LINCOLN — Maybe it's bad manners that Emily Cady can't stand.
The sophomore forward on the Nebraska women's basketball team has a default personality that includes giggles and a heavy dose of “I guess” and “I don't know.”
But the wrong push on the court can flip the smile to a stone face. So can the grind of the Big Ten schedule.
This other person is Mad Emily, coach Connie Yori said. Yori likes Mad Emily. So does junior Jordan Hooper, who's seen a lot of her during the No. 24 Huskers' seven-game winning streak. Cady has averaged nearly a double-double — 10.1 points and 9.3 rebounds — during conference play.
NU may need another appearance Thursday night at Michigan for the winning streak to reach eight.
“When Em gets her mad face on, you can just tell she's going to do some damage to the other team,” Hooper said. “Usually she'll get hit in the face or something, and it won't get called. And then she goes to a whole different person.”
Like when a Minnesota player last month popped Cady hard in the nose, causing blood to gush. Cady twisted a wad of gauze up her nose and ran back into the game to an ovation from the Husker crowd.
“I got a cheap shot. In the face,” Cady said. “I was a little mad. And it was embarrassing. I had a piece of gauze sticking out of my nose.”
Hooper added: “It was the whole box. It was a lot. Pretty big.”
Cady said she doesn't notice when she gets angry — and, as a result, ups her level of play. And she said that she tries to prepare for every game “the same way.”
But Yori watched how Cady played at Seward for four years, noticing that, in many games, she was happy to take a back seat on the floor, even if she was the best player. When the competition got tougher, Cady attacked.
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Cady played arguably her best game of the season on Valentine's Day against Ohio State with 10 points, 16 rebounds and a handful of scrums with the Buckeyes' big front line. Her face red, Cady repeatedly darted around the basket to get rebounds with quickness or sheer will.
She missed 8 of 10 shots that night, but Yori wasn't discouraged by that. She wants Cady to shoot and be a third scoring option for NU (19-6, 9-3), which can at times rely too heavily on Hooper and senior guard Lindsey Moore, one of the nation's top 1-2 offensive punches.
“From the get-go this year, we consistently told her to be more aggressive,” Yori said. “She wasn't as aggressive, for whatever reason. And then all of the sudden the Big Ten comes around and she turns on the Mad Emily. The Mad Emily look.”
The Wolverines — 19-6 and 8-4 in the Big Ten, one game behind Nebraska — pose another challenge for Cady and the frontcourt. Michigan could be the conference's most experienced team, starting four seniors who help patrol the paint well. The Wolverines won 63-52 last year in Lincoln, racing to a 32-12 halftime lead.
Though Michigan has a first-year coach in Kim Barnes Arico, the on-court threats are much the same. Jenny Ryan is a senior point guard, second in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (Moore is first). And 6-foot-4 senior Kate Thompson is the nation's top 3-point shooter, making 3.8 treys per game and hitting 44 percent beyond the arc.
Hooper's recipe for stopping Thompson?
“You get in her shorts,” Hooper said. “You get as close as you can and you don't let her get a shot up. And if she does, you better hope she misses.”
If Thompson does miss, Cady will be there fighting for the rebound.
“She's not about stats,” Yori said. “The better the competition, the better she plays. That's exactly what you want in a player. You don't want kids the other way.”
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