NEB WBB: Huskers Set for NCAA Showdown with Sun Devils

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Courtesy: UNL Media Relations

(10) Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-10, 11-5 Big Ten)
vs. (7) Arizona State Sun Devils (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12)
Saturday, March 17, 2:30 p.m.
Erwin Center (Austin, Texas)
Television: ESPN2/Watch ESPN (Pam Ward, Gail Goestenkors)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (2 p.m.)
Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst)
Lincoln – B107.3 FM; Omaha – ESPN 590 AM
Free Live Audio: & TuneIn Apps
Austin First & Second Round Central
NCAA Interactive Bracket

Huskers Set for NCAA Showdown with Sun Devils in Texas
• The Nebraska women’s basketball team earned its 14th NCAA Tournament bid in school history and its first under second-year head coach Amy Williams when Nebraska was included in the 64-team 2018 NCAA Tournament field.

• The Huskers (21-10, 11-5 Big Ten) claimed a No. 10 seed and will battle No. 7 seed Arizona State (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12) in the NCAA First Round at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, March 17 at 2:30 p.m. (CT). Nebraska’s game with the Sun Devils will be televised live nationally by ESPN2. Pam Ward will be on the play-by-play with analyst Gail Goestenkors.

• A live radio broadcast will be available from the Husker Sports Network. Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch team up for their 17th season together on the call. The game will be carried on and over the air on B107.3 FM in Lincoln and ESPN 590 AM in Omaha. Free audio also can be found on the Huskers App and the TuneIn App.

• Nebraska, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015, earned its fifth bid in the past seven years. The Huskers will be playing their first postseason game against the Sun Devils, but Nebraska owns a 4-3 record against ASU in the all-time series.

• The Huskers, who were members of the Big 12 Conference alongside Texas for 15 seasons from 1996-97 through 2010-11, will be making their second trip to the state of Texas for the NCAA Tournament. The last time the Huskers went to Texas (2013), sixth-seeded Nebraska defeated 11th-seeded Chattanooga before knocking off No. 3 seed Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station on its way to the second NCAA Sweet Sixteen in school history.

• Big Ten Coach of the Year Amy Williams and her staff led the nation’s top turnaround in 2017-18. The Huskers are 14 victories better in the win column than last season’s 7-22 squad, including eight wins better in the Big Ten (3-13). Nebraska earned the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the Big Ten semifinals this season, after tying for last and losing in the 2017 Big Ten first round.

• Williams, who was the Summit League Coach of the Year in both 2015 and 2016 at South Dakota, is one of 10 semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach-of-the-Year award. • Sophomore Hannah Whitish earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. She leads the Huskers in scoring (12.6 ppg), assists (4.8 apg), steals (1.3 spg) and three-pointers (71) on the year. The 5-9 point guard from Barneveld, Wis., is the only Husker to start all 31 games this year.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (21-10 11-5 Big Ten)
24 – Maddie Simon – 6-2 – Jr. – F – 10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
31 – Kate Cain – 6-5 – Fr. – C – 10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg
3 – Hannah Whitish – 5-9 – So. – G – 12.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
5 – Nicea Eliely – 6-1 – So. – G – 8.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg
34 – Jasmine Cincore – 5-10 – Sr. – G – 6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Off the Bench
33 – Taylor Kissinger – 6-1 – Fr. – G – 9.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg
13 – Janay Morton – 5-10 – Sr. – G – 5.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg
12 – Emily Wood – 5-5 – Sr. – G – 4.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg
15 – Bria Stallworth – 5-6 – So. – G – 3.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg
14 – Grace Mitchell – 6-2 – So. – F – 2.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg
43 – Rachel Blackburn – 6-3 – So. – F – 1.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg
50 – Darrien Washington – 6-2 – Jr. – F – 1.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Head Coach: Amy Williams (Nebraska, 1998)
Second Season at Nebraska (28-32)
11th Season Overall (221-141)

Arizona State Sun Devils (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12)
42 – Kianna Ibis – 6-1 – Jr. – F – 12.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg
33 – Charnea Johnson-Chapman – 6-3 – Jr. – C – 6.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg
1 – Reilli Richardson – 5-11 – So. – G – 5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
11 – Robbi Ryan – 5-9 – So. – G – 10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg
22 – Courtney Ekmark – 6-0 – Jr. – F/G – 10.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Off the Bench
52 – Jamie Ruden – 6-1 – So. – F – 8.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg
21 – Sophia Elenga – 6-1 – Jr. – F – 5.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
4 – Kiara Russell – 5-8 – So. – G – 4.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
44 – Eva Rubin – 6-5 – Fr. – C – 2.3 ppg, 0.5 rpg
24 – Bre’yanna Sanders – 6-0 – Fr. – F/G – 0.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg
Injured (Out for Season)
3 – Sabrina Haines – 5-10 – Jr. – G – 10.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Head Coach: Charli Turner Thorne (Stanford, 1988)
21st Season at Arizona State (421-245)
24th Season Overall (461-285)

Scouting No. 7 Seed Arizona State
• Charlie Turner Thorne leads Arizona State into its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament and 13th in her 21 seasons as the head coach of the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils, who have made a pair of NCAA Elite Eight appearances, have advanced to the postseason in 18 of the last 19 seasons.

