LINCOLN — Five minutes before tip-off Monday night, the Nebraska women’s basketball team stood at midcourt, one basketball short of a proper two-line shooting drill.
“We need a ball,” sophomore forward Emily Cady mouthed as her teammates started to giggle. A NU manager finally fetched one. But the rest of the night — perhaps against expectation — went off without a hitch.
Shrugging off injuries that dogged them throughout fall camp, the No. 18 Huskers romped over Pittsburg (Kan.) State in their exhibition opener. The 78-34 final score wasn’t quite indicative of how lopsided it was. The 44-7 halftime margin better fit the bill.
And though NU coach Connie Yori worried beforehand that a lack of chemistry in practice would lead to a sluggish performance against the Gorillas, Nebraska forced more than 20 turnovers and ran its fast break with its usual intensity and speed. Eleven Huskers played double-digit minutes.
“I was a little surprised by the way we started,” Yori said. “I’ve watched us for 20-some practices and we haven’t played as good of defense in the 20 practices as we did probably in the first 10 minutes.”
Said freshman Sadie Murren of Wahoo: “It’s been hard to mesh on the court at practice, but when we came out here, we looked like we were flowing together pretty good. We got it going.”
Junior forward Jordan Hooper finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, doing most of that damage in 13 first-half minutes. Hooper, who suffered a stress fracture in her foot last spring, was one of several NU players who missed chunks of fall practice.
But Hooper practiced the past week without interruption. And guard Hailie Sample — who didn’t practice until Oct. 15 — actually started Monday night in her usual defensive stopper spot, logging 16 minutes. Center Adrianna Maurer “played well,” Yori said, despite missing time for an ongoing back problem.
“It’s amazing how, when you have your first game, all the sudden people get healthy,” Yori quipped. “It’s just a fascinating concept, it really is. We’ve had better health in the last two days than we had in the last three, four weeks.”
It showed — especially in the first half. NU hit 55 percent of its shots and seven 3-pointers, moving the ball around for open shots. The Huskers also forced 18 first-half turnovers, smothering the smaller Gorilla guards as soon as they crossed the half court line, and sometimes before that.
“We couldn’t even really get the ball up the court to get into any offense,” Pittsburg State coach Lane Lord said.
Yori was able to empty her bench and try different guard combinations. Sophomore Tear’a Laudermill scored 12 points and hit three treys. Murren played extensive minutes with senior Lindsey Moore in the first half; Murren, Yori said, could eventually fill former guard Kaitlyn Burke’s role as a pressure “hound” in the defense.
“That’s an honor,” Murren said.
Ľ NOTE: Yori said freshman guard Rachel Theriot could be out as long as three more weeks with a stress reaction in her foot. Theriot wore a walking boot Monday. Yori said she doesn’t plan to redshirt the Cleveland native, as Theriot was one of NU’s top guards in practice before she got hurt.
Contact the writer:
402-202-9766, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/swmckewonOWH