Michigan State Spartans
Saturday, Jan. 7, 6 p.m.
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Huskers to Battle Spartans in East Lansing
The Nebraska women’s basketball team continues Big Ten road action on Saturday when the Huskers travel to Michigan State.
Tip-off between the Huskers (4-11, 0-3 Big Ten) and the Spartans (11-4, 1-1 Big Ten) is set for 6 p.m.
Nebraska and Michigan State are two of the most inexperienced teams in the Big Ten this season. The active Husker roster has combined for 140 career starts - the same number of total starts by MSU seniors Tori Jankoska (96) and Branndais Agee (44). Seven other Spartans have combined for 82 additional starts.
Nebraska is led by 6-4 sophomore forward Jessica Shepard, who is averaging a double-double with 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. A first-team All-Big Ten performer as the conference’s freshman of the year in 2015-16, Shepard had 26 points and six rebounds in last season’s 73-66 win over then-No. 17 Michigan State. Shepard was the only Husker to manage double figures in Wednesday’s 93-49 loss to No. 3 Maryland in Lincoln.
Jankoska, who joined Shepard on the preseason All-Big Ten team for 2016-17, leads Michigan State in scoring (21.2 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and steals (1.9 spg). She was the only Spartan to manage double figures in Wednesday’s 66-54 loss at Purdue, finishing with 16 points. She was held to three points in last season’s loss to the Huskers in Lincoln.
32 - Jessica Shepard - 6-4 - So. - F
22 - Allie Havers - 6-5 - Sr. - C
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - Fr. - G
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - Fr. - G
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Jr. - G
Michigan State Spartans
15 - Victoria Gaines - 6-1 - RFr. - F
32 - Taya Reimer - 6-4 - Sr. - F
1 - Tori Jankoska - 5-8 - Sr. - G
4 - Taryn McCutcheon - 5-5 - Fr. - G
10 - Branndais Agee - 5-11 - RSr. - G
Scouting Michigan State
Michigan State enters Saturday’s game with Nebraska carrying an 11-4 overall record and a 1-1 Big Ten mark after falling 66-54 at Purdue , Wednesday. The Spartans opened Big Ten play with a 71-47 pounding of Illinois.
The Spartans have been among the top teams receiving votes in the national polls throughout the season and are No. 26 in the USA Today Coaches poll this week. Coach Suzy Merchant’s Spartans have been led on the court this season by senior Tori Jankoska. She is averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 35.1 minutes per game. Jankoska owns 1,784 career points, 618 rebounds, 402 assists and 162 steals. She is expected to make her 97th career start on Saturday.
Jankoska is an accomplished and experienced player, the rest of Michigan State’s starting five is somewhat unproven. Taryn McCutcheon, a 5-5 freshman guard from East Lansing, has started every game this season alongside Jankoska and is averaging 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and a team-best 5.2 assists per game. McCutcheon has proven herself as a three-point shooter, hitting 23-of-59 on the year, but she is just 11-of-41 (.268) from inside the arc. She has produced a pair of double-figure scoring efforts on the year, but she was held scoreless in her Big Ten debut against Illinois and had just three points at Purdue.
Michigan State is averaging 69 points while shooting 42.2 percent from the field, including 33.6 percent from three-point range. The Spartans are knocking down 6.5 threes per game. MSU ranks among the Big Ten’s best free throw shooting teams, hitting 73.4 percent of their attempts. The Spartans own a plus-8.1 rebounding margin but carry a minus-2.6 team turnover margin. MSU is averaging 17.3 turnovers per game.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 5-2, including a 73-66 win over the No. 17 Spartans at Pinnacle Bank Arena
It is yet to be determined if Michigan St Head Coach Suzy Merchanrt will be able to coach her team or not. Merchant fainted on the sideline last week during their game against Illinois and did not coach the Purdue game. She has undergone tests to see if she can continue on the sidelines or if she should hold out for later. So far those results haven't gone public.
• Jessica Shepard leads the Huskers with averages of 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
• Jessica Shepard ranks second among the Huskers in three-point field goals made (18)
• Nebraska freshman Nicea Eliely ranks second on the team in scoring (8.2 ppg), third in rebounding (4.3 rpg), second in assists (2.7 apg) and first in steals (1.7 spg), blocked shots (0.7 bpg) and field goal percentage (.495) through the first 15 games of her collegiate career.
• Freshman Hannah Whitish is averaging 9.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in three Big Ten games as a starter for the Huskers.
• Overall, Nebraska owns just 140 career starts. In comparison, Michigan State carries one of the more inexperienced rosters in the Big Ten and the Spartans have combined for 202 career starts at MSU.
• Nebraska’s strength of schedule ranked No. 6 nationally.
• Michigan State (11-4) will be Nebraska’s 11th opponent that already owns double-digit wins this season, including five teams with 13 or more victories.
BEAT THE SPARTANS!