Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Catch Eye of Kansas Coach

By Brian Rosenthal

The Nebraska women’s basketball team had traveled to opposite corners of the continental United States, with a couple of trips in between, since it last played a game on its home court in Lincoln on Nov. 11.

The Huskers went 1-4 in that stretch, and Brandon Schneider knew to look past their overall record of 2-5, that a much better team would soon begin emerging.

Schneider, the Kansas coach, had a hunch that might happen against his undefeated Jayhawks.

He took little solace in being correct after Nebraska’s 58-52 victory before 3,688 fans Wednesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

“They played exactly how I thought they would,” Schneider said. “They are so much better than their record indicates. They’ve been on the road a great deal, and I’m sure they felt like this is a game where they could get healthy, from a mental standpoint, and maybe start playing the kind of basketball they expect out of themselves.”

Schneider told his team it would need the same type of preparation and practice it put together before defeating LSU on the road, 68-61, to improve to 6-0. He was upset his Jayhawks did not heed his advice, saying they looked “tired and sluggish” and failed to match the same energy level of the Huskers.

“We felt like Nebraska could be the best team we play in the nonconference,” Schneider said. “They’re going to have the same type of season they had a year ago. I think they can have an NCAA (Tournament) type of season. They just have to get their mojo. I think they lost their mojo being on the road that long.

“If they get their mojo, they’re going to be pretty good.”

Nebraska coach Amy Williams said her team, with a roster that's 45 percent newcomers, is working toward that goal.

“The hard games we’ve played up until this point, all of the challenges we’ve thrown at our kids,” Williams said, “they’ve found some ways to kind of grow through that and come away with a really big win.

“We definitely have some of the pieces to be there, but we’re going to have to really continue to grow and turn that corner fairly quickly.”

Nebraska (3-5) won an ugly game – the teams combined to shoot 28 percent from the field –because it counted on strong defense and met its pregame goal of winning hustle plays.

“The number one goal for the game today was to be the hardest-working team on the court,” Williams said, “and I thought even though it was a little bit ugly … we were able to overcome that by making hustle plays, coming away with loose balls, rebounding probably the best we have all season.”

Sophomore guard Taylor Kissinger had 11 points and 11 rebounds for her second career double-double, and freshman forward Ashtyn Veerbeek grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, as Nebraska collected 64 rebounds, the fourth most in a game in school history.

“Getting the defensive stops and rebounds is what we needed to do,” Veerbeek said, “and that’s what we really focused on.”

Nebraska held Kansas to 25.3 percent shooting but committed 22 turnovers, a number Williams labeled as “uncharacteristic.”

The Huskers trailed 19-13 with 5:05 remaining in the second quarter when they turned the game with a 25-5 run that lasted until the 4:58 mark of the third quarter. During that stretch, they had a mere three turnovers.

“Funny how that works when you’re not handing the ball to the other team and you give yourself a chance,” Williams said. “I thought right there we were able to play with pace.”

Kansas attempted 37 shots from 3-point range but made only eight.

“They have a lot of drivers and they can kick out,” Kissinger said. “They set a lot of ball screens, so they can get their drivers down the court and kick out for 3s. That was our game plan, when they dribble toward you to bluff and recover so you can get out on their shooters.”

Schneider said he didn’t like his team’s shot selection and that Nebraska’s overall length on defense affected his players’ decision-making.

“We got past the first line of defense quite a bit tonight, but when we drove it in to help, we didn’t make good decisions there,” he said. “We should’ve kicked the ball more to open shooters. We took a really lot of contested 2s.”

Junior guard Hannah Whitish also scored 11 points in a game in which all 10 Huskers scored at least one point and grabbed at least one rebound, including five points, a season-high matching eight rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots for Nicea Eliely.

Nebraska plays its next two games at home before closing nonconference play Dec. 18 at Arkansas.

“We like our team. We like our chances,” Williams said. “We think if we continue to find ways to improve and keep getting better every day that we’ve got to be a really good team down the stretch.”

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

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