NEB WBB: Huskers Return Home to Battle Unbeaten Bears

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Courtesy: UNL Media Relations

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-4) vs. California Golden Bears (6-0)
Sunday, Dec. 4, 3 p.m. (CT)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Neb.)
Tickets: Huskers.com
Television: BTN/BTN2Go.com
Brandon Gaudin (PBP), Brenda VanLengen (Analyst)

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 Return Home to Battle Unbeaten Bears Sunday
The Nebraska women’s basketball team returns home after a three-game road swing to take on California Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tip-off between the Big Red (3-4) and the unbeaten Golden Bears (6-0) is set for 3 p.m., with tickets available now at Huskers.com. Tickets also will be available on game day at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Box Office beginning 90 minutes prior to tip-off.

Sunday’s game will be televised live nationally by the Big Ten Network with Brandon Gaudin and Brenda VanLengen on the call. A live radio broadcast will be available from the Husker Sports Network with Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch calling the action. The radio broadcast will be available on B107.3 FM in Lincoln and ESPN 590 AM in Omaha, while free audio also can be found on Huskers.com, the Huskers App and the TuneIn App on mobile devices.

The Huskers, who are 3-1 at home, will shoot for their fourth win against an unbeaten Bears bunch. The Big Red also will try to avenge an 87-80 overtime loss to the Bears in Berkeley last season. If the Huskers are going to be successful, they will have to control the tempo against an explosive and experienced team from Cal.

The Bears return four starters who combined for 84 of their 87 of their points in last year’s game. Overall, Cal returns all 87 of those points.

On the flip side, Nebraska’s lone returning starter from that game is sophomore Jessica Shepard. The 6-4 forward from Fremont, Neb., was handcuffed with foul trouble and managed just six points, four rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes against the Bears.

Shepard is averaging 18.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game after producing her third double-double of the season with 25 points and 14 rebounds Thursday at Virginia Tech.

Current Husker starter Allie Havers had a breakout game against the Bears, erupting for a career-high 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting in 37 minutes off the bench for the Big Red. The only other returning Husker to score in last year’s game is junior Jasmine Cincore, who had two points and a steal in seven minutes off the bench.

Overall, Nebraska returns just 26 of its 80 points from its first-ever meeting with Cal last season.

Nebraska continues to face one of the top schedules in school history in non-conference play. All eight of the Huskers’ opponents thus far (including Cal) carry .500 or better records into the weekend, including Virginia Tech (7-0), California (6-0), Virginia (5-2), Missouri (5-2), Washington State (4-2), UTRGV (4-3), Omaha (4-3) and Colorado State (3-3) to combine for a 38-15 (.717) overall record.

Entering the weekend the Huskers own the nation’s No. 27 strength of schedule, while Cal comes in as the No. 22 RPI team in the country according to the College Basketball News RPI. The Huskers have upcoming games with Drake (RPI 81, 3-2), San Jose State (RPI 182, 2-5), at Creighton (RPI 105, 3-3) and UConn (RPI 2, 6-0).

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-4, 0-0 Big Ten)
32 – Jessica Shepard – 6-4 – So. – F – 18.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg
22 – Allie Havers – 6-5 – Sr. – C – 4.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg
5 – Nicea Eliely – 6-1 – Fr. – G – 7.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg
11 – Esther Ramacieri – 5-8 – Sr. – G – 4.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg
34 – Jasmine Cincore – 5-10 – Jr. – G – 6.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Off the Bench
3 – Hannah Whitish – 5-9 – Fr. – G – 6.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg
24 – Maddie Simon – 6-2 – So. – G – 4.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg
12 – Emily Wood – 5-5 – Jr. – G – 3.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg
14 – Grace Mitchell – 6-2 – Fr. – F/G – 1.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg
2 – Rylie Cascio Jensen – 5-10 – Fr. – G – 1.7 ppg, 0.9 rpg
50 – Darrien Washington – 6-2 – So. – F – 1.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998)
First Season at Nebraska (3-4); 10th Season Overall (196-113)

