Lincoln - Big Ten power Nebraska and ACC power Duke will go head-to-head in one of the marquee matchups of the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Two of the nation's premier conferences announced the eighth annual matchups for the series on Wednesday, June 4.
Coach Connie Yori's Huskers will represent the Big Ten as the 2014 conference tournament champions. The Big Red finished with the second-most wins (26) and second-fewest losses (7) in school history in 2013-14. NU's .788 winning percentage ranked No. 2 in program history, as the Huskers advanced to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament.
“This will be a great game for our fans to look forward to during the non-conference season at Pinnacle Bank Arena,” Yori said. “Duke has regularly been a top 10 team the last several years, and one of the top teams in the ACC. It will be a great challenge for our team, but we have a long way to go before we are ready to focus on that game. It is a great reason to start getting excited for our second season at the new arena.”
The 2013-14 Huskers finished No. 13 in the Associated Press Poll, No. 17 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 and No. 19 in the NCAA RPI. NU finished 12-4 in Big Ten regular-season play, before rolling to three straight wins as the No. 3 seed at the conference tournament in Indianapolis.
Nebraska, which has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in all three of its seasons in the Big Ten, advanced to the NCAA second round with a 74-55 win over Fresno State at UCLA. It marked the first time in school history that the Big Red won at least one NCAA Tournament game in back-to-back seasons.
Yori, who has won back-to-back Big Ten Coach-of-the-Year honors, enters her 13th season at Nebraska as the school's all-time winningest coach with 241 victories. Her Huskers return four All-Big Ten starters led by honorable-mention AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten point guard Rachel Theriot. Senior forwards Emily Cady (Second Team All-Big Ten) and Hailie Sample (Big Ten All-Defensive) have joined each other in the starting five for 100 consecutive games, while fellow senior Tear'a Laudermill earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in her first year as a starter in 2013-14.
The 2014-15 Huskers will be bolstered by a seven-player class of incoming freshmen that was ranked No. 9 nationally by ESPN, as the Big Red shoot for an unprecedented fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2015.
The 2013 Huskers, which featured current returning starters Cady, Sample, Theriot and Laudermill, advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, falling to Duke, 53-45, in the third round at Norfolk, Va.
Duke finished 28-7 overall in 2013-14, closing the regular season at No. 9 in the AP Poll, before finishing 13th in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. The Blue Devils entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 RPI team in the nation.
Duke, finished second in the ACC, losing three of its seven games on the season to NCAA runner-up Notre Dame, the last time in the ACC Championship Game on March 9. In fact, four of Duke's last eight losses have come to Notre Dame, which also knocked the Blue Devils out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in the NCAA Elite Eight.
Duke cruised to a first-round NCAA win over Winthrop in 2014, before being upset by DePaul in the second round. DePaul advanced to the NCAA Lincoln Regional at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Duke had advanced to three consecutive NCAA Elite Eight appearances and won three consecutive ACC regular-season titles along with a pair of conference tournament titles prior to last season.
Coach Joanne P. McCallie enters her eighth season at Duke, where she owns a 202-42 record. The Blue Devils lose three senior starters from last year's group, including first-round WNBA Draft picks Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston, along with Haley Peters. Gray went with 11th overall pick to the Connecticut Sun despite missing the final 18 games of the 2014 season with an injury. Liston was selected with the next pick by the Minnesota Lynx, before Husker senior All-American Jordan Hooper was chosen with the 13th pick by the Tulsa Shock.
That Duke senior trio of Gray, Liston and Peters combined for nearly 42 points per game a year ago, while departing seniors Chloe Wells and Richa Jackson also played key roles.
All-America center Elizabeth Williams returns as a 2015 senior and national player-of-the-year candidate, along with junior guard Alexis Jones. Seniors Ka'lia Johnson and Jenna Frush will be expected to add leadership for a young Blue Devil squad that includes sophomores Oderah Chidom, Amber Henson and Kendall McCravey-Cooper.
The Blue Devil program has made 21 trips to the NCAA Tournament and ranks sixth in history with 53 all-time NCAA Tournament wins.
The 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge will feature 14 games, including eight games on Wednesday, Dec. 3 and six games on Thursday, Dec. 4.
2014 ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE SCHEDULE
Wednesday, Dec. 3
- Duke at Nebraska
- Maryland at Notre Dame
- Florida State at Purdue
- Minnesota at NC State
- Indiana at Boston College
- Wake Forest at Michigan
- Virginia at Illinois
- Pittsburgh at Ohio State
Thursday, Dec. 4
- Iowa at Louisville
- Penn State at Syracuse
- Northwestern at Virginia Tech
- Wisconsin at Miami
- North Carolina at Rutgers
- Georgia Tech at Michigan State