• This season’s set of Sun Devils climbed into the top 25 in January with a six-game winning streak that included back-to-back Pac-12 wins over California (80-71, Jan. 5) and Turner Thorne’s alma mater, Stanford (73-66, Jan. 7). Those two wins pushed the Sun Devils to 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-12.

• However, ASU dropped six of its next 10 Pac-12 games to slip to 17-9 and 8-6 in the conference heading into Valentine’s Day. The Sun Devils went 4-4 to close the year with three lopsided wins over Arizona and a solid win over NCAA Tournament-bound Oregon State (57-51, March 2) at the Pac-12 Tournament. ASU closed the conference tournament with a loss to Stanford (58-46, March 3).

• Overall, Arizona State went 5-10 against the 2018 NCAA Tournament field including a 76-57 win over Buffalo in Tempe on Dec. 2. Nebraska suffered an 82-72 loss to the Bulls in Daytona Beach, Fla., Nov. 23.

• ASU is 2-9 away from home against NCAA Tournament teams, but the Sun Devils did pick up a neutral site win in the Pac-12 Tournament over Oregon State on March 2.

• ASU’s only other common opponents with Nebraska this season were Arkansas and Washington State. The Huskers defeated the Razorbacks 80-69 in Lincoln on Nov. 16, while the Sun Devils smashed Arkansas 89-43 in Tempe on Dec. 21. One day later, Nebraska dropped a 73-61 decision to Washington State in Lincoln, while ASU crushed the Cougars 77-51 in Tempe on Feb. 4.

• Arizona State is led on the court by Nebraska native Kianna Ibis. The 6-1 junior forward out of Omaha Benson High School averages 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. She is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and 41 percent (16-39) from three-point range while knocking down 76.9 percent of her free throws. She is also one of five Sun Devils with more than 30 steals on the year. She increased her production to 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in Pac-12 play, while hitting 44.4 percent (12-27) of her threes.

• Ibis is one of four active juniors on a young Arizona State roster that does not include a senior. Fellow junior Sabrina Haines, a 5-10 guard, averaged 10.2 points and 3.8 rebounds through ASU’s first nine games before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in her right knee in a win over UC Riverside on Dec. 3.

• Junior Courtney Ekmark, a 6-0 wing who transferred to ASU after starting her career at UConn, averages 10.0 points and 4.5 rebounds while leading the Sun Devils with 58 threes (.387) on the year. She is also tied for the team lead with 37 steals. Ekmark upped her production to 10.8 points and 4.7 boards in the Pac-12, while hitting 41.4 percent (36-87) of her threes.

• Sophomore Robbi Ryan has pitched in 10.0 points and 3.8 rebounds, including 10.9 points and 4.0 boards in Pac-12 action, while 6-3 junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman has contributed 6.9 points and a team-leading 6.5 rebounds per game, but just 5.7 points and 6.4 boards in conference play. • Reilli Richardson, a 5-11 sophomore guard, has added 5.6 points per game and a team-leading 4.8 assists per game. Richardson is shooting just 31.8 percent from the field, including just 23.4 percent from three-point range. She was just 9-for-42 (.214) from beyond the arc in Pac-12 play.

• Ibis, Ryan, Ekmark, Johnson-Chapman and Richardson started all 18 Pac-12 games for the Sun Devils.

• Jamie Ruden, a 6-1 sophomore forward leads ASU off the bench with 8.5 points and 2.3 rebounds, while 6-1 junior forward Sophia Elenga has pitched in 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds.

• Kiara Russell, a 5-8 sophomore guard, has added 4.9 points and 1.9 rebounds, while tying Ekmark for the team lead with 37 steals. Russell attended the same high school (Osseo) in Minnesota as Nebraska fifth-year senior Janay Morton. Bre’yanna Sanders, a 6-0 freshman wing and 6-5 freshman center Eva Rubin, who attended the same high school (Homewood-Flossmoor) in Illinois as Husker third-year sophomore Bria Stallworth, round out the list of Sun Devil contributors.

