The Nebraska women’s basketball team begins postseason tournament play this week when the Huskers travel to Indianapolis for the 2021 Big Ten Tournament.
The No. 8 seed Huskers (11-11, 9-10 Big Ten) tip-off tournament play on Wednesday by battling No. 9 seed Minnesota (8-12, 7-11 Big Ten) at 10 a.m. Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The game will be televised live by the Big Ten Network, while fans can also follow Nebraska with the Husker Sports Network call of Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch across the radio network stations, the Huskers App and Huskers.com.
Although Nebraska enters the tournament with a higher seed than the Golden Gophers, Minnesota swept the season series with the Huskers. Minnesota defeated Nebraska 73-63 in Minneapolis (Feb. 24).
The Huskers are led by second-team All-Big Ten guard Sam Haiby. She is the only Big Ten player to rank among the top 12 in the conference in scoring (17.0 ppg, 11th), rebounding (6.8 rpg, 12th) and assists (4.5 apg, 8th). The 5-9 junior from Moorhead, Minn., owns eight 20-point efforts on the year, including 25 points and 12 rebounds against the Gophers in Lincoln (Jan. 19) and 22 points and six assists at Minnesota (Feb. 24).
Haiby needs 26 points to become the 35th Husker in history to reach 1,000 career points.
Three-time Big Ten All-Defensive selection Kate Cain leads the Big Ten as one of the best shot-blockers in conference history. The 6-5 Cain ranks No. 6 in Big Ten history and holds the Nebraska record with 347 career blocks. The No. 2 active NCAA Division I player in blocks, Cain earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades in 2021 and is the 10th Husker in history to achieve the combined milestones of 1,000 points and 750 rebounds. She was one of 15 players on the Naismith Defensive Player-of-the-Year Watch List.
Sophomore Isabelle Bourne joined Cain as an honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick in 2021. Bourne ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rebounding (7.9 rpg) and 25th in scoring (13.9 ppg) while adding 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks. She missed the Jan. 19 meeting with Minnesota because of an ankle injury, but managed seven points and eight rebounds in Minneapolis (Feb. 24).
Junior Bella Cravens, Nebraska’s 2021 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner, missed the Huskers’ most recent meeting with Minnesota because of an ankle injury. She returned to action at Iowa.
Scouting the Golden Gophers
Head coach Lindsay Whalen’s Minnesota team fought hard down the stretch in Big Ten play, going 6-5 over the final 11 games, beginning with a 76-71 win at Nebraska (Jan. 19). The Golden Gophers finished the regular season 8-12 overall and 7-11 in the Big Ten to earn the tournament’s No. 9 seed.
Minnesota was handcuffed by an extremely limited roster at the start of fall practice and again at the start of the season due to complications caused by COVID-19 protocols. The Gophers have been challenged again by COVID and injuries late in the season.
Kadi Sissoko and Klarke Sconiers combined for 24 points and eight rebounds in just 29 combined minutes in Minnesota’s win over the Huskers (Feb. 24). Sconiers had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in just 12 minutes at Williams Arena. She fouled out in just 14 minutes in a loss in the regular-season finale at Illinois (March 5). Sissoko was injured at Illinois after playing 21 minutes. She finished with nine points and five boards against the Illini.
Sissoko, a redshirt sophomore from Paris, France who transferred from Syracuse, is averaging 12.6 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds. She has averaged 9.0 points, and 7.5 rebounds vs. Nebraska.
Second-team All-Big Ten guard Jasmine Powell has been a leader throughout the season. The 5-6 sophomore has averaged 14.5 points and better than five assists, but was slowed late in the season by a foot injury. She did not play in Minnesota’s last two regular-season games. Powell had 15 points and five assists in the win at Nebraska (Jan. 19).
Sophomore Sara Scalia has been in and out of the Gopher lineup while battling injuries. She missed Minnesota’s first two contests before starting the next four games. The 2020 Big Ten All-Freshman and honorable-mention all-conference choice had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Minnesota’s win in Lincoln. She added 11 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals in the victory in Minneapolis. Scalia leads Minnesota with 44 three-pointers on the season despite missing four games.
Redshirt senior Gadiva Hubbard is averaging 11.0 points and 3.7 rebounds, after earning honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades in 2020. She buried five three-pointers, including huge hits in the fourth quarter, to finish with a team-high 18 points in the win at Nebraska. She added 14 points on 3-of-4 three-point shooting to complete the season sweep for the Gophers.
Alexia Smith, a 5-8 freshman, has drawn late-season starts. She had five points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals while playing 39 minutes in Minnesota’s win over Nebraska (Feb. 24). She added five points, three rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes off the bench in the first meeting.
Former Husker Kayla Mershon has started six games for Minnesota but did not make the trip to Illinois. She is averaging 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds on the season.
Laura Bagwell Katalinich, a 6-0 graduate transfer from Cornell, has averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Gophers. She was a first-team All-Ivy League selection as a junior in 2018-19.
Caroline Strande (4.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg), early enrollee Katie Borowicz (3.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg) and redshirt freshman Grace Cumming (2.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg) supply Minnesota with more depth.
As a team, Minnesota is averaging 69.1 points while allowing 79.1 points per game. The Gophers carry a minus-0.9 rebound margin and a minus-2.3 turnover margin, while shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from three-point range. Opponents are shooting 46.5 percent, including 38 percent against the Gophers from long range. The opposition has hit 78.3 percent of its free throws.
Nebraska vs. Minnesota series history
• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Minnesota 14-12, but the Gophers have claimed three consecutive wins in the series.
• In the first meeting this season in Lincoln, Minnesota connected on 15-of-32 three-point attempts, including 5-of-9 shooting from Gadiva Hubbard, 4-of-10 from Sara Scalia and 3-of-8 from Jasmine Powell.
• In the rematch, the Huskers held Minnesota to 5-for-13 from beyond the arc, while Nebraska went 9-for-19. But NU went just 12-for-35 from inside the arc at Minnesota, while the Gophers went 22-for-46 from two-point range.
• Sam Haiby (Moorhead, Minn.) has averaged 23.5 points in two meetings with Minnesota this season, including 25 points and 12 rebounds in Lincoln. Ashley Scoggin is the only other Husker to average double figures (11.5 ppg) over the two meetings this season with the Gophers.
• Nebraska owns a 9-7 edge as Big Ten foes.
• Nebraska is 11-4 all-time against Minnesota in Lincoln. The Huskers are 2-8 against Minnesota in Minneapolis and 1-0 against the Gophers in the Big Ten Tournament (March 7, 2014).
• Although women’s basketball was not a full varsity sport at Nebraska until 1975-76, a women’s team from Nebraska suffered its first defeat at Minnesota in 1904 after going unbeaten between 1897 and 1903. Two weeks after the first meeting with Minnesota, Nebraska beat the same team in Lincoln.
• Minnesota’s Laura Coenen scored 42 points for the Gophers in a 90-79 win over the Huskers on Nov. 30, 1984. That effort is tied for the most points by any opponent in a game against the Huskers.