Nebraska Cornhuskers at Michigan State Spartans
Saturday, Jan. 7, 6 p.m. (CT)
Breslin Center (East Lansing, Michigan)
Live Video: BTN Plus
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network
Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst)
Lincoln - B107.3 FM, Omaha - ESPN 590 AM
Free Live Audio: Huskers.com/Huskers App/TuneIn App
Huskers to Battle Spartans in East Lansing
The Nebraska women’s basketball team continues Big Ten road action on Saturday when the Huskers travel to Michigan State.
Tip-off between the Huskers (4-11, 0-3 Big Ten) and the Spartans (11-4, 1-1 Big Ten) is set for 6 p.m. (CT) at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
A live radio broadcast will be produced by the Husker Sports Network. Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch will call the action on B107.3 FM in Lincoln and ESPN 590 AM in Omaha. Free audio also can be found on Huskers.com, the Huskers App and the TuneIn App. A live video stream will be available to premium subscribers of BTN Plus.
An inexperienced team of Huskers and a group of first-year coaches led by former Nebraska player Amy Williams has been challenged by the toughest schedule in school history through the first 15 games this season. Entering Thursday’s games, Nebraska’s opponents carry a combined .714 winning percentage. Michigan State will be Nebraska’s 11th opponent that already has accumulated double-digit wins. The Huskers own victories over 10-win teams from Colorado State and UTRGV.
Nebraska and Michigan State are two of the most inexperienced teams in the Big Ten this season. The active Husker roster has combined for 140 career starts - the same number of total starts by MSU seniors Tori Jankoska (96) and Branndais Agee (44). Seven other Spartans have combined for 82 additional starts.
Nebraska is led by 6-4 sophomore forward Jessica Shepard, who is averaging a double-double with 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. A first-team All-Big Ten performer as the conference’s freshman of the year in 2015-16, Shepard had 26 points and six rebounds in last season’s 73-66 win over then-No. 17 Michigan State at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Feb. 14, 2016. Shepard was the only Husker to manage double figures in Wednesday’s 93-49 loss to No. 3 Maryland in Lincoln.
Jankoska, who joined Shepard on the preseason All-Big Ten team for 2016-17, leads Michigan State in scoring (21.2 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and steals (1.9 spg). The 5-8 guard was the only Spartan to manage double figures in Wednesday’s 66-54 loss at Purdue, finishing with 16 points. She was held to three points in last season’s loss to the Huskers in Lincoln.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-11, 0-3 Big Ten)
32 - Jessica Shepard - 6-4 - So. - F - 18.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg
22 - Allie Havers - 6-5 - Sr. - C - 6.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 6.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Fr. - G - 8.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Jr. - G - 5.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Off the Bench
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - So. - G - 4.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg
11 - Esther Ramacieri - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 3.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg
12 - Emily Wood - 5-5 - Jr. - G - 2.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg
50 - Darrien Washington - 6-2 - So. - F - 2.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
2 - Rylie Cascio Jensen - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 2.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg
14 - Grace Mitchell - 6-2 - Fr. - F/G - 2.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998)
First Season at Nebraska (4-11); 10th Season Overall (197-120)
Michigan State Spartans (11-4, 1-1 Big Ten)
15 - Victoria Gaines - 6-1 - RFr. - F - 4.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg
32 - Taya Reimer - 6-4 - Sr. - F - 9.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
1 - Tori Jankoska - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 21.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg
4 - Taryn McCutcheon - 5-5 - Fr. - G - 6.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg
10 - Branndais Agee - 5-11 - RSr. - G - 6.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg
Off the Bench
33 - Jenna Allen - 6-3 - So. - F - 7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
12 - Nia Hollie - 6-0 - Fr. - F - 4.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg
24 - Lexi Gussert - 6-0 - Jr. - G - 4.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg
21 - Hana Vesela - 6-4 - So. - C - 4.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg
2 - Mardrekia Cook - 6-0 - Fr. - F - 2.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
55 - Kennedy Johnson - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 0.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg
11 - Nathy Dambo - 6-3 - RFr. - F - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
Head Coach: Suzy Merchant (Central Michigan, 1991)
10th Season at Maryland (215-100); 22nd Season Overall (416-220)
Scouting Michigan State
Michigan State enters Saturday’s game with Nebraska carrying an 11-4 overall record and a 1-1 Big Ten mark after falling 66-54 at Purdue on Wednesday. The Spartans opened Big Ten play with a 71-47 pounding of Illinois in East Lansing, Mich., on Jan. 1.
