Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Big Week for Husker Men

By Brian Rosenthal

Seems only fitting that Nebraska would recognize one its most decorated players in women’s basketball history on a night the Huskers play a team they’ve played more times than any other.  

Nebraska, playing its first home game since Nov. 11, will host former Big Eight and Big 12 Conference rival Kansas on Wednesday night, and will also honor Karen Jennings on the silver anniversary of her winning the 1993 Wade Trophy.

Jennings was a first-team All-American (1993), a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year (1992, 1993) and a three-time first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American (1991-93). Her No. 51 jersey was the first retired by Nebraska, and she is a member of the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

Kansas, meanwhile, marks the most frequent opponent in Nebraska women’s basketball history. While the Jayhawks lead the all-time series, 50-32, the Huskers are 22-10 against the Jayhawks since 1997-98 – the senior season for guard Amy Williams, now in her third season coaching the Huskers.

Nebraska defeated Kansas on the road last season en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance. This time, Kansas brings a 6-0 record into Lincoln, while the Huskers are looking to get back on a track after starting 2-5, with four of those losses coming against teams in the NCAA Tournament last season.

Williams stressed this is an important time for her team to stay together and stay positive. She is most certainly being patient, what with four freshmen on the roster, and wants her players to remain patient, too, while working through growing pains and finding more on-court chemistry.

“When 45 percent of your roster is new, that’s going to be an issue early,” Williams said, “and particularly with the tests we’ve faced early, it’s just finding, ‘Where is my role?’ We have a lot of freshmen who are really talented and capable of really contributing to this team, but they’re not 100 percent sure how to do that within the flow of what we’re trying to do.”

One such freshman is 5-9 guard Sam Haiby, who is leading Nebraska in scoring, at 12.3 points per game, while coming off the bench.

Haiby has led the Huskers in scoring in four games, including against nationally ranked Drake (13) and Miami (14), while also scoring a career-high 20 points at Washington State and adding 17 points at Creighton.

“We’ve always known her as an explosive scorer, and people have a hard time being able to stay in front of her,” Williams said. “She’s done a good job of filling in and finding ways to create sparks for our team when we’re having a little lull scoring wise.”

Nebraska is returning home after a five-game road trip (that included one neutral-site game). The Huskers lost four, but now begin a stretch of three straight home games.

 “Our messages is always, ‘Can you stand the rain?’ and in times of adversity how are you going to handle yourself?” Williams said. “Our character as a team will be defined when you go through some of those struggles. For us, it’s don’t panic, stick with the process. We’re right there. We’re seeing flashes of some good things against Top 25 programs on their home court.”

 

Big Week for Husker Men

Most of the talk surrounding the Nebraska men’s basketball team has either been about what’s already happened – its first Associated Press Top 25 ranking in four years – or what’s about to happen – Saturday’s home class with intrastate rival Creighton.

Meanwhile, the Huskers are prepping for something arguably even bigger – a Big Ten Conference game on the road.

No. 24 Nebraska (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) plays Wednesday night at Minnesota (6-2, 0-1) in an 8 p.m. game on BTN. It’s the second of two early-December conference games for the Huskers, who will resume Big Ten play Jan. 2 at Maryland.

Last season, Nebraska defeated the Gophers in Lincoln in an early-December game after opening conference play with a loss at Michigan State. This time, the Huskers are aiming for a 2-0 start to league play after defeating Illinois on Sunday.

With the national ranking and a nemesis peeking around the corner, what does coach Tim Miles think of his team’s current mind set?

“I thought we had a very good practice today,” Miles said Tuesday, shortly before the team departed for Minneapolis. “I thought our film session was excellent. Guys were attentive. But you still have to go out there and get punched in the mouth, see if you like the taste of your own blood, or if you wanna spit it out on your opponent.

“That’s an ongoing challenge, but I like where they’re at right now.”

Senior point guard Glynn Watson Jr., who needs one assist to reach 300 for his career, said the team isn’t concerned with the national ranking, and most certainly isn’t looking ahead to Saturday.

“We’re not even worried about that,” Watson said of the ranking. “We’ve just got to take care of our games and keep winning.”

Nebraska enters the game ranked among the top two in the Big Ten in scoring defense (2), field goal percentage defense (2), scoring margin (1), 3-point percentage defense (1), blocked shots (2), steals (2) and turnover margin (1).

Minnesota, meanwhile, ranks among the bottom three Big Ten teams in scoring defense (12), field goal percentage defense (13), 3-point percentage defense (13) and steals (14).

The Huskers rank among the league’s top half in most offensive categories, and ahead of Minnesota, although the Gophers have attempted 223 free throws, second most in the conference.

“They force the issue. We’ve got to be really strong in the paint,” Miles said. I thought Ohio State did a great job in the lane.”

Ohio State defeated the Gophers 79-59 in Columbus and held them to 0-of-13 shooting on 3-pointers.

Minnesota, which has defeated Texas A&M, Washington, Utah and Oklahoma State, is playing its first home game since Nov. 12. The Gophers also have losses in two of three games.

“Our guys will have to be ready to meet that challenge,” Miles said.

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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