Nebraska sophomore Hannah Whitish was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, while freshman Kate Cain added her third Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week award in the season’s first five weeks, when the conference announced its honors on Monday.
Whitish, a 5-9 point guard from Barneveld, Wis., earned the first conference player-of-the-week award of her career and the first by any current Husker after producing the best week of her young career. She averaged 29.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals to lead the Big Red to a pair of unlikely road wins at Kansas and Drake.
In the win at Kansas on Wednesday, Whitish scored 25 of her career-high 29 points in the second half to carry the Huskers to a 66-49 victory over the Jayhawks. The win snapped KU’s seven-game home winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse, as the Huskers handed the Jayhawks their first loss of the season. Whitish helped the Big Red rally from a 13-point first-half deficit by hitting her final seven field goal attempts of the game, including four three-pointers. She also sank eight straight free throws in the final 1:29 to seal the win. In the second half, she personally outscored Kansas, 25-13, the largest margin by an individual over any team in a Division I half so far this season.
Nebraska’s win over Kansas snapped a 14-game losing streak for the Huskers in true road games dating back to Jan. 24, 2016 at Michigan.
She followed up her performance in Lawrence by matching her career high with 29 more points to go along with six rebounds, six assists, two steals and her first blocked shot of the season in 42 minutes of an 89-85 double-overtime victory at Drake. With Whitish leading the charge, the Huskers handed the Bulldogs just their second loss (both in multiple overtime periods) in the last 24 games at the Knapp Center.
Whitish tied her career high with five three-pointers to rally the Huskers from a nine-point third-quarter deficit. She also sank all eight of her free throws in the game to seal Nebraska’s second straight road win. It marked the first time since the start of the 2014-15 season that the Huskers had posted back-to-back wins in true road non-conference games.
Whitish increased her season averages to 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Her 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio also ranks among the best in the Big Ten and nationally.
While Whitish carried the Huskers offensively, Cain continued to anchor Nebraska’s outstanding defensive efforts in their road wins. The 6-5 center from Middletown, N.Y., continued her early assault on the Husker record books by blocking nine shots in the two wins. She pushed her season total to 34, moving her into sole possession of third place on Nebraska’s single-season freshman block chart in just 10 games. With 3.4 blocks per game, Cain ranks No. 3 nationally among all Division I players and is on pace to reach 100 total blocks for the season. Nebraska’s overall season record is 78 by Olympic bronze medalist Danielle Page (78) as a senior in 2007-08.
With Cain on the floor at Kansas, the Jayhawks managed just 23 points in three quarters, including just four points in the fourth quarter when KU went without a field goal. The four fourth-quarter points matched the fewest points scored in any period against the Huskers since the advent of the quarter system in women’s college basketball. It also marked the first time the Big Red had held an opponent without a field goal in any single quarter. The 13 points allowed by the Big Red in the second half were the fewest ever allowed by a Nebraska team in any half away from home.
Cain added five points on 2-of-3 shooting against the Jayhawks, while grabbing a game-high nine rebounds and rejecting five shots.
On Saturday at Drake, Cain was bigger at both ends of the court. She continued her block barrage with four and contributed a steal, while notching her third double-double of the season with career highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Cain hit 9-of-15 shots from the field, as Nebraska held Drake to its lowest point total in regulation (69) at home in the last 17 games at the Knapp Center dating back to Nov. 27, 2016.
Cain, who has won back-to-back Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week awards, is averaging 10.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while shooting a team-best 59 percent from the field.
Cain and Whitish will try to lead the 7-3 Huskers to their fourth consecutive victory when they travel to San Jose State on Sunday. Tip-off between Nebraska and the Spartans is set for 2 p.m. (CT).