The win over the Fighting Illini followed a 79-61 setback to then No. 2 Notre Dame in East Lansing on Dec. 20. Michigan State also owns road losses at then-No. 20 Syracuse, 75-64, on Nov. 30, and at Oregon, 88-55, on Nov. 22.
The Spartans have been among the top teams receiving votes in the national polls throughout the season and are No. 26 in the USA Today Coaches poll this week. Coach Suzy Merchant’s Spartans have been led on the court this season by senior Tori Jankoska. The 5-8 guard is averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 35.1 minutes per game. Jankoska owns 1,784 career points, 618 rebounds, 402 assists and 162 steals. She is expected to make her 97th career start on Saturday.
One of the Big Ten’s premier three-point shooters, Jankoska has hit more than 60 threes each season as a Spartan and enters Saturday’s game with 44 threes this year - an average of 2.93 threes per game.
Although Jankoska is an accomplished and experienced player, the rest of Michigan State’s starting five is somewhat unproven. Taryn McCutcheon, a 5-5 freshman guard from East Lansing, has started every game this season alongside Jankoska and is averaging 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and a team-best 5.2 assists per game. McCutcheon has proven herself as a three-point shooter, hitting 23-of-59 on the year, but she is just 11-of-41 (.268) from inside the arc. She has produced a pair of double-figure scoring efforts on the year, but she was held scoreless in her Big Ten debut against Illinois and had just three points at Purdue.
Redshirt freshman Victoria Gaines earned starts against Illinois and Purdue following a strong effort off the bench against No. 2 Notre Dame. Gaines, a 6-1 forward, produced her first career double-double with career highs of 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Fighting Illini. That effort followed 12 points against the Fighting Irish. In those two games, she combined to hit 11-of-15 shots (.733) from the field, including 3-of-4 three-pointers. In her first 12 games this season, Gaines was just 10-of-27 (.370) from the field, including 3-of-6 from three-point range. She had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting at Purdue, while adding seven rebounds in 19 minutes.
The Spartans have been bolstered by graduate student Taya Reimer, who transferred to Michigan State to play her final season after earning her undergraduate degree at Notre Dame. The 6-4 forward has averaged 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds while joining Jankoska and McCutcheon in the starting lineup for all 15 games this season. Reimer missed all but five games last season for the Irish after being sidelined by an Achilles injury. She started 35 games as a junior for Notre Dame in 2014-15 when she averaged 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds to earn second-team All-ACC honors. She scored six points and had a season-high 11 rebounds against UConn in the 2015 NCAA Championship Game.
Fifth-year senior Branndais Agee rounds out Michigan State’s probable starting five. The 5-11 guard is averaging 6.2 points and 7.2 rebounds with 11 starts this season. She started 32 games for the Spartans last year. She played in 33 games with one start for MSU in 2013-14.
Michigan State carries a deep bench with four players who have started multiple games this season. Jenna Allen, a 6-3 sophomore center, ranks third on the team in scoring (7.4 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (4.3 rpg). Allen, who played in 34 games for the Spartans last year, missed the first three games this season with an injury suffered in MSU’s exhibition game against Northwood on Nov. 6.
Nia Hollie, a 6-0 freshman forward, has added 4.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game while making six starts this season.She has scored in double figures three times.
Junior Lexi Gussert has also added 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game this season. Gussert, a 6-0 guard/forward, has made four starts this season and owned 12 career starts entering her third season with the Spartans.
