In high school gym, Huskers use second-half run to defeat Northwestern

In high school gym, Huskers use second-half run to defeat Northwestern
Nebraska junior Maddie Simon averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists as the Huskers split a pair of games to start Big Ten play. (World-Herald News Service)

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern is playing its women’s basketball games in a high school gym this season as its arena is being renovated, and Nebraska’s players were perfectly fine with that arrangement.

“I tried to remind them, ‘You were all pretty good high school shooters. We’re back in a high school gym. Let’s revert back,’ ” coach Amy Williams said.

They did. The Huskers shot almost 55 percent from the floor, sank 10 of 21 3-pointers and defeated the Wildcats 69-59 at Evanston Township High to improve to 11-5, 2-1 in the Big Ten in 5-0 in road games.

“I thought it was a real gritty, kind of tough, ugly win,” Williams said on her postgame radio show. “But we’ll take it.”

The Huskers led by 10 in the second quarter, then lost it all before taking command with a 14-0 run in the third and fourth quarters.

The Evanston gym was much bigger than the one in Hannah Whitish’s hometown of Barneveld, Wisconsin, some 2 ½ hours to the northwest. But it was still like a homecoming in some ways, with her parents, godparents, sister’s godparents and pastor in the stands.

Oh, and also the closed shooting background, with walls not far behind the baskets.

“Even watching film, we were like, ‘Hmmm, that’s a closed background,’ ” Whitish said. “Everyone on the team thought, ‘We’re going to shoot great tonight.’ ”

Whitish drilled 4 of 5 from 3-point range and led the Huskers with 16 points and seven assists. Freshman guard Taylor Kissinger, in her third game back from a knee injury, added 14 points on 4 of 10 shooting from 3-point range.

“She’s really got her stroke back,” Williams said. “We’re just wanting to make sure we have her consistent on the defensive end, as well.”

Freshman center Kate Cain added eight points, five rebounds and five blocks despite dealing with foul trouble from battling Northwestern’s Nigerian post player, Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah (11 points, 16 rebounds).

The Wildcats (8-10, 1-3) hit 17 of 22 free throws to Nebraska’s 3 of 7, but the Huskers countered with a 30-6 edge on 3-pointers. The Wildcats were 2 of 16 from long range.

“Thank God we were 10 for 21 at the 3-point line,” Williams said. “It made up for a huge discrepancy at the free-throw line. That’s something we really need to take a look at.”

The Huskers visit Illinois on Wednesday night, then host Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Nebraska (11-5, 2-1)………..21 17 15 16—69

At Northwestern (8-10, 1-3)…..13 19 17 10—59

Neb: Whitish 5-7 2-3 16, Eliely 5-7 0-1 10, Simon 4-7 1-1 10, Cain 4-6 0-0 8, Cincore 2-6 0-2 4, Kissinger 5-12 0-0 14, Morton 1-1 0-0 3, Stallworth 1-2 0-0 2, Blackburn 1-1 0-0 2, Washington 0-1 0-0 0, Wood 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-51 3-7 69.

NW: Pulliam 6-18 3-3 15, Hamilton 5-11 4-5 15, Kunaiyi-Akpanah 4-10 3-6 11, Scheid 1-8 2-2 4, Rohde 1-2 0-0 3, Hopkins 1-4 4-4 6, Hamilton 2-2 1-2 5, Galernik 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 17-22 59.

3-point goals: Neb 10-21 (Whitish 4-5, Kissinger 4-10, Simon 1-3, Morton 1-1, Eliely 0-1, Wood 0-1), NW 2-16 (Rohde 1-2, Hamilton 1-4, Pulliam 0-3, Scheid 0-3, Hopkins 0-2, Galernik 0-2). Rebounds: NW 33 (Kunaiyi-Akpanah 16), Neb 30 (Cincore 6). Assists: Neb 23 (Whitish 7), NW 11 (Hamilton 4). Total fouls: NW 15, Neb 14. A: 850.

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