• Like Nebraska, Arizona State features a balanced offense and a stingy defense. The Sun Devils have averaged 67.8 while surrendering just 56.8 points per game. Against NCAA Tournament teams, ASU has managed just 59.7 while allowing 63 points per contest.

• Arizona State is shooting 44.4 percent from the field, including 33.5 percent (4.8 threes per game), while hitting 71 percent of its free throws. The Sun Devils have allowed opponents to hit 41.5 percent from the field, but have shut down foes from three-point range (.299, 4.8 per game).

• ASU has dominated the possession game. The Sun Devils own a plus-6.8 team rebounding margin and a plus-3.2 team turnover margin. They have committed just 11.8 turnovers per game while allowing just 8.2 offensive rebounds per contest.

Nebraska vs. Arizona State Series History
• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Arizona State 4-3, including a 62-58 win in the last meeting at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln on Dec. 28, 2008.

• NU’s series with Arizona State dates back to Nov. 29, 1979, when the Huskers won the only previous neutral site meeting in series history with a 71-69 victory at the California Invitational. • Nebraska is 2-1 all-time against the Sun Devils in Lincoln and 1-2 head-to-head with ASU in Tempe.

• Four of the seven meetings between Nebraska and Arizona State have been decided by single digits.

Williams Named Naismith Coach of the Year Semifinalist
• Nebraska’s Amy Williams was named a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Basketball College Coach-of-the-Year award by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on Feb. 21.

• The second-year Husker head coach has led one of the nation’s top turnarounds, guiding the Big Red to a 21-10 overall record that included an 11-5 conference mark. Nebraska has put up a 14-game improvement in the win column over its 7-22 record a year ago.

• Just one year after tying for last place in the 14-team Big Ten, the Huskers went into the final day of conference regular-season play in contention for a share of the regular-season title. Nebraska also solidified its claim as one of the conference’s top-four teams by advancing to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals with a win over Michigan.

• Williams was recognized as the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the league coaches and media on Monday, Feb. 26.

• The only Big Ten Conference coach listed among the 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Coach-of-the-Year award, Williams joins Geno Auriemma (UConn), Vic Schaefer (Mississippi State), Jeff Walz (Louisville), Kelly Graves (Oregon), Kim Mulkey (Baylor), Muffet McGraw (Notre Dame), Robin Pingeton (Missouri), Karen Aston (Texas) and Joni Taylor (Georgia) among the contenders for the honor.

Nebraska NCAA Tournament Notes
• Nebraska is making its 14th NCAA Tournament appearance and eighth since 2007.

• NU’s first NCAA bid came in 1988 after winning the Big Eight regular-season title under Coach Angela Beck, who later added current Husker head coach Amy (Gusso) Williams to her roster as a walk-on. Beck coached her final season at Nebraska in 1996-97 when Williams was a junior.

• Six Nebraska women’s basketball teams have advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, starting with the 1993 team coached by Beck that featured Wade Trophy winner and first-team All-American Karen Jennings. That Nebraska team defeated San Diego in the school’s only home NCAA Tournament game in history on March 17, 1993 – 25 years to the day of NU’s 2018 first-round game with Arizona State.

• Two Husker teams have advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, beginning with the 2010 Big 12 champion Nebraska team that went undefeated during the regular season and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That team lost two games that season in Kansas City (Texas A&M, Big 12 semifinals, at Municipal Auditorium; Kentucky, NCAA Sweet Sixteen, Sprint Center).

• Nebraska advanced to its second NCAA Sweet Sixteen in the state of Texas. In 2013, the No. 6 seed Huskers knocked off No. 11 Chattanooga before upsetting No. 3 seed Texas A&M at Reed Arena. The starting point guard on both of Nebraska’s NCAA Sweet Sixteen teams was Lindsey Moore – a current graduate assistant at Arizona State.

• Amy (Gusso) Williams is the first former Husker women’s basketball player in history to serve as Nebraska’s head coach. • Williams made two NCAA Tournament appearances as a player at Nebraska (1996, 1998), including a first-round win over New Mexico under Coach Paul Sanderford in 1998.

• Williams will be making her second NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach, joining the 2014 appearance by South Dakota. It was her second season at USD.

• Ten of Nebraska’s 15 away games this season have come against top-65 RPI teams, with the Huskers owning a 6-4 record in those contests. Nebraska is 11-4 overall away from home, while Arizona State is 8-9 (5-6 road, 3-3 neutral). ASU’s best RPI win away from home came with a neutral site win over No. 42 Oregon State at the Pac-12 Tournament on March 2. The Sun Devils’ are 2-8 against top 100 RPI teams away from home.

