the Husker women’s basketball program has been perfect for 13 consecutive years.

Nebraska is the only program among the 14 Big Ten Conference schools to accomplish the perfect score for 13 straight years. The NCAA announced the release of its annual Graduation Success Rate report on Nov. 8, 2017, and Nebraska was a national leader in women’s basketball for the 13th straight season (2004-05).

The Nebraska women’s basketball program joins the Husker women’s tennis and volleyball programs as Husker teams that have produced perfect 100 percent rates each of the last 13 years. Nebraska was one of just 28 teams in the 64-team field of the 2018 NCAA Tournament to also boast a 100 percent Graduation Success Rate.

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