Sophomore Hana Vesela, a 6-4 center from Pribor, Czech Republic, also has made two starts and is averaging 4.1 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.
Freshman Mardrekia Cook (2.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and Kennedy Johnson (0.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg) round out the list of significant contributors for the Spartans. Although she has played limited minutes this season, Johnson has played in 69 career games for MSU.
Michigan State is averaging 69 points while shooting 42.2 percent from the field, including 33.6 percent from three-point range. The Spartans are knocking down 6.5 threes per game. MSU ranks among the Big Ten’s best free throw shooting teams, hitting 73.4 percent of their attempts. The Spartans own a plus-8.1 rebounding margin but carry a minus-2.6 team turnover margin. MSU is averaging 17.3 turnovers per game. In early season losses to Syracuse (29) and Oregon (24), Michigan State produced big turnover numbers and also turned the ball over 21 times against both Davidson (Nov. 11) and Northeastern (Dec. 18). The Spartans committed 20 turnovers at Purdue, losing that battle 20-11 to the Boilermakers.
Michigan State’s defense has been solid throughout the season holding seven opponents to 55 points or less, while surrendering 60.1 points per game.
Nebraska vs. Michigan State Series History
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 5-2, including a 73-66 win over the No. 17 Spartans at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Feb. 14, 2016. Jenna Allen (14) and Branndais Agee (12) combined for 26 points for the Spartans, while first-round WNBA draft pick Aerial Powers scored 19. Jessica Shepard led Nebraska with 26 points, while the Huskers held Tori Jankoska to just three points.
Nebraska has won four straight games in the series with Michigan State, including a 71-67 road win at the Breslin Center on Jan. 8, 2015. Nebraska outscored MSU 11-1 in the final 3:02 to turn a 66-60 deficit into a 71-67 win despite 35 points and 11 rebounds from Powers.
• Jessica Shepard leads the Huskers with averages of 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She produced her 17th career double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds in Nebraska’s Big Ten opener with Northwestern (Dec. 28). Shepard’s next double-double will place her in a tie for ninth on Nebraska’s career double-doubles list with 1998 All-American and two-time WNBA All-Star Anna DeForge (18, 1995-98).
• Shepard owns seven double-doubles this season, including a season-high 28 points and 14 rebounds against San Jose State (Dec. 9). She had 23 points and a season-high 16 rebounds against Drake (Dec. 6), 25 points and 14 rebounds at Virginia Tech (Dec. 1), 24 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Colorado State (Nov. 17), 22 points and 13 rebounds at Creighton (Dec. 18), and 17 points and 15 rebounds in a win over UTRGV (Nov. 12).
• Shepard owns seven 20-point scoring efforts through 15 games, including season highs of 28 points at Iowa (Dec. 31) and against San Jose State (Dec. 9). She owns 23 career 20-plus scoring games in 46 career contests.
• Shepard ranks second among the Huskers in three-point field goals made (18), including a game-clinching three with one minute left in the win over Colorado State on Nov. 14, and a 60-foot heave at the first-half buzzer in the win over UTRGV on Nov. 12. She also beat the first-half buzzer with a three at Creighton (Dec. 18).
• Nebraska freshman Nicea Eliely ranks second on the team in scoring (8.2 ppg), third in rebounding (4.3 rpg), second in assists (2.7 apg) and first in steals (1.7 spg), blocked shots (0.7 bpg) and field goal percentage (.495) through the first 15 games of her collegiate career.
• Freshman Hannah Whitish is averaging 9.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in three Big Ten games as a starter for the Huskers.
Huskers Facing Experienced Coaches
• Iowa’s Lisa Bluder was the third in an amazing stretch of head coaches the Huskers are facing midway through the 2016-17 campaign. Bluder, who is in her 33rd season as a head coach and 17th season at Iowa, owns 689 career wins and was the third consecutive coach Nebraska faced with more than 600 victories and 30 years of head coaching experience. She followed Northwestern’s Joe McKeown, who owns 651 career victories in 31 seasons as a head coach.
