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Annika Stewart is pacing Husker women's offense but has plenty to work on before Big Ten play
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BASKETBALL

Annika Stewart is pacing Husker women's offense but has plenty to work on before Big Ten play

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Tom Shatel joins Sam McKewon and Evan Bland to discuss how the Big Ten set itself up to fail this football season. The gang also looks at if there is a bias among media, fans and officials when it comes to how cautious some conferences have been amid the pandemic. They also look at what Nebraska football needs to reach stability status and preview the showdown on the hardwood between Creighton and the Huskers. Sam and Evan close out the show with a look at each member of the Huskers' senior class.

Hannah Stewart played four years of basketball at Iowa, making the Big Ten all-tournament team in 2019 by helping the Hawkeyes win the league title.

But by the time her sister Annika was a senior in high school, their one-on-one games had become battles.

“Once she uses her body the way she should, I have to humbly say it’s tough for me to match up to her,” Hannah said. “But I will never tell her that to her face.”

Annika Stewart is a freshman at Nebraska now, so stopping her is someone else’s problem. The 6-foot-3 post from Minneapolis is scoring a team-high 13.5 points a game for the 2-0 Huskers, though she is averaging just 12 minutes of game time.

She’s doing it with a blend of muscle and marksmanship — she’s 4 for 7 from the 3-point line.

“I’ve just always loved to shoot,” she said.

There’s still plenty to work on as she approaches her first Big Ten game at 7 p.m. Thursday at home against Illinois.

“She’s going to earn her most time and minutes by being solid, steady, trustworthy and dependable with her defense and rebounding,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said.

Stewart knows that. Her parents are both coaches, and sister Hannah has helped with the tutoring.

But the sisters are different kinds of players. At 6-2, Hannah is “more of an undersized post,” she said.

And Annika? “She’s more of an oversized guard.”

Annika made first-team all-state last season and helped Wayzata High finish third in Minnesota’s largest class. She averaged 20 points and 8.1 rebounds, shooting 41.5% from 3-point range and 89.5% at the foul line.

She played with and against major-college recruits, including Paige Bueckers of nationally ranked Hopkins High of Minnetonka, the Gatorade national player of the year and a Connecticut recruit.

Still, Hannah wondered how her sister’s first college game would go. Then Annika went 2 for 2 from 3-point range in a win over Oral Roberts.

“After she hits that first 3, I was like, ‘Why did I have any doubts?’ ” Hannah said. “She has always had absolutely incredible confidence on the court.”

Williams said her freshman’s confidence is well earned.

“If we’ve got kids out there shooting before practice, I can pretty much guarantee one of them’s Anni,” the coach said. “If we have kids that are staying after practice to get shots, I can pretty much guarantee one of them is Anni.

“And if we’re in our offices on a day off from practice, and all of a sudden I hear balls in the practice gym, it’s likely Anni is down there getting shots. She is somebody who is just always in the gym.”

Williams said the Huskers have practiced with Stewart playing alongside 6-5 senior Kate Cain, a two-time member of the Big Ten’s all-defensive team and Nebraska’s record-holder in blocked shots.

But there’s plenty of competition at the 4 spot, too. Sophomore Isabelle Bourne figures to be one of the team’s top scorers and rebounders, and Williams also added Bella Cravens, a junior transfer from Eastern Washington who led the Big Sky in rebounding last season.

Williams says Cravens is “springy,” quick at getting into defensive position if she ever finds herself in the wrong spot. She says Cravens and Stewart have complementary skills.

But she also says Stewart is “well on her way” to rounding out her game. “We’re very excited about how she’s been playing.”

Stewart sounds excited to be a Husker, too.

“It’s been awesome so far,” she said. “I’m loving my team. I love my coaches. It’s just been a blast.”

Notes

» Illinois is 2-1 after a 53-50 victory Sunday at home against UNO. The Illini were 11-19 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten last season with an 80-58 loss at Nebraska, but Williams said they are “much improved” with the addition of 6-5 Arizona State transfer Eva Rubin and 6-3 junior college transfer Geovana Lopes. They’ve allowed 6-2 sophomore Kennedi Myles (10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds) to play more at forward, her natural position.

» Williams said NU sophomore guard Trinity Brady is “day to day” after spraining an ankle late in Sunday’s win over Idaho State.

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