Huskers Meet Spartans in Midweek Clash
Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-9, 4-6 Big Ten)
vs. Michigan State Spartans (11-10, 3-7 Big Ten)
Thursday, February 2, 2023, 7:30 p.m. (CT)
Pinnacle Bank Arena - Lincoln, Nebraska
Tickets: Huskers.com / 1-800-8-BIG-RED
Live TV: BTN
Sloane Martin (PBP), Brenda VanLengen (Analyst)
Live Radio: Huskers Radio Network (7 p.m.)
Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst)
Lincoln (107.3 FM/1400 AM), Omaha (590 AM), Huskers.com, Huskers App
Special Event: National Girls & Women in Sports Day
Huskers Meet Spartans in Crucial Midweek Clash
The Nebraska women's basketball team returns to Pinnacle Bank Arena for a pivotal midweek battle with Michigan State on Thursday night.
Tip-off between the Big Red (12-9, 4-6 Big Ten) and the Spartans (11-10, 3-7 Big Ten) is set for 7:30 p.m. (CT) with tickets on sale now at Huskers.com. Live television coverage will be provided by the Big Ten Network with Sloane Martin and Brenda VanLengen on the call.
The game also can be heard across the Huskers Radio Network with Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch on 107.3 FM and 1400 AM in Lincoln along with 590 AM in Omaha, Huskers.com and the Huskers App.
Nebraska has dropped three of its last four games with all of the losses to current top-10 Big Ten opponents. Michigan State has lost five of its last six with four setbacks to top-25 Big Ten foes at game time.
Although both the Huskers and Spartans have struggled in the amazing meat-grinder that is the 2022-23 Big Ten schedule, both teams are battling for position in the conference standings for the conference tournament and at-large bids in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska enters the week at No. 41 in the NCAA NET rankings, two spots ahead of No. 43 Michigan State, and on paper the difference between the two teams seems razor thin.
The Huskers are coming off a narrow 80-76 loss at No. 10 Iowa on Saturday, despite all five Nebraska starters scoring in double figures. Sam Haiby led Nebraska with 16 points as she continues to expand her game after missing 10 of the first 11 games this season with a leg injury. Over the past five games, the 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., is averaging 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals. She needs 15 points to reach 1,500 in her Nebraska career.
Alexis Markowski, the 2022 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, has been a leader for the Huskers throughout the season. The 6-3 center who is on the Lisa Leslie Award Watch List has averaged 12.2 points and ranks second in the Big Ten with 9.4 rebounds per game. She also ranks in the top 10 in the conference in blocks (1.0 bpg). Markowski has produced nine double-doubles this season, including 12 points and 11 rebounds at Iowa on Saturday. Over the last five games, Markowski is averaging a double-double with 11.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest.
Jaz Shelley, who joined Markowski as a second-team All-Big Ten choice last season, leads Nebraska in scoring (12.8 ppg), assists (6.5 apg) and steals (1.6 spg) while adding 4.2 rebounds per game. The 5-9 guard from Moe, Australia (pronounced MO-ee) is 18 points away from 1,000 in her college career after notching her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 11 assists at Iowa. She is also just four assists away from 300 in less than two seasons at Nebraska.
Three-time team captain and two-time All-Big Ten performer Isabelle Bourne has added 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in her third season as a starter for the Huskers. She had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting at Iowa.
Maddie Krull (Omaha, Neb.) rounds Nebraska's starting five with 5.7 points, 1.9 assists and 2.0 steals on the season. Krull is coming off a 13-point performance at Iowa and is averaging 10.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals over the last five games. She had 15 points in a win at Purdue (Jan. 18) and 14 points in a win over Penn State (Jan. 11).
Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-9, 4-6 Big Ten)
34 - Isabelle Bourne - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 10.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg
40 - Alexis Markowski - 6-3 - So. - C/F - 12.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg
1 - Jaz Shelley - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 12.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
4 - Sam Haiby - 5-9 - Gr. - G - 9.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
42 - Maddie Krull - 5-9 - So. - G - 5.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Off the Bench
21 - Annika Stewart - 6-3 - So. - F - 6.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
14 - Callin Hake - 5-9 - Fr. - G - 5.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg
15 - Kendall Moriarty - 6-1 - So. - G - 3.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg
44 - Maggie Mendelson - 6-5 - Fr. - F/C - 3.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
32 - Kendall Coley - 6-2 - So. - F/G - 2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg
2 - Trinity Brady - 5-11 - Jr. - G - 2.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg
3 - Allison Weidner (Out) - 5-10 - So. - G - 10.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998)
Seventh Season at Nebraska (108-93); 16th Season Overall (301-202)
Michigan State Spartans (11-10, 3-7 Big Ten)
11 - Matilda Ekh - 6-0 - So. - G/F - 12.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
12 - Isaline Alexander - 6-3 - So. - F - 7.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg
0 - DeeDee Hagemann - 5-8 - So. - G - 7.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
5 - Kamaria McDaniel - 5-10 - Gr. - G/F - 14.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg
22 - Moira Joiner - 5-10 - Sr. - G - 9.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
Off the Bench
14 - Taiyier Parks - 6-3 - Sr. - F - 7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
1 - Tory Ozment - 6-1 - RSr. - G - 3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg
40 - Julia Ayrault - 6-2 - RJr. - G/F - 3.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg
4 - Theryn Hallock - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 3.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg
13 - Stephanie Visscher - 6-0 - Gr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
2 - Abbey Kimball - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 3.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg
21 - Brooklyn Rewers - 6-4 - So. - C - 2.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Head Coach: Suzy Merchant (Central Michigan, 1991)
16th Season at Michigan State (322-182); 28th Season Overall (523-302)
Injuries Altering Nebraska's Season
While Nebraska is squarely in the hunt for a second straight NCAA Tournament bid (NET No. 41), the Huskers have had their journey through the season challenged with several injuries to key players.
Despite Nebraska returning five starters (Isabelle Bourne, Alexis Markowski, Jaz Shelley, Allison Weidner, Sam Haiby) from last year's team that went 24-9 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten, Haiby missed 10 of the first 11 games this season with a leg injury suffered in practice (Sept. 12).
Trinity Brady, a fourth-year guard, started the first eight games in place of Haiby, before Brady suffered a concussion in the first half of a loss at No. 9 Virginia Tech (Dec. 1). Brady has missed the last 13 games.
Despite the loss of Brady and the absence of Haiby, Nebraska notched an impressive 90-67 road win at No. 20 Maryland (Dec. 4) in the first start by Maddie Krull as a Husker.
However, prior to Nebraska's next game with Wisconsin (Dec. 7), the Huskers lost Isabelle Bourne to an upper body injury suffered in practice. Bourne missed three games, as Annika Stewart made the first three starts of her career. Nebraska went 3-0 with wins over Wisconsin, Samford and Wyoming.
Bourne returned to the starting lineup for a 3OT win over Kansas (Dec. 21), but Allison Weidner suffered a season-ending leg injury early in the fourth quarter of the victory over the Jayhawks. Weidner has missed Nebraska's last seven games and underwent season-ending surgery (Jan. 10).
Weidner's injury hastened the return of Sam Haiby to the starting lineup for Nebraska's Big Ten loss to No. 14 Michigan (Dec. 28).
Nebraska was forced to make another adjustment to its starting five in a win at Purdue (Jan. 18), when Maddie Krull missed a start because of illness. Freshman Callin Hake made her first career start and played well with eight points and three rebounds. Krull also played huge off the bench, overcoming illness for one of her best performances of the season, finishing with 15 points in the victory over the Boilermakers.
The only two Huskers to start all 21 contests this season are Jaz Shelley and Alexis Markowski, despite Markowski battling multiple nagging injuries from preseason to the present. Shelley ranks second in the Big Ten with 35.0 minutes played per game.
Huskers Face Historic Strength of Schedule
Nebraska's game with No. 10 Iowa (Jan. 28) was its ninth this season against an AP Top 25 team at game time, and the Huskers are scheduled to face at least two more current top-25 foes. If those numbers hold, it would give NU a school-record-tying 11 games against AP Top 25 teams. No other Nebraska team has ever faced more than 11 AP Top 25 opponents (2000-01).
Since entering the Big Ten (2011-12), the Huskers had never played more than eight games in a season against AP Top 25 foes prior to this season.
Nebraska's game with Iowa was its fourth against an AP Top 10 team this season. The Huskers have never faced more than five AP Top 10 teams in the same season, and the Huskers will meet current AP No. 6 Iowa again on Feb. 18 in Lincoln, after playing current No. 18 Michigan in Ann Arbor (Feb. 12).
The Huskers could face additional games against AP Top 25 foes, if Illinois regains a spot in the rankings. The Fighting Illini slipped out of the poll Monday and are the top team receiving votes outside the top 25. Nebraska plays Illinois Feb. 9 in Lincoln and Feb. 22 in Champaign.
Isabelle Bourne recently became the 36th 1,000-point scorer in Nebraska history, achieving the milestone in the fourth quarter of NU's win over Penn State (Jan. 11). She is just the 22nd player in NU history to achieve the combined career milestones of 1,000 points (1,036) and 500 rebounds (559) joining teammate Sam Haiby (1,485 points, 587 rebounds) in that prestigious group.