California Golden Bears (6-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
12 – Penina Davidson – 6-3 – Jr. – F – 6.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg
31 – Kristine Anigwe – 6-4 – So. – F/C – 18.5 ppg, 9.7 rpg
1 – Asha Thomas – 5-4 – So. – G – 10.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg
3 – Mikayla Cowling – 6-2 – Jr. – G/F – 12.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
24 – Courtney Range – 6-3 – Sr. – G/F – 14.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Off the Bench
21 – Mi’Cole Cayton – 5-9 – Fr. – G – 5.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg
33 – Jaelyn Brown – 6-1 – Fr. – F – 4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg
30 – CJ West – 6-4 – Fr. – C – 3.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg
20 – Mo Mosley – 5-11 – So. – G – 1.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg
5 – Chen Yu – 6-7 – So. – C – 0.3 ppg, 0.2 rpg

Head Coach: Lindsay Gottlieb (Brown, 1999)
Sixth Season at California (124-51); Ninth Season Overall (180-190)

Scouting California
Coach Lindsay Gottlieb brings her Cal Golden Bears to Lincoln for the first time with a 6-0 record to open the season. The Bears are receiving top-25 consideration thanks to four talented returning starters and more depth than they had a year ago.

Last season, Cal struggled to a 15-17 overall record and a 4-14 Pac-12 mark to finish 10th in the conference. Along the way, the young Bears defeated Nebraska, 87-80 in overtime at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley on Dec. 15.

Cal returns all 87 points the Bears scored in that game. Sophomore Kristine Anigwe, who was the Pac-12 and USBWA National Freshman of the Year, scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Bears to victory. The 6-4 forward is averaging 18.5 points and 9.7 rebounds through six games. Last season, she finished with averages of 20.5 points and 9.3 boards.

Fellow sophomore Asha Thomas had 17 points and five assists against the Huskers. The 5-4 guard is averaging 10.2 points and 4.3 assists while shooting a blistering 60.9 percent (14-23) from three-point range.

Courtney Range, who has joined Anigwe among Bears with national player-of-the-year consideration during her career, is averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds this season. The lone senior among Cal’s starting five, Range finished with 19 points and seven rebounds from her wing position a year ago. The 6-3 shooter leads Cal with 16 threes this season, while hitting 41 percent of her attempts.

Mikayla Cowling adds another big wing to Cal’s backcourt. Cowling had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists while playing all 45 minutes in last season’s overtime win against the Huskers. The 6-2 junior is averaging 12.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and team bests with 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season.

Last season, Range (4-8), Thomas (3-6) and Cowling (2-3) combined to hit 9-of-17 threes (.529) against the Huskers. This season, the trio is a combined 39-of-85 (.459) from long range.

As a team, Cal is shooting 40.5 percent (47-116) from three-point range and a strong 49.2 percent overall. In fact, four of Cal’s five starters are shooting better than 50 percent overall from the floor, including 6-3 forward Penina Davidson. The junior from Auckland, New Zealand is averaging 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds while hitting 51.4 percent of her shots from the floor. Davidson appeared in all 32 games for Cal last season, including eight starts. She replaces Gabby Green in this season’s starting five for the Bears. Green chose to transfer to Loyola Marymount following her sophomore season at Cal, when she averaged 5.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.7 steals.

Cal has shown more depth off the bench early this season than a year ago. Freshman guards Mi’Cole Cayton (5.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 2.0 apg) and Jaelyn Brown (4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) have given the Bears regular contributions. Both freshmen have played nearly 20 minutes per game.

CJ West (3.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg), a 6-4 freshman center and Chen Yue, a 6-7 sophomore center from Beijing, China, also have played in all six games.

Freshman Mo Mosely, a 5-11 guard, rounds out the 10 players who have contributed on the court for the Bears this season.

Last year, only eight Bears played in more than eight games, while Cowling (1,185), Range (1,100) and Thomas (1,069) all played well over 1,000 minutes.

