Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Open Season with Valley Power Drake

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Cornhuskers
vs. Drake Bulldogs

Wednesday, November 7, 2018, 7 p.m.
Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Live Video: BTN Plus
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (6:45 p.m.)
Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst)
Lincoln-KLIN 1400 AM; Omaha-ESPN 590 AM; Lexington-KRVN 880 AM
TuneIn App, Huskers.com, Huskers App

Season-Opening Special Events

  • Wednesday’s game between Nebraska and Drake will be Military Appreciation Day. Veterans, active, and retired military personnel will receive one free general admission at the door by presenting their military ID.
  • Husker fans are also encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to the Nebraska/Drake game, along with cash donations for the Marines Toys for Tots program. Volunteers will be collecting donations at locations around Pinnacle Bank Arena to benefit area youth. (https://www.toysfortots.org/)
  • Halftime entertainment for Wednesday’s game will be provided by the KC Disc Dogs. (http://www.kcdiscdogs.com/)

Huskers Open Regular Season with Dynamic Drake
 • The Nebraska women’s basketball team opens the 2018-19 regular season with a major challenge against 2018 NCAA Tournament qualifier and defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Drake on Wednesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

• Tip time for Nebraska’s season opener is set for 7 p.m. (CT) with a live video stream by BTN Plus and live audio coverage on the Husker Sports Network (1400 AM KLIN, Lincoln; ESPN 590 AM, Omaha; 880 AM KRVIN in Lexington).

• Nebraska made its first appearance at Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 94-41 exhibition win over Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday. Six Huskers scored in double figures led by 13 points from freshman Leigha Brown, while fellow freshman Ashtyn Veerbeek added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Taylor Kissinger and Nicea Eliely each added 12 points, while All-Big Ten honorees Hannah Whitish and Kate Cain both pitched in 11 points against the Lopers.

• The Huskers return their top five scorers from their 2018 team that finished with a 21-11 overall record and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Big Red finished 11-5 to tie for third in the Big Ten Conference and advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

• Nebraska produced the nation’s top turnaround last season by improving 14 games in the win column over its 7-22 campaign in Coach Amy Williams’ first season at Nebraska in 2016-17.

• Williams, who enters her third season leading her alma mater at Nebraska, was the 2018 Big Ten Coach of the Year and a semifinalist (1 of 10) for Naismith National Coach-of-the-Year honors.

• Junior Hannah Whitish is expected to be a leader on the court for the Huskers in 2018-19. The 5-9 guard from Barneveld, Wis., earned preseason first-team All-Big Ten honors after claiming second-team all-conference accolades as a sophomore. Whitish led the Huskers in scoring (12.6 ppg), assists (4.7 apg), steals (1.3 spg) and three-pointers made (73) last season. The only Husker to start all 32 games last year, she carried a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as Nebraska’s point guard. She tied her career high with 29 points in an 89-84 double-overtime win at Drake last season.

• Kate Cain also will be counted on to play a big role for the Huskers in 2018-19. The 6-5 sophomore from Middletown, N.Y., is one of 20 preseason candidates for the Lisa Leslie National Center-of-the-Year Award presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association of America. Cain led the Big Ten with 3.1 blocks per game last year and ranked among the top 10 players in the nation with a school-record 100 blocks. She averaged 9.9 points and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per contest on her way to spots on the Big Ten All-Defensive and Big Ten All-Freshman teams. She had 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks last year at Drake.

• Lincoln native Maddie Simon is the only fourth-year senior in the Husker program this season. The 6-2 forward was one of the Big Ten’s most improved players last season, averaging 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in her first season as a starter. Simon had 17 points, six rebounds and four assists in last season’s win over the Bulldogs.

• Nebraska adds five newcomers to its group of six returning players in 2018-19. Freshmen Leigha Brown, Sam Haiby, Kayla Mershon and Ashtyn Veerbeek were ranked among the top 20 recruiting classes in the nation a year ago by ESPN. The Huskers also added graduate transfer point guard Kristian Hudson from Florida International.

Scouting The Drake Bulldogs
• Coach Jennie Baranczyk brings arguably her best and most experienced Drake team to Lincoln to open the season on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs return 10 letterwinners, including all five starters, from a squad that went 26-8 overall and 18-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. Drake earned their second straight Valley title last season and made their second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

• Baranczyk, a former Iowa Hawkeye, owns a 125-69 career record entering her seventh season as Drake’s head coach.

• Drake’s top six players include three seniors and three juniors who make the Bulldogs an explosive offensive team that averaged 82.4 points per game in 2017-18. Overall, Drake features two fifth-year seniors, two fourth-year seniors, two fourth-year juniors and three traditional juniors.