• Nebraska’s six-game stretch against highly successful coaches began with the legendary Geno Auriemma, who owns 969 wins in his 32 seasons at UConn.
• In the three-game stretch, Auriemma, McKeown and Bluder combined for 2,309 wins in 96 combined seasons as head coaches.
• The next three opposing coaches in the stretch have all notched at least 400 wins as head coaches, beginning with Maryland’s Brenda Frese (442 wins) and Michigan State’s Suzy Merchant (416) before facing• • Naismith Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer (976) and Rutgers. Stringer is in her 46th season as a head coach and 22nd season at Rutgers.
• Overall, the six coaches have amassed 4,143 wins in 182 seasons as head coaches.
Shepard Leads Big Red on B1G Stage
• Sophomore Jessica Shepard owns 17 career double-doubles, including seven this season. Her most recent double-double came with 17 points and 15 rebounds against Northwestern on Wednesday. She had 22 points and 11 rebounds at Creighton on Dec. 18. She had a season-high 28 points and 14 rebounds in a win over San Jose State on Dec. 9. She added 23 points and a season-high 16 rebounds against Drake on Dec. 6. It followed a 25-point, 14-rebound performance in a loss at unbeaten Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. She also had 24 points and 13 rebounds in Nebraska’s 62-59 win over Colorado State on Nov. 17. She opened the season with 17 points and 15 rebounds in a win over UTRGV on Nov. 12.
• Through 15 games, Shepard is averaging team bests of 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She also ranks second on the team with 18 three-pointers, including a game-clinching three with one minute left against Colorado State and a 60-footer at the first-half buzzer in the win over UTRGV. She added a first-half buzzer-beater at Creighton. The 6-4 sophomore forward had not hit a collegiate three-pointer prior to this season.
• Shepard earned Preseason All-Big Ten honors when the conference announced its preseason awards on Oct. 24. Shepard was one of two sophomores on the coaches preseason all-conference team, joining Penn State guard Teniya Page. Shepard was the lone sophomore honored by the media on its 10-player preseason team.
• Shepard became the first freshman in Nebraska history to earn first-team all-conference honors. She produced school freshman-record averages of 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in 2015-16.
• Shepard became the first Husker in history to earn conference freshman-of-the-year accolades. The 6-4 forward from Fremont, Neb., joined Emily Cady (2012) and Rachel Theriot (2013) as Huskers who earned spots on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in Nebraska’s first five seasons in the conference.
• Shepard set a conference record by winning 10 Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week awards.
Huskers Establishing Solid Starting Five
• One of Coach Amy Williams’ primary objectives early in the season was to find a starting five from a relatively inexperienced group of Huskers. Only seven players on Nebraska’s active roster have ever started a game for the Huskers, with five of them starting 25 or fewer contests.
• Although Jessica Shepard is just a sophomore, she owns a team-high 44 career starts, including 29 in 31 games as a freshman.
• A three-year contributor on the court, 6-5 senior Allie Havers adds 36 career starts to Nebraska’s level of experience in 2016-17.
• Only three other returning Huskers had ever started a game for Nebraska before this season, including Jasmine Cincore (21 career), Esther Ramacieri (16) and Maddie Simon (5), while true freshmen Nicea Eliely (15) and Hannah Whitish (3) have made their first career starts this season.
• Overall, Nebraska owns just 140 career starts. In comparison, Michigan State carries one of the more inexperienced rosters in the Big Ten and the Spartans have combined for 202 career starts at MSU, with nine players starting multiple games in their careers. Tori Jankoska (96) and Branndais Agee (44) have combined for as many career starts as the entire Husker roster.
• Nebraska sent nine different starting lineups onto the floor in 2015-16.
• The longest stretch Nebraska was able to play with a consistent starting five in 2015-16 was eight games (Game 2 vs. North Florida, Nov. 16 - Game 9 at California, Dec. 12).
