The Nebraska women’s basketball team will square off with 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four participant and ACC regular-season and tournament champion Louisville in the 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The conferences announced the match-ups for the 12th consecutive season of the challenge, which pits two of the nation’s premier women’s basketball conferences against each other in head-to-head clashes.
The Huskers, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament after finishing third in the Big Ten Conference regular-season standings, will travel to the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville to collide with the Cardinals on Thursday, Nov. 29. Tip times and television coverage will be announced for all match-ups in the challenge at a later date.
The Cardinals, who are coached by former Nebraska assistant Jeff Walz, finished with a 36-3 overall record last season that included a 15-1 ACC mark. Walz, who will be in his 12th season at Louisville in 2018-19, will lead a squad that returns four of its five starters from its 2017-18 team. First-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year Asia Durr headlines the group of returning Cardinals after averaging 18.7 points per game while shooting 41.5 percent (115-277) from three-point range.
Fellow seniors Sam Fuehring (9.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Arica Carter (7.6 ppg, 4.0 apg) join junior Jazmine Jones (8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) back in Louisville’s starting five. The only loss to graduation for the Cardinals was second-leading scorer and top rebounder Myisha Hines-Allen, who averaged 14.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game a year ago.
Coach Amy Williams, who was a player at Nebraska when Walz was an assistant for the Huskers in 1997-98, was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in her second season at her alma mater in 2017-18. The Big Red finished with a 21-11 overall record that included an 11-5 Big Ten mark. The Huskers also advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska, which produced the nation’s top turnaround in 2017-18 with a 14-game improvement in the win column, returns four starters and its top five scorers from last year’s team. Second-team All-Big Ten guard Hannah Whitish averaged 12.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists as a sophomore in 2017-18, while Maddie Simon pitched in 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds as a junior forward.
Taylor Kissinger, a 6-1 guard/forward averaged 10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds primarily off the bench, while fellow 2017-18 freshman Kate Cain pitched in 9.9 points and team bests with 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. Cain, a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman and All-Defensive teams, shattered the Nebraska school record with 100 blocked shots last season.
Nicea Eliely rounds out Nebraska’s top five scorers from a year ago with 8.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in her second season as a starter in 2017-18.
The Huskers also add a four-player freshman class that includes Leigha Brown, Sam Haiby, Kayla Mershon and Ashtyn Veerbeek that has been ranked among the top 20 incoming classes in the country.
The Challenge takes place over two days in late November, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 28, with Big Ten schools Michigan State and Wisconsin playing host to ACC counterparts that evening, while Illinois, Indiana and Rutgers venture on the road. The following night (Thursday, Nov. 29), Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue will serve as the Big Ten host schools, while Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State will play at ACC sites.
The ACC and Big Ten offices collaborate to determine the Challenge schedule each season. In addition, the official title of the Challenge rotates each year. The 2018 event will be referred to as the ACC/Big Ten Women’s Basketball Challenge and will continue to mirror the official title of the two conferences’ Challenge agreements for men’s basketball and softball.
The ACC and Big Ten have been among the most competitive conferences on the national women’s basketball landscape for many years, with both conferences sending 10 schools to postseason play in 2017-18.
The Big Ten sent six schools to the NCAA Tournament in 2018, as Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State all advanced to the national tournament, with Ohio State earning a top-four national seed. Four other Big Ten squads (Indiana, Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue) participated in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), with Indiana winning its first WNIT championship with a 65-57 win over ACC member Virginia Tech in the title game before a record-setting crowd of 13,007 fans at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Last season, the ACC had eight women’s basketball programs selected to the NCAA Tournament, while two ACC schools competed in the WNIT.