• The Bulldogs enter the season with two 1,000-point career scorers in Maddy Dean (1,212) and Sara Rhine (1,033) along with three players who will likely achieve 1,000 points by early in the Missouri Valley Conference season - Becca Hittner (894), Sammie Bachrodt (865) and Becca Jonas (842).

• Junior Becca Hittner returns after averaging 15.7 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, while 6-1 junior forward Sara Rhine added 15.6 points and 6.1 boards. Junior wing Brenni Rose pitched in 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, including a team-high 20 points against Nebraska a year ago.

• Senior Maddy Dean averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds, while senior guard Sammie Bachrodt contributed 10.0 points and 4.0 boards. Bachrodt has started all 100 games of her Drake career. Becca Jonas, a 6-2 senior post, added 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.

• Drake’s roster has combined for 384 starts as Bulldogs, led by Bachrodt’s 100 and 92 from Jonas, along with 61 from Hittner and 55 from Dean. Nebraska’s roster has combined for 176 starts as Huskers - led by Nicea Eliely’s 55.

• Like the Huskers, Drake played an exhibition game against an NCAA Division II foe from the MIAA on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs rolled to a 92-55 win over Pittsburg State at the Knapp Center. Sara Rhine led four Bulldogs in double figures with 18 points, while Brenni Rose added 15.

• The Bulldogs have won 42 consecutive games against Missouri Valley Conference competition and have won 40 straight regular-season games in the Valley dating back to 2015-16. • Drake has earned four straight postseason tournament bids, including the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Tournament and the 2015 and 2016 WNIT.

Nebraska vs. Drake Series History
• In a game that played a major role in Nebraska earning an NCAA Tournament bid in 2018, the Huskers shocked Drake with an 89-84 double-overtime win at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Dec. 9, 2017.

• Nebraska’s Hannah Whitish led four Huskers in double figures by tying her career high with 29 points while adding six rebounds and six assists. She hit 5-of-11 threes, while Nebraska went just 8-for-31 from long range against the Bulldogs.

• Kate Cain contributed a big double-double with 19 points and game highs of 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

• Maddie Simon played big for the Huskers with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists despite nursing an ankle injury, and senior guard Jasmine Cincore added 12 points, seven boards and four assists. As a team, NU had 21 assists against just 11 turnovers.

• Nebraska was plus-eight (58-50) on the glass and plus-eight in turnovers (19-11), which helped the Huskers overcome 35-of-90 shooting (.389) from the field and 11-of-20 (.550) accuracy at the line.

• Brenni Rose led four Bulldogs in double figures with 20 points, including 3-of-6 threes. Becca Hittner added a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Sammie Bachrodt contributed 18 points and eight boards. Maddy Dean added 14 points but went 1-for-10 from three-point range.

• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Drake 11-9, but the Bulldogs won the last meeting in Lincoln, 84-70 on Dec. 6, 2016.

• Drake owns a 6-5 advantage all-time in Lincoln, dating back to a 71-65 win over the Huskers at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on March 1, 1980 - the first meeting in series history. Nebraska carries a 5-3 edge over the Bulldogs in Des Moines.

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 point guard Hannah Whitish (12.6 ppg). Forward Maddie Simon (10.1 ppg), guard/forward Taylor Kissinger (10.0 ppg), center Kate Cain (9.9 ppg) and guard/forward Nicea Eliely (8.2 ppg) all return for the Huskers in 2018-19.

• Overall, the Huskers are scheduled to return more than 70 percent of their scoring (70.4%) and rebounding (70.2%), and nearly 65 percent (64.7%) of their assists from the 2017-18 roster. Nebraska also returns 147 of its school-record 163 blocks from 2017-18.  The previous schoolrecord was 147.

• In 2018-19, Nebraska returns 160 of its school-record 250 three-pointers (64%) 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, giving the Huskers back-to-back top 20 classes.

• Ashtyn Veerbeek, a 6-2 forward out of Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa, was 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 blocks (86). She finished with 1,871 points, 1,041 rebounds, 227 blocks and 203 assists.

• Leigha Brown, a 6-1 forward 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.

Cain Named to Lisa Leslie Award Watch List
• Nebraska’s Kate Cain claimed one of 20 spots on the preseason watch list for the 2019 Lisa Leslie Award announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) on Oct. 26.

• The Lisa Leslie Award is in its second season of recognizing the top centers in NCAA Division I women’s college basketball. It is named after the three-time All-American and 1994 National Player of the Year. The award will be announced by ESPN at the 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa.