• Three times (2003-04, 2006-07, 2011-12) in the last 14 seasons, Nebraska’s starting five has hit the floor for every game together, and five more times the Huskers have only featured six different starters in a season (2005-06, 2007-08, 2009-10, 2012-13, 2013-14).
Nebraska Ranks Near Top in Attendance
• Nebraska closed the 2015-16 season ranked No. 9 nationally in total attendance (102,682) and No. 12 in NCAA Division I in average home attendance (5,404). It marked the third consecutive season inside Pinnacle Bank Arena that the Big Red have ranked among the top 12 nationally in both categories.
• In 62 all-time home games at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers own a 47-15 record (.758 winning percentage) while averaging 5,673 fans per game (351,719 total fans/62 games).
• Nebraska attracted a non-conference school-record crowd of 9,750 to open its stay in the building with a win over UCLA on Nov. 8, 2013.
Big Red Battling one of Nation’s Best Schedules
• Nebraska is facing the toughest overall schedule in school history in 2016-17. The Huskers will play 10 games against NCAA Tournament teams and 11 more regular-season games against Postseason WNIT teams in 2016-17.
• Nebraska’s strength of schedule ranked No. 6 nationally. Through games Jan. 4, Nebraska’s 15 opponents owned a cumulative record of 155-62 (.714 winning percentage), including unbeaten records for No. 1 UConn (14-0) and No. 18 Virginia Tech (14-0).
• Michigan State (11-4) will be Nebraska’s 11th opponent that already owns double-digit wins this season, including five teams with 13 or more victories. No. 3 Maryland (14-1) joins No. 1 UConn (14-0) and No. 18 Virginia Tech (14-0) with 14 victories, while No. 20 California (13-1) and Northwestern (13-3) each carried 13 wins after Wednesday’s games. Virginia (11-3), Missouri (11-4), Iowa (10-5), Colorado State (10-5) and UTRGV (10-6) all own 10 wins, while Husker opponents Creighton (9-5) and Drake (9-4) enter the weekend with nine wins as preseason favorites to win their conferences.
• Nebraska’s non-conference Strength of Schedule was ranked No. 8 by the NCAA (Jan. 1). NU’s non-conference schedule strength trailed only Minnesota in the Big Ten. Nebraska, Minnesota and Rutgers were the only three Big Ten teams to enter conference play with a top-25 strength of schedule. Six Big Ten teams entered league play with strength of schedules below 100, including Purdue (204), Maryland (203), Indiana (176), Northwestern (167), Ohio State (155) and Wisconsin (114).
• Nebraska’s appearance in the 2016 Preseason WNIT to open the year featured three games against postseason foes, including NCAA Tournament teams Missouri and Colorado State.
• Virginia, Virginia Tech, Drake and Creighton all competed in the 2016 WNIT and the Huskers will play three of those games on the road. Nebraska closes non-conference play at home against UConn, which has won four consecutive NCAA titles.
• A total of 13 of Nebraska’s 16 Big Ten Conference games will come against postseason foes, including seven games against NCAA qualifiers and six more against WNIT teams from a year ago.
• Nebraska’s 16-game regular-season home schedule will feature 13 games against postseason teams, including all eight Big Ten Conference home games.
• Nebraska senior Allie Havers has competed in 111 consecutive games since the first game of her freshman season in 2013-14. The Huskers own a 69-42 record in those contests over the last four years.
• Junior Jasmine Cincore owns the longest streak of consecutive starts among the Huskers with 20. Havers has made 18 straight starts, while freshman Nicea Eliely and sophomore Jessica Shepard have each started 15 straight games this season. Hannah Whitish has made three straight starts.
• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three-pointer in 266 straight regular-season games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008.
• Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 145 consecutive games.
• Nebraska has had at least two players earn first- or second-team All-Big Ten honors in each of its first five seasons in the Big Ten.
