LINCOLN — Taylor Kissinger is a shooter — the best in Big Ten women’s basketball — who launches long, rainmaking 3-pointers so high they seem to travel into their own atmosphere before re-entry into the net.
She starts her shot below her chin and pushes it from there. Her release point is just about perfect. Her form before that — well, what difference does it make? She’s made 49.4 percent of her 3-pointers this year.
“Oh, I think it looks pretty good,” Kissinger joked Tuesday of her form. She’s a conversational counter-puncher, too, a sometimes-quiet sophomore who can cut up her teammates — and coach Amy Williams with a word or look. As Williams talked to the media about NU’s upcoming home game against Northwestern, Kissinger made faces in the window.
“She’s hilarious,” Williams said of the Minden graduate who’s averaging 9.3 points per game for the 9-9 Huskers. “Some people don’t know that. Very, very funny. She has a dry sense of humor.
“She’ll be very quiet and then all of the sudden, pop off something under her breath and it makes everybody die laughing.”
Kissinger’s nine points in a fourth-quarter comeback win over Minnesota left her teammates breathing a sigh of relief. After three quarters of being smothered by the Gopher defense, she got free for two 3-pointers, the last of which was part of a 12-0 run to end the game. Kissinger didn’t spend the game forcing bad 3-pointers; she waited for the right moment to take open looks.
That’s been a theme of her sophomore season: Smart shot selection. She’s taking one fewer 3-pointer per game than she did last season, when she shot 36.2 percent from long range.
“I was kind of shooting everywhere honestly,” Kissinger said. She averaged slightly more points — 10 per game — but wasn’t as efficient.
Thanks to four freshmen, Nebraska has more scoring options, so Kissinger is free to be choosier. She runs the floor after defensive rebounds, flaring out to her usual spots beyond the arc — halfway between the top of the key and the baseline — for an early look, if it’s available.
But opponents know how good of a shooter she is, so the quick 3 isn’t always open.
So she tries to work off screens. Nebraska coaches don’t mess with Kissinger’s shooting form — and never have — but they’ll watch her footwork as she gets in position for 3-pointers.
“We work a little bit on making sure she has a nice, wide base, being able to send her off of different types of screens,” Williams said. “Can you get your feet set that same way when you’re curling a screen, when you’re flaring a screen? — but, other than footwork and repetition, we trust her. And we know her shot works.”
Said Kissinger: “I think a lot of people think I ‘cock it and lock it’ — that I just wind it up — but, if it goes in, it goes in.”
Northwestern (11-7, 4-3) will test Kissinger as much as any team. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten in 3-point field goal defense. Opponents are hitting 27.7 percent from beyond the arc. It’s another toss-up game that the Huskers, also 4-3 in the league, need to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“We can beat ranked teams like Minnesota,” Kissinger said. “We can beat non-ranked teams. Nonranked teams can beat us. It’s all over the place. We just have to stick together.”