Sam Haiby is one of just four players in Nebraska history to rank among the school's top 20 in points (13th, 1,485), rebounds (20th, 587) and assists (8th, 439). Haiby joins Maurtice Ivy, Anna DeForge and Emily Cady as the only other Huskers on that elite list.
Preseason All-Big Ten center and 2022 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Alexis Markowski (Lincoln, Neb.) is one of the Big Ten's top rebounders, averaging 9.4 boards to go along with her 12.2 points per contest. The 6-3 center owns nine double-doubles on the season and leads the Huskers with 22 blocks.
Jaz Shelley opened Big Ten play with 29 points in a road upset at No. 20 Maryland (Dec. 4), before pumping in 31 points in a win over Wisconsin (Dec. 7). She also had 21 points and five assists in a loss to No. 14 Michigan (Dec. 28). She just missed a triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a win over Penn State (Jan. 11).
Nebraska has knocked down 10 or more threes on nine occasions this season and is 9-0 when hitting double-digit threes. Nebraska's most recent double-digit three-point effort came on 13-of-28 shooting against Penn State (Jan. 11).
Kendall Moriarty put the exclamation point on the win over Penn State (Jan. 11) with a running, half-a-hook three from beyond halfcourt in the closing seconds to beat the shot clock. Moriarty's improbable shot, which came on a Nebraska baseline inbounds play, was Scott Van Pelt's "The Best Thing I Saw Today" on ESPN.
Scouting The Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State is expected to appear on the court at Pinnacle Bank Arena for the first time since Feb. 17, 2019, when the Spartans come to Lincoln on Thursday.
MSU is coming off an 86-76 loss to then-No. 22 Illinois in Champaign on Sunday. Head Coach Suzy Merchant was not in attendance at Illinois after being hospitalized following a minor one-car accident due to a medical incident on Saturday morning. She was released from Sparrow Hospital on Monday. Associate Head Coach Dean Lockwood led the Spartans at Illinois.
Michigan State comes to Lincoln with an 11-10 overall record and a 3-7 Big Ten mark, trailing Nebraska by one game in the conference standings. The Huskers entered the week at No. 41 in the NCAA NET rankings, while Michigan State opened the week at No. 43.
The Spartans, who began the season with a 6-0 record and an average winning margin of 45 points in those contests against teams all lower than 215 in the current NET rankings, followed with five straight losses before notching four consecutive wins, including an 83-78 victory over No. 4 Indiana (Dec. 29). The win over the Hoosiers is Michigan State's lone win over a top-100 NET team this season. In contrast, Nebraska owns five wins over NET Top-80 teams, including four victories over top-40 NET teams with three coming away from home.
Since a Jan. 2 win at Northwestern, Michigan State has dropped five of its last six games with its only victory coming against Rutgers in East Lansing (Jan. 22). Eight of Michigan State's 10 losses have come to NET Top 40 teams with the only losses outside of the top 40 to No. 72 Georgia Tech and No. 122 Wisconsin - both in East Lansing.
Thursday's game at Nebraska will be Michigan State's second game of the year against a team ranked between No. 40 and No. 110 in the current NET, joining the loss to No. 72 Georgia Tech.
Graduate transfer and former Penn State and Baylor star Kamaria McDaniel leads Penn State with 14.6 points per game. McDaniel, who will turn 24 years old on Feb. 12, is coming off a 23-point effort on 9-of-19 shooting with four three-pointers at Illinois.
Sophomore Matilda Ekh gives Michigan State a pair of starters averaging in double figures with 12.5 points per game. The 6-0 wing from Vasteras, Sweden, leads MSU with 51 three-pointers and has hit at a 38.9 percent clip from beyond the arc. She is also a 93.5 percent free throw shooter.
Sophomore point guard DeeDee Hagemann gives MSU a third consistent starter, averaging 7.0 points and team bests of 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals.
Michigan State's other two starting spots have been filled by several players, including a rotation of Taiyier Parks (11 starts) and Isaline Alexander (6 starts) in the post. The duo has combined for nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. Alexander, a 6-3 sophomore forward, is averaging 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds after getting eight points and four boards in a start at Illinois. The 6-3 senior Parks owns nearly identical averages (7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and has earned starts recently for MSU. She contributed 13 points and five boards at Illinois.
Moira Joiner (9.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Tory Ozment (3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg) have each started six games as well, with Joiner's starts coming recently. Joiner had 11 points and six rebounds at Illinois.