• Nebraska finished with a 9-9 Big Ten record to mark the fifth consecutive season the Huskers have posted a .500 or better Big Ten record. Nebraska is the only Big Ten team with a .500 or better record in each of the last five seasons. In fact, no other Big Ten team has had four straight .500 marks. The only other team with three straight .500 or better Big Ten seasons is Minnesota, which went 11-7 in both 2015 and 2016 after going 8-8 in 2014.
Pump Up the Program
• Nebraska earned its fifth straight postseason tournament bid with a trip to the 2016 WNIT. The Huskers were one of only 21 Division I teams to earn four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids from 2012 through 2015.
• The Huskers have produced seven 20-win seasons in the last 10 years. Nebraska owns 16 20-win seasons in program history.
• Nebraska is the only team in the Big Ten to post a .500 or better conference mark in each of the last five years. Minnesota is the only other Big Ten team to do it each of the last three seasons.
• The Huskers, who joined the Big Ten in 2011-12, have averaged 10.6 conference wins per season since joining the conference. The Big Red have added eight Big Ten Tournament wins for 61 total victories over Big Ten foes during the past five years (12.2 wins per season).
• Nebraska has ranked among the top 12 schools nationally in average home attendance in each of the Huskers’ first three seasons at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Big Red have ranked among the top 10 nationally in total home attendance in each of the first three seasons at the arena, including 102,682 fans in 2015-16.
• Nebraska set a season ticket sales record with 4,032 season tickets sold as of Jan. 31, 2016. It marked the first time in school history the Huskers sold 4,000 season tickets. Nebraska’s season ticket number for 2016-17 was 3,980 as of Dec. 21, 2016.
• Nebraska featured six first-team academic All-Big Ten selections in 2015-16, including returning Huskers Jasmine Cincore, Allie Havers and Emily Wood.
Shepard Shoots For More as Sophomore
• Jessica Shepard has her sophomore season off to a strong start averaging 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She has produced seven double-doubles, including 17 points and 15 rebounds in Nebraska’s Big Ten opener against Northwestern on Dec. 28. She had 22 points and 11 rebounds against Creighton (Dec. 18). That followed a season-high 28 points and 14 rebounds against San Jose State (Dec. 9), 23 points and a season-high 16 rebounds against Drake (Dec. 6), 25 points and 14 rebounds at Virginia Tech (Dec. 1), 24 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Colorado State (Nov. 17), and 17 points and 15 boards in a win over UTRGV (Nov. 12).
• Shepard owns 17 career double-doubles to rank 10th on Nebraska’s career chart in that category. Her next double-double will move her into a tie for ninth at Nebraska with All-American and two-time WNBA All-Star Anna DeForge, who had 18 double-doubles for the Huskers from 1995 to 1998.
• Shepard has seven 20-point efforts this season, including a season-high 28 points in the win over San Jose State (Dec. 9). She matched her season high with 28 points to go along with eight rebounds at Iowa (Dec. 31). She had 25 points at Virginia Tech (Dec. 1) and against Washington State (Nov. 25). She scored 24 points against Colorado State (Nov. 17), before going for 23 points, including 22 in the second half, against Drake (Dec. 6). Shepard owns 22 career 20-point games in her first 46 games as a Husker.
• Shepard ranks second among the Huskers with 18 three-pointers on the season, including a game-clinching three in the win over Colorado State and a buzzer-beating 60-footer to close the first half in the win over UTRGV. She also hit a first-half buzzer-beater at Creighton. Shepard did not hit a three-pointer as a freshman.
• Nebraska’s first Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Shepard became the first Husker in history to earn first-team all-conference honors as a freshman in 2015-16. During the season, she set a conference record by winning 10 Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week awards. She was also a two-time Big Ten Player of the Week (Dec. 21, Jan. 25).
• One of only two freshmen on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 in 2015-16 (joining Cal’s Kristine Anigwe), Shepard was the USBWA National Freshman of the Week (Dec. 22, 2015; Jan. 26, 2016). Shepard was the espnW and College Sports Madness National Player of the Week (Jan. 25).