• Cain, a 6-5 sophomore from Middletown, N.Y., made an instant impact as a freshman for the Nebraska women’s basketball team in 2017-18. She was one of five players across the conference to capture first-team Big Ten All-Freshman honors, while being the only freshman or sophomore named to the five-player Big Ten All-Defensive Team. 

• Cain shattered the Nebraska single-season blocked shot record with 100 on the season, while leading the Big Ten in blocks per game. She ranked among the top 10 players nationally in blocked shots. Cain also smashed Nebraska’s single-game block record with 11 against Florida Atlantic on Dec. 17, 2017, when she became the first Husker in history to produce a triple-double in points (22), rebounds (14) and blocks (11).

• Cain’s growth on the court helped the Huskers produce one of the nation’s top turnarounds, improving 14 games in the win column to capture a bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Cain finished the season by averaging 9.9 points and team bests of 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.

• Cain is one of five Big Ten Conference centers who make up a combined one quarter of the preseason national watch list for the Lisa Leslie Award. Cain is the youngest Big Ten center on the list, joining Iowa senior Megan Gustafson, Michigan senior Hallie Thome, Illinois senior Alex Wittinger and Purdue junior Ae’Rianna Harris in representing the conference.

• Cain is scheduled to go head-to-head against those Big Ten centers seven times during the 2018-19 conference season, including twice each against Gustafson, Thome and Harris, who will all play the Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena this season. Cain is also set to face another center on the list - Louisville’s Sam Fuehring in the ACC/B1G Challenge in Kentucky on Nov. 29.

• Overall, Cain is one of just four sophomores on the Lisa Leslie Award watch list, joining North Carolina’s Janelle Bailey, Duke’s Jade Williams and IUPUI’s Macee Williams. No freshmen start the season on the award watch list, but centers can play their way onto the list at any point in the season.

• The inaugural winner of the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award was A’ja Wilson from South Carolina in 2018.

• The selection committee for the Lisa Leslie Award is composed of media members, head coaches, sports information directors and Hall of Famers. In mid-February, the watch list will be narrowed to a list of 10 centers. In March, five finalists for the award will be announced. Fans will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite finalist at www.hoophallawards.com.

• The Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Starting Five awards, which include the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award, the Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award and the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award. The WBCA also presents the annual Wade Trophy, which honors the overall national player of the year. In 1993, Nebraska’s Karen Jennings won the Wade Trophy.

Whitish Earns Preseason All-Big Ten Honors
• Nebraska’s Hannah Whitish was named to the 12-player All-Big Ten Team by the conference coaches when the annual preseason honors were announced on Oct. 22.

• The announcement of the preseason teams marked the tip-off of Big Ten Women’s Basketball Media Week (@B1GWBBall) on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. 

• Whitish, a 5-9 junior guard from Barneveld, Wis., led Nebraska in scoring (12.6 ppg) and assists (4.7 apg) as a sophomore in 2017-18. She owned a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as Nebraska’s point guard while also ranking among the Big Ten’s best three-point shooters. Whitish played a major role in lifting Nebraska to the nation’s top turnaround in the win column last season, as the Huskers recorded 14 more victories (21) in 2017-18 than in 2016-17 (7). She captured second-team All-Big Ten accolades at the end of last season while helping Nebraska to the NCAA Tournament.

• Whitish was the lone Husker honored by the league in preseason voting of the conference coaches.

• The Big Ten Conference does not rank its team’s No. 1 through No. 14 in preseason voting, instead the coaches and select media members each choose their projected top-three teams in the league. Maryland is the preseason pick of the coaches and the media to win the Big Ten, while Iowa was picked No. 2 by both the coaches and media. The league coaches chose Michigan in the No. 3 spot, while the conference media selected Minnesota. Iowa senior center Megan Gustafson, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, was chosen by the coaches to repeat that honor. Gustafson, Maryland’s Kaila Charles, Michigan’s Hallie Thome and Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell were all unanimous preseason all-conference selections by the coaches.

2018-19 Schedule Provides Challenges
• Nebraska’s 29-game regular-season schedule will feature 18 games against 2018 postseason tournament qualifiers (NCAA, WNIT), including 12 contests against 2018 NCAA Tournament teams.

• Nine of Nebraska’s 14 road games will come against postseason qualifiers, including seven games against NCAA Tournament teams.

• Nine of Nebraska’s 15 home games will feature opponents who qualified for 2018 postseason play, including five NCAA Tournament qualifiers.

