LINCOLN — The freshman isn’t shy.
In Nebraska’s 88-55 exhibition win over Minnesota State-Mankato on Sunday, Taylor Kissinger fired the team’s first 3-pointer. She missed. But she nailed her second long shot and hit three more to boot.
She attempted 12 3-pointers. The five-star recruit from Minden led all scorers with 22 points in 22 minutes. Kissinger had two blocks and two rebounds, but she knows her primary role is to score.
Coach Amy Williams, fully embracing Kissinger’s prep pedigree, told her so.
“She knows I’m a shooter — she loves it,” Kissinger said. “If my teammates give me the ball, I’m going to shoot it if I’m open.”
Said Williams: “It’s an absolute treat to have that weapon. She knows she has the green light. Taylor has the green light, and when she feels like it’s a good shot, it’s a good shot. And we feel that way.”
Williams was more pleased that Kissinger scored inside the 3-point line on a strong drive to the basket and on a back-door cut.
“She’s not a one-dimensional player,” Williams said.
Kissinger’s firepower was indicative of a more robust offense that hit 11 3-pointers Sunday and played with more pace and chemistry than last season, albeit against a Division II team coached by Williams’ younger sister, Emilee Thiesse.
Sophomore point guard Hannah Whitish — Nebraska’s leading returning scorer from last season — was efficient, finishing with 15 points, five assists and zero turnovers. Her backup, Bria Stallworth, is a change-of-pace slasher who had 15 points mostly on drives and pull-up jumpers in the lane.
Both point guards pushed the ball and got better runouts from their post players, which contributed to 38 points in the paint.
“From one year ago to today, it’s an insane difference of how we’re getting the ball up the floor and beating teams up the floor,” Whitish said.
In front of 3,647 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers most flexed their physical advantage in a 14-0 third-quarter run started by a layup from Whitish. Jasmine Cincore had two steals and Kissinger hit a 3 during the stretch. Nebraska held the Mavericks to 29 percent shooting in the second half. Minnesota State shot 28.8 percent for the game.
“We can win ballgames that way,” Williams said.
Williams didn’t like NU’s 15 turnovers — four Husker posts combined for eight of them — or allowing 14 offensive rebounds, some of which came late in the game when Nebraska dabbled in some zone defense. NU can shore up those issues, she said, before its season opener Saturday against Southern Illinois Edwardsville, an Ohio Valley Conference team that finished 14-17 last season.
The Huskers will be without two of their top guards for that game, one of whom, Nicea Eliely, was a starter last season. Eliely (ankle) and Janay Morton (foot) are likely two weeks away from being able to play, Williams said. Neither played Sunday.
That means more will fall on the shoulders of Kissinger, whose long range and willingness to shoot recalls a young Jordan Hooper, who attempted nearly six 3-pointers per game as a true freshman.
Whitish, who attempted nearly five 3-pointers per game last season as a true freshman, is happy to have help.
“It’s awesome running the floor and knowing you’ll have not only Taylor, but (Emily Wood), Jasmine, Bria, all of our guards who are capable of shooting,” Whitish said.