• Shepard finished 10th overall in the Big Ten in scoring (18.5 ppg) and fifth in rebounding (8.6 rpg), including fourth on the offensive glass (3.1 rpg) and 10th on the defensive boards (5.5 rpg). She ranked 13th in conference field goal percentage (.510).
• The 6-4 forward from Fremont, Neb., finished with Nebraska freshman record averages of 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Her 574 total points were a Nebraska freshman record, while her 266 rebounds ranked second among freshmen in Husker history.
• She amassed 16 games with 20 or more points as a freshman, including 11 in Big Ten play. She produced the first of two 35-point performances against Northern Arizona Dec. 19, 2015. She added 35 points at Michigan, Jan. 24. She scored in double figures 25 times.
• Shepard averaged just 4.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in 20 minutes per game over the final two games of 2015-16 as she battled a stress reaction in her foot. She did not practice March 1-17.
• Shepard was not cleared for her first full practice until Oct. 27, 2015, after suffering an ACL tear as a high school senior on Dec. 29, 2014. On Nov. 1, she had 29 points and 12 rebounds against Nebraska-Kearney in NU’s exhibition opener. She added 42 points and 12 rebounds in just 25 minutes in a second exhibition against Winona State on Nov. 8.
• She was the top recruit in Nebraska history, as the No. 1 post and No. 3 overall recruit in the nation by ESPN. A first-team Parade All-American as a high school senior despite missing nearly all of her final year (ACL tear, Dec. 29, 2014), Shepard was the 2013 and 2014 Nebraska High School Player of the Year. Shepard averaged 12.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while helping the USA Basketball U18 Team to a 5-0 record and a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas Championship.
Freshmen Contributing Early
• Nebraska’s four-player freshman class of Rylie Cascio Jensen, Nicea Eliely, Grace Mitchell and Hannah Whitish have been looked to for immediate contributions on the Huskers’ 11-player active roster.
Nicea Eliely, 6-1, Guard, Colorado Springs, Colo.
• Eliely, a 6-1 guard out of Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, has started all 15 games and is averaging 8.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
• Eliely produced a career-high 19-point performance in a loss to California on Dec. 4. She hit 8-of-13 shots from the field including 2-of-3 three-pointers against the Bears. She added two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
• She added her second career double-figure scoring effort with 13 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in a win over San Jose State on Dec. 9. She hit 6-of-9 shots from the field against the Spartans.
• Eliely contributed her third double-figure performance with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals at Iowa on Dec. 31.
• In her Big Ten debut against Northwestern (Dec. 28), Eliely finished with seven points, seven rebounds, and team highs of five assists, two blocks and two steals.
• She earned her first career start in Nebraska’s season-opening win over UTRGV on Nov. 12. Eliely performed well with nine points, two rebounds, four assists and two steals against the Vaqueros, while also drawing the primary defensive assignment on 2016 WAC Player-of-the-Year Shawnte’ Goff.
• Eliely played Nebraska’s best all-around game in the loss to No. 25 Missouri on Nov. 14. She finished with eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and a steal against the Tigers. She also hit her first career three-pointer against the Tigers.
• She was even better in Nebraska’s win over Colorado State, contributing six points, six rebounds and a career-high six assists to go along with three steals. She also helped frustrate and foul out 2016 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Ellen Nystrom.
• She had one of Nebraska’s best all-around games with seven points, five rebounds, four assists and a block in the loss to No. 1 UConn on Dec. 21.
• Eliely added nine points, six rebounds, two assists and a career-high four steals in Nebraska’s win over Omaha on Nov. 22. She scored nine more points while adding three rebounds, a block and a steal at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1.
• Eliely was a Colorado Class 5A performer as a senior in 2015-16. Ranked as the No. 25 guard in the nation by ESPN and the No. 143 player in the nation by Blue Star, Eliely averaged 21.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.4 steals and 2.0 blocks per game as a senior for the Rams.