Big Picture Look at the Big Red
• Nebraska Coach Amy Williams is in her second season rebuilding the Husker program, and a year after the Big Red experienced the worst overall record in school history (7-22) Nebraska is ahead of schedule on the building plan.

• The Huskers, who returned just 52.6 percent of their offense from a year ago, are now expected to return their top five scorers for next season – sophomore guard Hannah Whitish (12.6 ppg), junior forward Maddie Simon (10.4 ppg), freshman center Kate Cain (10.1 ppg), freshman guard Taylor Kissinger (9.8 ppg) and sophomore guard Nicea Eliely (8.4 ppg).

• Nebraska is 20-7 with Maddie Simon on the court this season. Simon missed four games (Creighton, Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, Clemson) with a significant ankle sprain suffered in warm-ups before the game with Creighton (Nov. 19). Simon missed the rest of NU’s games in November and the Huskers went 1-3.

• Taylor Kissinger missed Nebraska’s final six non-conference games with a knee injury suffered late in the game with Clemson (Nov. 30). Kissinger averaged a team-best 14.0 points per game through the first seven contests this season.

• Sophomore wing Nicea Eliely missed Nebraska’s first three games this season with a foot/ankle injury that kept her off the court for the last two weeks of October and the first two weeks of November.

• Senior guard Janay Morton, a projected starter, missed Nebraska’s first six games this season after undergoing offseason foot surgery. She missed eight games overall and played just 37 total minutes in non-conference play while recovering from the injury that kept her off the court for all of August, September and October. Over the last seven games, Morton is averaging 10.1 points per game, including season highs of 15 points and four rebounds against No. 17 Maryland in the Big Ten semifinals on March 3.

• Nebraska’s full team did not have its first full practice together until Dec. 26 because of the injuries to Morton, Eliely, Simon and Kissinger.

Nebraska Streaks
• Sophomore guard Hannah Whitish (48) owns the longest current streak of consecutive starts by a Husker. Nebraska’s second-longest streak is 30 games by freshman Kate Cain.

• Whitish is the only Husker to start all 31 games this season.

• Nebraska has featured the same starting lineup in 23 consecutive games.

• Whitish has posted at least one assist in 33 consecutive games, and has three or more assists in 28 games this season.

• Kate Cain has blocked at least one shot in each of the first 31 games of her career. She has 26 games with two or more blocks.

• Cain has at least two rebounds every game this season.

• Maddie Simon has at least two rebounds in all 27 of her games this season.

• The Huskers have knocked down at least one three-pointer in 311 straight regular-season games dating back to a loss at UTEP on Dec. 20, 2008.

• Nebraska has hit at least two three-pointers in 190 consecutive games.

Husker Nuggets
• Nebraska is 11-4 away from home this season, with its only losses to Maryland (RPI 18, road and neutral), Buffalo (RPI 22, neutral) and Indiana (RPI 54, road). The Huskers own top 50 RPI road wins over Iowa (21), Michigan (39, neutral), Rutgers (40) and Minnesota (41), while adding quality road wins at Drake (63) and Michigan State (65).

• Kate Cain owns the Nebraska season record for blocks with 100, surpassing the previous mark held by Olympic bronze medalist Danielle Page (78, 2007-08). Cain has a block in all 31 games this season.

• Cain’s 100 blocks rank No. 4 in the nation while her 3.2 blocks per game rank fourth in the country through games March 2. No Nebraska individual has ever averaged 2.0 blocks per game in a career, and only two Huskers (Danielle Page, 2.4 bpg, 2007-08; Catheryn Redmon, 2.5 bpg, 2010-11) have ever averaged 2.0 blocks per game in a single season.

• Nebraska’s Taylor Kissinger came off the bench throughout Big Ten play as one of the top freshman scorers in the conference. The 6-1 guard from Minden, Neb., is averaging 9.8 points per game on the year.

• Cain (10.1 ppg) and Kissinger (9.8 ppg) have a chance to become just the second pair of Husker freshmen and the first since 1982-83 to each average double figures in the same season, joining Debra Powell (15.4 ppg) and Crystal Coleman (12.3 ppg).

• Kissinger needs three three-pointers to move into a tie for third on Nebraska’s freshman season three-point list with 51. Hannah Whitish is No. 2 on that list with 57 in 2016-17.

• Junior Maddie Simon (+6.3 ppg) is one of the Big Ten’s most improved players in 2017-18. Simon, a 6-2 forward, is averaging 10.4 points per game after averaging 4.1 points through all 29 games a year ago.