Lincoln - The Nebraska women’s basketball team will play a 20-game schedule loaded with NCAA Tournament-caliber competition, Coach Connie Yori and the Huskers announced on Tuesday.
Nebraska, which is coming off an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2013, will play the first exhibition game (Pittsburg State, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.) and the first regular-season basketball game (UCLA, Nov. 8, Noon) in the history of Pinnacle Bank Arena, which will hold its official ribbon cutting on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 4 p.m.
The $179 million arena will hold more than 15,000 fans for Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball and will give fans exciting new amenities throughout the arena, while the Huskers expect to provide top-notch competition on the court.
"From start to finish, our home schedule is going to challenge us and hopefully provide us the experience necessary to prepare for the postseason," Yori said. "UCLA will test us right away and our team will be working hard to prepare for that first game. By the time we close our home regular-season schedule for Jordan Hooper’s Senior Night on Feb. 27, we will play 11 postseason tournament teams at home. That is a going to be a challenge."
Overall, Nebraska will play at least 18 games against 2013 postseason squads, including at least 12 games against NCAA Tournament teams. Eleven of those 12 games will come against teams that advanced to the NCAA second round. The first of those 2013 NCAA second-round foes comes with UCLA on Friday, Nov. 8. The special noon tip time will be part of a historic day of basketball in the state of Nebraska, as the Husker men will face 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 qualifier Florida Gulf Coast later that evening.
The women’s game will include a special "Invest 2 Be the Best" life skills pep rally for middle school youth from Lincoln and surrounding communities. The pep rally and Nebraska’s record-setting season ticket sales promise record crowds for the men’s and women’s games.
"The excitement around basketball in the city of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska is probably at an all-time high right now, and we hope we can keep that growing," Yori said. "The really exciting part about it is that we haven’t even played a game yet in the arena."
Nebraska’s game with UCLA will follow a pair of exhibition games against Pittsburg State and Nebraska-Kearney (Nov. 3). The tickets for both of those exhibition games are included in the 20-game season ticket packages available through the Husker Athletic Ticket Office at Huskers.com/arena or 1-800-8-BIG-RED. NU fans can visit Huskers.com/arena and place a $25 deposit while selecting their seat for the upcoming season. A record number of season tickets (approximately 2,800) have been sold, but great seats in the lower bowl of the arena are still available. Reserved tickets in the lower bowl are available for just $160, while season GA seats are just $80.
Along with providing great value to the families of Husker fans, Nebraska expects to put an exciting and experienced team on the court again this season. The Huskers, who have advanced to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and made five NCAA trips in the past seven seasons, return four starters from a team that finished 25-9 overall in 2012-13. The returners, led by two-time All-American and first-team All-Big Ten choice Jordan Hooper, helped the Huskers finish second in the the 2013 regular-season Big Ten standings with a 12-4 record.
Hooper, a 6-2 forward from Alliance, Neb., is expected to challenge Nebraska career records for points, rebounds and three-pointers during her senior season. She will be joined for the third straight year in NU’s starting five by junior forwards Emily Cady and Hailie Sample. Sophomore point guard Rachel Theriot, who earned Big Ten All-Freshman honors a year ago, also returns to the starting lineup. Juniors Tear’a Laudermill and Brandi Jeffery bring more experience to the Husker backcourt, along with sophomore Sadie Murren, while junior Katie Simon bolsters an experienced front line. Allie Havers, a 6-5 freshman center, is hoping to help the Huskers inside, while freshmen guards Hannah Tvrdy and Esther Ramacieri provide depth in the backcourt.
Following the historic opener against UCLA, the Huskers conclude a two-game season-opening home stand against Alabama on Monday, Nov. 11. NU will hit the road for the first time when they battle 2013 WNIT runner-up Utah in Salt Lake City on Nov. 15.
After the road trip to Utah, the Huskers return to Pinnacle Bank Arena for a four-game home stretch that begins with Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Thursday, Nov. 21 and concludes with a clash against NU’s second Pac-12 foe of the year, Washington State. The Huskers will face an up-and-coming Cougar club that returns 12 letterwinners and three starters on Saturday, Nov. 30.
Nebraska’s second non-conference road trip will feature traditional ACC power North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Thursday, Dec. 5 in Chapel Hill, N.C. UNC returns eight players, including two starters from a 2012-13 squad that finished 29-7 and advanced to the NCAA second round.
The Huskers then return to Lincoln for their longest home stretch since Yori’s first season at NU in 2002-03. The five-game home stand includes four non-conference foes that all advanced to the postseason in 2013, beginning with Utah State (Dec. 8), which went 18-14 overall, including 14-4 with a runner-up WAC finish last season. The stretch continues with 2013 NCAA second-round qualifier Creighton on Saturday, Dec. 14. Following Finals Week on campus, NU will continue the home stand against South Dakota, coached by former Husker Amy (Gusso) Williams. In Williams’ first season in 2012-13, the Coyotes won 19 games overall and finished third in the Summit League. The non-conference portion of the home stand concludes with 2013 NCAA qualifier and defending Southland Conference champion Oral Roberts on Sunday, Dec. 29.
The Huskers wrap up the five-game stand by tipping off Big Ten Conference play against Northwestern at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, Jan. 2. Nebraska hits the road to face NCAA second-round qualifier Michigan State (Jan. 9), before closing the conference road swing at 2013 WNIT qualifier Illinois (Jan. 12).
NU returns home to face more postseason-caliber competition when the Huskers take on Minnesota (Jan. 16) and 2013 NCAA second-round qualifier and Big Ten Tournament champion Purdue (Jan. 19). A road game at Northwestern (Jan. 26) completes a home-and-home series with the Wildcats, before the Huskers return home to battle 2013 NCAA second-round qualifier Michigan (Jan. 29) .
Nebraska’s final two-game road trip of the season comes with Big Ten single plays at 2013 NCAA second-round qualifier Iowa (Feb. 1) and Wisconsin (Feb. 5). The Huskers are a combined 10-0 against the Hawkeyes and Badgers in NU’s first two seasons in the Big Ten.
The Huskers complete their home-and-home series with Michigan State on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, before hitting the road to complete the season series with Michigan (Feb. 13). NU then plays host to Indiana (Feb. 16) before traveling to Ohio State (Feb. 19) in its only meetings with the Hoosiers and Buckeyes in 2013-14.
Nebraska wraps up its home regular-season schedule with back-to-back battles against defending Big Ten champion Penn State (Feb. 24) and Illinois (Feb. 27). The Huskers conclude the regular season on the road at Purdue (March 2), before heading back to Indiana for the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament March 6-9.
The announcement of the NCAA Tournament field will be made on Monday, March 17, with the NCAA Women’s Final Four to be held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., April 6-8.