Hannah Whitish, 5-9, Guard, Barneveld, Wis.
• Whitish, a 5-9 guard from Barneveld, Wis., was the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.5 steals as a senior. The five-time first-team All-Wisconsin selection led Barneveld High School to four consecutive state championship game appearances including a pair of state titles. She led her team to a 110-4 record in her career, while ranking among the top 10 in Wisconsin High School history in career points with well over 2,000.
• Whitish was Nebraska’s top contributor off the bench in non-conference play before making her first career start in Nebraska’s Big Ten opener with Northwestern (Dec. 28). Whitish, who started in place of injured senior Esther Ramacieri against the Wildcats, scored a then-career-high 12 points and added four assists in a then-career-high 27 minutes against Northwestern.
• She added a career-high 14 points in a career-high 28 minutes while adding four rebounds, a team-high four assists and two steals in a start at Iowa on Dec. 31. She tied a career high with a trio of three-pointers against the Hawkeyes.
• Through 15 games, Whitish is averaging 6.3 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 18.9 minutes per contest. Whitish also leads the Huskers with 20 three-pointers this season (20-55, .364).
• Whitish owns four double-figure scoring efforts this season. As a starter, she is averaging 9.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 26.7 minutes per game.
• She played arguably Nebraska’s best individual game with nine points on a career-high three three-pointers, while adding two rebounds, two assists, no turnovers and a steal in 19 minutes against No. 1 UConn on Dec. 21.
• In her Husker debut, Whitish scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting with a three-pointer, while adding two assists, one steal and no turnovers in the win over UTRGV on Nov. 12.
• Whitish played a huge role in Nebraska’s win over Colorado State, finishing with her first career double-figure scoring performance. Her 10-point effort in the win over the Rams included a career-high three three-pointers with the final triple coming on a cast from the deep left wing with one second on the shot clock to give Nebraska a 58-55 lead with 1:48 left. She added a free throw with 18 seconds left to seal the 62-59 win.
• Whitish added her second straight double-figure scoring performance with 10 points and career highs of five assists and two steals in Nebraska’s win over Omaha on Nov. 22.
Rylie Cascio Jensen, 5-10, Guard, Fremont, Neb.
• Cascio Jensen, a 5-10 guard from Fremont High School, was the 2016 Nebraska High School Player of the Year. She averaged 22.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 steals per game for the Tigers.
• She is averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 assists in 14.1 minutes per game this season.
• Cascio Jensen had season highs with six points and two three-pointers in wins over both Omaha (Nov. 22) and San Jose State (Dec. 9).
• She added five points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal against No. 3 Maryland on Jan. 4.
Grace Mitchell, 6-2, Forward/Guard, Wellington, Kan.
• Mitchell, a 6-2 forward/guard, was the Kansas Player of the Year as selected by USA Today High School Sports. She averaged 21.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks as a senior at Wellington High School. She also hit 48 percent of her three-pointers while setting a single-season school record with 533 points on her way to Kansas Class 4A Player-of-the-Year honors. She was ranked as the nation’s No. 51 wing by ESPN.
• Mitchell has averaged 2.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in 9.7 minutes per game this season. She produced a career-high seven-point effort against Drake on Dec. 6. Mitchell scored five points and had the first two steals of her career during a 15-5 Husker surge in the second quarter that helped send the Big Red to halftime with a 33-32 lead over the Bulldogs.
• She played well off the bench with five points on 2-of-2 shooting, including a three-pointer, while adding three rebounds against No. 1 UConn on Dec. 21.
• Mitchell added five points on 2-of-3 shooting and another three, while grabbing two rebounds and a steal against No. 3 Maryland on Jan. 4.
• Mitchell hit the first three-pointer of her career in the second quarter against Drake.
• She scored two points and grabbed two rebounds off the bench in her Husker debut against UTRGV, and added an important putback in Nebraska’s 62-59 win over Colorado State on Nov. 17.