Joiner, a 5-10 senior, and Ozment, a 6-1 redshirt senior have primarily replaced junior Gabby Elliott in the starting five, after Elliott suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the third quarter of a loss to Ohio State (Dec. 11). Elliott averaged 9.5 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds through MSU's first 11 games.
Julia Ayrault (3.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg), Theryn Hallock (3.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg) and Stephanie Visscher (2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg) also have played in all 21 games this season, giving the Spartans a deep and experienced bench. Abbey Kimball (3.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg) has played in 15 games, including 12 minutes in the loss at Illinois, when she hit a pair of threes.
Michigan is scoring 80.0 and allowing 65.3 points per game on the season while hitting 43.5 percent of its shots, including 32.7 percent of its threes. However, MSU has knocked down just 65.2 percent of its free throws. The Spartans own a plus-4.9 rebound margin and a plus-6.4 turnover margin.
In Big Ten play, MSU has continued to score at a 75.5 points per game clip, but conference foes are averaging 77.3 points per game. The Spartans are being out-rebounded (37.0-34.8 rpg) in the league but still carry a plus-3.5 turnover margin.
Nebraska vs. Michigan State Series History
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan State 9-5 with all 14 meetings as Big Ten foes.
The Huskers are 5-0 against the Spartans at Pinnacle Bank Arena, but have not played Michigan State in Lincoln since Feb. 17, 2019, when Nebraska ran to an 82-71 win.
On Feb. 27, 2021, Michigan State chose not to play on Nebraska's Senior Day, despite traveling to Lincoln. As a result, Nebraska has played three consecutive games in the series at East Lansing, including a 72-69 loss to the Spartans on Dec. 30, 2021.
The Huskers fought to a 68-64 win over the then-No. 23 Spartans in East Lansing on Jan. 10, 2021, which followed a 78-70 OT loss to MSU on Dec. 31, 2019.
The Huskers are 3-5 against Michigan State all-time in East Lansing, and 1-0 against the Spartans at the Big Ten Tournament - an 85-58 pounding on March 8, 2014, on the way to Nebraska's 2014 Big Ten title.
Five of Nebraska's nine wins have been by 10 points or less, while each of MSU's last two wins have been by single digits.
Nebraska is 8-3 in its last 11 meetings with the Spartans, even though seven of the 11 games have been played away from Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Since 2014-15, Maryland's first season in the Big Ten, the Terrapins have been Nebraska's most frequent opponent from the Eastern Time Zone, facing the Huskers 15 times.
Maryland has made six trips to Pinnacle Bank Arena. Lincoln is 1,205 miles from College Park. Michigan State has only appeared on the court at Pinnacle Bank Arena three times, and the Huskers have played the Spartans nine times. Lincoln is 727 miles from East Lansing. NU is 9-5 all-time against Michigan State and 5-0 in Lincoln.
Husker Numbers to Watch
Jaz Shelley is five three-pointers away from 129 in her Husker career, which would move her into the top 10 on Nebraska's career three-point list. Shelley has 125 made threes in 53 games (2.4 pg) as a Husker. The only player in NU's top 10 to hit threes at a faster clip in her career is Natalie Romeo, who connected on 155 threes in 55 games (2.8 pg) as a Husker (2014-15, 2015-16). Amy Stephens, one of the greatest shooters and scorers in Nebraska history, hit 129 threes in 57 games (2.3 pg) in the first two seasons of the three-point shot in women's college basketball (1987-88, 1988-89). Nebraska's all-time three-point leader, All-American and 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year Jordan Hooper, hit 295 threes in 131 career games (2.3 pg).
Sam Haiby needs 15 points to become the 13th player in Husker history to score 1,500 career points. Haiby is 56 points away (1,485) from matching Angie Miller for No. 12 on Nebraska's all-time scoring list (1,541 points, 1984-87).
Jaz Shelley is 18 points away from 1,000 in her college career (686-Nebraska; 296-Oregon).
Sam Haiby is five assists away from No. 7 on the NU career list (444, Amy Stephens, 1985-89).
Isabelle Bourne is 12 points away from catching Cathy Owen at No. 32 on NU's scoring list (1,048, 1982-85). Issie's older sister, Callie, recently reached the 1,000-point mark in her fifth season at Idaho State, achieving the milestone at San Diego (Nov. 25) in career game No. 118.
Sam Haiby needs 24 rebounds to climb to No. 19 by matching Pyra Aarden (611, 1993-96) on Nebraska's career rebound list.
Isabelle Bourne ranks No. 23 on the Nebraska career rebound list with 559 and needs 15 rebounds to catch Nafeesah Brown at No. 22 (574).