• Nebraska will face a tough road schedule in 2018-19, including a trip to 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four qualifier Louisville for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (Nov. 29). The game against the ACC Champion Cardinals will be the fourth of a five-game road trip that starts at Washington State (Nov. 16) - a team that has defeated Nebraska each of the last two seasons.

• The Huskers head across the country to face 2018 NCAA Tournament qualifier Miami at its Thanksgiving tournament (Nov. 23), before closing the tournament against 2018 Big South runner-up Radford, which advanced to the 2018 WNIT second round with a win at Penn State.

• After the game at Louisville (Nov. 29), the Huskers close their five-game road trip with in-state rival Creighton (Dec. 2). The Jays advanced to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a win over Iowa at UCLA. 

• While Nebraska’s road schedule grabs headlines, the Huskers home schedule should provide plenty of challenges and opportunities, especially with a nine-game Big Ten home slate.

• Nebraska’s 14-game regular-season home schedule features NCAA Tournament-caliber competition from start to finish. The Huskers open the season with Drake (Nov. 7), which has earned back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids and has been unbeaten in Missouri Valley Conference play the last two seasons.

• After opening the season with back-to-back home games against Drake (Nov. 7) and USC Upstate (Nov. 11), the Huskers play five straight on the road before facing old Big Eight/Big 12 rival Kansas at Pinnacle Bank Arena (Dec. 5). 

• The game with Kansas tips off a three-game home stand that includes San Jose State (Dec. 8) and Denver (Dec. 15).

• Nebraska’s nine-game home Big Ten schedule begins with 2018 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Michigan (Dec. 28) and Maryland (Jan. 8) before facing traditional power Rutgers (Jan. 13). The Scarlet Knights matched Nebraska’s 14-game turnaround in the win column last year and just missed the NCAA Tournament.

• The Big Red battle 2018 NCAA qualifier Minnesota (Jan. 20), before taking on Northwestern (Jan. 24) and 2018 WNIT champion Indiana (Feb. 3). The Huskers collide with Purdue in the annual pink game (Feb. 10), before facing Michigan State (Feb. 17). Both Purdue and Michigan State advanced to the 2018 WNIT.

• Nebraska wraps up its regular-season home schedule by taking on 2018 NCAA Tournament qualifier Iowa on Senior Night (Feb. 25).

• In Big Ten road play, the Huskers open with defending conference champion and NCAA Tournament qualifier Ohio State (Dec. 31), before heading to NCAA qualifier Iowa (Jan. 3). 

• NU faces Illinois (Jan. 17) and Wisconsin (Jan. 27) before closing January at Purdue (Jan. 31).  • Nebraska completes its season series at Michigan (Feb. 7), before wrapping up season series at Maryland (Feb. 14) and Northwestern (Feb. 21). 

• The Huskers close the regular season at Penn State (March 2). The Lady Lions advanced to the 2018 WNIT.

Nebraska’s History of Home Success
• Nebraska opened 2017-18 with a 62-53 win over SIU Edwardsville for its 12th consecutive season-opening win at home. 

• The Huskers were 10-6 at home in 2017-18, winning five of their final six home games.

• The Huskers went 15-4 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2015-16 after going 12-3 (13-3 at home) in 2014-15. The Huskers are 60-24 (.714) all-time at Pinnacle Bank Arena since the building opened for the 2013-14 campaign. The Big Red went 16-2 at home in 2013-14, suffering their only Big Ten loss to Purdue, 77-75, on Jan. 19, 2014. NU’s 16 home wins in 2013-14 tied the school record for single-season home victories.

• The Huskers played the first regular-season game in the history of the arena against USA Today No. 25 UCLA (Nov. 8, 2013) and rolled to a 77-49 win over the Bruins. NU’s first win over an AP Top 25 team came with a 76-56 win over No. 24 Michigan State on Feb. 8, 2014. The Huskers added their first-ever win over an AP Top 10 team at the arena with a 94-74 victory over No. 8 Penn State on Feb. 24, 2014.

• NU won its first-ever Big Ten home game at Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 66-65 thriller over Northwestern Jan. 2, 2014, before an 88-85 win over Minnesota on Jan. 16, 2014, marked the first overtime game. 

• NU suffered its first loss at the arena to Washington State (76-72) on Nov. 30, 2013.  

• The Huskers are 449-154 (.745) all-time at home. The Huskers have gone 185-58 (.761) over the last 15 seasons, posting double-figure home victory totals 14 times.

• Nebraska played in the Devaney Center from 1976-77 through 2012-13, and added one appearance at Devaney against Utah on Nov. 23, 2014. The Huskers own a 389-130 record at the Devaney Center, including 146-88 (.624) mark in conference play.

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.

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