SIU-Edwardsville vs. Nebraska, 11/11/17

Nebraska's Kate Cain (31) blocks a shot by SIU-Edwardsville's Lauren White on Nov. 11 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO

Nebraska women’s basketball coach Amy Williams won’t go too far in her praise of what the Huskers have done playing defense this season — there is too much season left to be doing that — but the Huskers are on pace to be a whole lot better on defense this season.

During the Huskers’ disastrous season last year, Nebraska ranked last in the Big Ten Conference in scoring defense.

But this season the Huskers are allowing an average of 64.4 points per game, which ranks seventh among the 14 teams in the league and is an improvement of 11.9 points per game from last season.

Williams said at times the Huskers have been better on defense than last season.

The Huskers held Ohio State, the nation’s No. 3-ranked scoring offense, to just 73 points, but Ohio State still won. It was only the second time this season the Buckeyes failed to score at least 83 points. Last season, Ohio State averaged 91 points in its two games with the Huskers.

Nebraska held the nation’s No. 11 scoring offense to 74 points in a win at Minnesota on Dec. 31. The Gophers entered the game averaging 94.2 points per game in seven home games before being held 20 points below that by the Huskers.

“We’ve been proud of the fact that we’ve been able to hold teams like Ohio State and Minnesota well below their scoring averages,” Williams said. “I think that shows a little bit of a commitment, and an improvement in our defensive effort. We’re still just going through phases, and there is definitely room for improvement.”

Nebraska’s defense has helped the Huskers to an 11-5 record, which is already a four-win improvement from last season.

Nebraska has won six straight games away from home going into Wednesday’s game against Illinois (9-9, 0-4 Big Ten) in Champaign, Illinois.

Nebraska has held five opponents to 55 points or less, including 47 to Coastal Carolina, 49 at Kansas, 52 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 53 to SIU-Edwardsville and 55 at San Jose State. Last season, the Huskers held just two opponents to 55 or less.

Williams describes the Huskers’ defense as a work in progress.

“I think we have some pieces and we have some players that I think are really trying to set the tone for our team in that area,” Williams said. “But we definitely have plenty of room for improvement, and we want to continue that.”

When the Huskers had about a week off from games recently, Williams challenged the players in practice to commit to improving on defense, with the goal of not being the team’s weak link in regards to defense.

“I think they’re buying into that, and hopefully we’ll continue to just improve in that area,” Williams said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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