Of the top 30 players in scoring per game in Big Ten Conference women’s basketball this season, none plays for Nebraska.
Iowa center Megan Gustafson leads the league, averaging 26.4 points per game. There are 10 players averaging at least 15 points or more per game.
The Huskers go about it a different way, with eight of the 10 healthy players averaging at least seven points per game, from freshman Leigha Brown’s team-leading 10.4 points per game to Kate Cain at 7.3.
Without a player consistently scoring 15-plus points per game, Nebraska needs more scoring production from all over the court, and better defense, to win some of the close games it has lost this season. Five of Nebraska’s nine losses this season have been by two possessions or fewer, with three of those coming against teams that have been ranked.
Nebraska has a season-worst three-game losing streak going into Thursday’s game at Illinois, with two of those losses coming against ranked teams in Iowa and Maryland. Nebraska’s last game was a 62-56 loss against Rutgers.
From what areas is Nebraska coach Amy Williams trying to get more scoring chances for the Huskers?
“We don’t want to score 56 points,” Williams said. “We feel like we’ve got better scoring threats than that all over the court. We feel like Kate Cain is a better scorer than what we’ve been seeing out of her lately. We’ve got to find ways to put her in positions to be more of a threat offensively, then when she does get those opportunities, to really capitalize on that.
“I feel like obviously Hannah (Whitish) and Maddie (Simon), we want them to be able to contribute for us offensively and find ways. I think they’re both capable of doing a little more. And Sam Haiby has proven to be able to be more aggressive and be able to capitalize by making free throws and getting herself there. I think we have lot of areas where we can find more scoring.”
Cain, Nebraska’s 6-foot-5 center, is averaging 7.3 points per game, down from 9.9 last season. She’s still shooting better than 50 percent from the field, but Nebraska has at times had too many turnovers while trying to get Cain the ball. Cain hasn’t scored more than five points in any of the past six games. And Cain hasn’t got to the free-throw line enough, with just 11 free-throw attempts all season.
Whitish led Nebraska in scoring last season with 12.6 ppg, but her average has dropped to 8.3 this season. She’s shooting 32 percent from the field this season, down from 39 percent last season and 41 percent as a freshman.
During Simon’s breakout season last year, after a position move from guard to forward, she averaged 10.1 points. She’s averaging 8.1 points per game this season, but is shooting 45 percent from the field.
Williams says some of the veteran players have been pressing offensively at times this season, as they desperately want to produce for the team.
“I think the biggest message that this team has been working for is just that we need more consistency from top to bottom from our lineup,” Williams said. “Right now, it’s been a good game here, a good game here, a good game here, and we just haven’t had the consistency that we need.”
With a 7-9 record, Nebraska is not ranked in The Associated Press poll. But this has been a better season for the Big Ten with six teams ranked this week: No. 9 Maryland, No. 17 Michigan State, No. 20 Rutgers, No. 22 Iowa, No. 23 Minnesota and No. 25 Indiana. It’s the first time since 2014 that six Big Ten teams are ranked.