Husker Nuggets
• Cal (6-0) is the second of back-to-back unbeaten opponents for the Huskers this week, joining now 7-0 Virginia Tech, which Nebraska played Thurday night in Blacksburg as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
• California is off to its second 6-0 start in the past three seasons, joining an 8-0 start to the 2014-15 campaign. Cal also started 6-0 in 2012-13, giving the Bears three 6-0 starts in the last five years.
• Entering the week, Nebraska’s first eight opponents (including Virginia Tech and Cal) had combined for a 34-13 record. Of the 13 losses, three were to the Huskers, four were to top-20 teams and three more were to 2016 conference champions.
• Jessica Shepard leads the Huskers with averages of 18.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She produced her 13th career double-double with 25 points and 14 rebounds at Virginia Tech on Thursday night. Shepard is tied for 10th in Husker history with 13 double-doubles.
• Shepard owns three double-doubles this season, including 24 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Colorado State on Nov. 17, and 17 points and a season-high 15 rebounds in a win over UTRGV on Nov. 12.
• Shepard owns three 20-point scoring efforts through seven games, including season highs of 25 points against Washington State (Nov. 25) and Virginia Tech (Dec. 1). She owns 19 career 20-plus scoring games.
• Shepard leads Nebraska in three-point field goals made (10) and three-point field goal percentage (.526), 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.
• Nebraska freshman Nicea Eliely ranks second on the team in scoring (7.3 ppg), fourth in rebounding (3.9 rpg), tied for first in assists (2.7 apg) and first in steals (1.7 spg) through the first seven games of her collegiate career.

Shepard Leads Big Red on B1G Stage
• Sophomore Jessica Shepard owns 13 career double-doubles, including three this season. Her most recent double-double came with 25 points and 14 rebounds in a 76-67 loss at unbeaten Virginia Tech on Thursday. She also 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 seven games, Shepard is averaging team bests of 18.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She is also a team-best 10-for-19 from three-point range, 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. 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. Shepard 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.

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 56 all-time home games at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers own an impressive 46-10 record (.821 winning percentage) while averaging 5,736 fans per game (321,220 total fans/56 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 To Battle One of Nation’s Best Schedules
• Nebraska will likely face 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 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.

Huskers Have History of Home-Opening Success
• Nebraska owns a history of season-opening success on the Huskers’ home court. NU notched its 41st season-opening win with a 71-53 victory over UTRGV on Nov. 12.
• NU is 4-0 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in season openers, including a 96-46 victory over Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 14, 2015, a 100-65 win over Pepperdine on Nov. 15, 2014, and a 77-49 win over UCLA in the first regular-season basketball game in the history of the building on Nov. 8, 2013. Nebraska’s last loss in a home opener came to South Dakota State on Nov. 19, 2005. NU’s only other home-opening loss was to Kansas (88-56) on Nov. 21, 1980.
• Nebraska has been strong in its first six home games every season. In fact, NU is 220-35 in the past 43 years in its first six home contests (.863), including 36-7 in Game No. 2.
• The Huskers had their streak of 16 straight wins in their second home games of the year snapped with a 55-35 loss to No. 25 Missouri on Nov. 14.
• Nebraska is 35-8 in Game No. 3, 37-6 in Game No. 4, 37-5 in Game No. 5 and 34-7 in Game 6. The Huskers only played five total home games in their first season in 1974-75.

Shepard Shoots For More as Sophomore
• Jessica Shepard has her sophomore season off to a strong start averaging 18.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She has produced three double-doubles, including 25 points and 14 rebounds at unbeaten Virginia Tech Thursday, 24 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Colorado State on Nov. 17, and 17 points and 15 boards in a win over UTRGV on Nov. 12.
• Shepard owns 13 career double-doubles to tie for 10th on Nebraska’s career chart in that category.
• Shepard has a trio of 20-point efforts this season, including a season-high 25 points at Virginia Tech (Dec. 1) and against Washington State (Nov. 25). She scored 24 points against Colorado State on Nov. 17. Shepard owns 19 20-point games in the first 38 games of her career.
• Shepard leads the Huskers with 10 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. 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, while she rested the injury.
• 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.