Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Nebraska looking to start Big Ten play 6-0 on the road
Stop me if you expected this: The Nebraska women’s basketball team heads to Michigan State tonight for a chance to all but wrap up a top four seed in the Big Ten tournament.
None of you stopped me.
But it’s true, the Huskers (18-7, 9-3 B1G) are half a game behind Ohio State for second place in the conference standings, and have a game lead on fourth place Minnesota. A win over Michigan State can help NU move even closer to earning a double-bye in Indianapolis, but it’s going to take another solid effort from the #RoadWarriors to get past the Spartans.
NU vs. Michigan St
The #RoadWarriors come into Wednesday’s matchup 8-0 in true road games, and just half a game behind Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten.
Michigan State is coming off of an upset of No. 21 Michigan, which snapped a six-game skid for a banged up Spartan squad. It wasn’t pretty, but 14 points for MSU’s Lexi Gussert gave the Spartans enough offense to work past a sputtering Michigan side. Despite having two players out for the year, Michigan State got contributions from nine different players in the win, including a made shot by every player that saw the court.
If the image of a balanced team, grinding out a win in a defensive game sounds familiar, you’re a true fan of this edition of the Husker women.
Nebraska is coming off of a 51-48 win over Wisconsin in a game that saw NU narrowly avoid a costly loss to a Badger team that came into the game 2-10 in Big ten play. Kate Cain provided the steady hand for Nebraska, while Janay Morton and Taylor Kissinger added a spark from 3-point range.
And while it wasn’t the best game for starters Hannah Whitish, Maddie Simon and Nicea Eliely, the trio still comes into tonight’s game averaging a combined 31.6 points per game. Whitish made just one shot on Sunday, but still leads the team at 12.7 PPG.
The good news, for Whitish and Eliely at least, is that Michigan State’s injuries have mostly come in the backcourt. After two players went down to season-ending injuries, guard Shay Colley has now missed the last seven games with an injury. Colley was averaging 10.6 PPG overall, and a team-leading 11.5 in Big Ten games before suffering a knee injury.
Michigan State does have the services of Taryn McCutcheon, who put up a career-high 25 points in an upset of No. 10 Maryland earlier this year. It’s the only loss Maryland has suffered in Big Ten play, and came thanks to six 3-pointers for McCutcheon and 17 points from Colley.
Nebraska will only have to worry about one of those scoring options on Wednesday, but it still won’t be an easy task escaping East Lansing with a win.
The other good news for Nebraska? Winning on the road has become an art form for NU this season. The Huskers are one of five teams in all of Division I to be unbeaten in true road games this season, and come into the contest 8-0 in games played on their opponent’s home court. That includes wins in all five Big Ten road games, with Nebraska winning by an average of 10.2 points in conference road matchups.
The win could also take on increased significance depending on other league results. Minnesota and Michigan also play tonight, a 7 p.m. matchup in Minneapolis. Should the Gophers win, that would put Michigan two games behind Nebraska, and that’s significant because the Wolverines are the only team that hold a tiebreaker over NU.
The Huskers beat Minnesota in the two teams’ only matchup, swept a season series with Iowa (8-5) and also beat Purdue (7-5).
With a Nebraska win and a Minnesota loss, the Huskers would take a two-game lead on the teams tied in fourth place in the Big Ten. If that were to happen, Nebraska could wrap up a top four seed this weekend with a win over Indiana, and continue its improbable march to more than just the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
But as Amy Williams and her squad repeat at practically every press availability: They’re just taking it game-by-game.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. in a game that will be available on BTN Plus. If you can’t watch, make sure to follow along with @huskers_W for updates of a crucial road matchup for Nebraska.