By Randy York
Connie Yori grew up in Iowa keenly aware of the shadow cast by the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, proud members of the oldest conference in intercollegiate athletics. Yori went to Creighton, casting her own shadow as a player, then a coach and now, of course, as the turbo-charged force at the helm of the Nebraska women’s basketball program. She guided NU to unprecedented heights two years ago when the Huskers went unbeaten in the Big 12 Conference and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA. No wonder Yori earned almost every major National Coach of the Year award imaginable.
Her college playing career included only two games against current Big Ten Conference teams, and you know which ones they were - Iowa and Nebraska - two teams in the midst of a stimulating first-year women’s basketball rivalry. These annual showdowns are just what the Big Ten envisioned when league officials placed NU and Iowa in the same division. Strategic rationale drove the football rivalries, but there’s been a natural spillover into other sports, and today’s Big Ten women’s quarterfinal only reinforces that point.
Nebraska swept the two-game regular-season series, but now that the Hawkeyes are healthier, they’ve reeled off eight straight conference wins. As we count down to tip-off, the N-Sider offers a few Friday appetizers. Consider them morsels of history, designed to help fans get their arms around this fast-moving train while it picks up more passengers. Before tuning into the Matt Coatney/Jeff Griesch radio commentary on the Husker Sports Network, here are five trivia tidbits:
The two bordering states have an interesting tale of state capitals. Iowa City was Iowa’s capital city until Des Moines supplanted it for that honor in 1857. Ten years later, Lincoln replaced Omaha as Nebraska’s capital city.
The Iowa women’s basketball program is one of three teams with 300 or more wins in the Big Ten Conference. Ohio State and Purdue are the other two schools in this elite club.
The only three schools to win a Big Ten women’s basketball title in the last five seasons are Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State, last year’s champion.
We all know how excited Yori was when Jordan Hooper speared 18 rebounds in Nebraska’s win over Wisconsin two weekends ago. The Big Ten all-time record-holder for rebounds in a single game is Iowa’s Jerica Watson. She snagged 26 boards against Creighton, Yori’s alma mater, 11 years ago.
In 1898, a Nebraska women’s basketball team played its first “outside opponent” from Council Bluffs, Ia. Archives indicate that men were allowed to attend the game on one condition … that they be accompanied by a “lady.”
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