The Nebraska women’s basketball team will face a loaded 18-game Big Ten Conference regular season, including marquee home matchups with 2014 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Maryland, Penn State, Purdue and Iowa.
The schedule announcement came from the Big Ten Conference on BTN Live on Thursday, Aug. 21, and included the unveiling of both the men’s and women’s conference schedules for the 2014-15 season.
Coach Connie Yori said Nebraska’s Big Ten schedule would challenge her Huskers, while giving fans an NCAA Tournament atmosphere every game at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“It certainly isn’t going to be easy,” Yori said. “Our first three Big Ten home games will come against Maryland, Penn State and Purdue. Maryland went to the Final Four, Penn State went to the Sweet 16, and Purdue went to the NCAA second round. Overall, we will play 13 of our 18 conference games against teams that won NCAA or WNIT tournament games last year. You can’t get much more challenging than that.”
Season tickets are available now for Nebraska’s 17-game home schedule at Pinnacle Bank Arena by visiting Huskers.com or calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED. Single-game tickets for the Huskers’ special home game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center against Utah on Sunday, Nov. 23, are also on sale at Huskers.com.
Nebraska tips off the Big Ten Conference season on the road at Minnesota on Monday, Dec. 29. The Golden Gophers, who will be under the direction of first-year coach Marlene Stollings, return all five starters from a team that finished with 22 victories and advanced to the third round of the WNIT. The Huskers went 3-0 last season against the Gophers, including a win in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
The Huskers open home Big Ten action against first-year conference member Maryland on Saturday, Jan. 3. Coach Brenda Frese and the Terrapins earned a trip to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four behind the leadership of Alyssa Thomas, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the WNBA Draft. The Terps, who finished 28-7 overall and 12-4 in the ACC, who also must replace three-year starting center Alicia DeVaughn and Katie Rutan, return plenty of weapons, including senior guard Laurin Mincy, junior forward Malina Howard and sophomore Lexie Brown.
The Big Red returns to the road to battle the Michigan State Spartans on Thursday, Jan. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. MSU shared the 2014 Big Ten regular-season title, finishing with a 13-3 conference mark on its way to a 23-10 overall record. The Spartans advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, after being eliminated from the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament by Nebraska. NU went 2-1 against Michigan State, including an early conference loss at East Lansing. The Huskers meet Michigan State just once in 2015.
Nebraska stays on the road to face Illinois on Sunday, Jan. 11, before returning home for a showdown with Penn State. The Lady Lions shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Michigan State and finished with a 24-8 overall mark before advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16. Penn State will have a new look in 2014-15 after losing their starting backcourt, including four-year starter and 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year and 2014 WNBA second-round pick Maggie Lucas. PSU also loses its No. 2 (Ariel Edwards), No. 3 (Dara Taylor) and No. 4 (Talia East) leading scorers from last season, but will be anchored inside by returning starter Tori Waldner. It will be NU’s lone regular-season matchup with Penn State in 2015.
The Huskers stay at Pinnacle Bank Arena for their third single-play game of the conference campaign when they play host to Purdue on Monday, Jan. 19. The special Martin Luther King Jr. Day game will continue a brief but thrilling series between the Huskers and Boilermakers. In the first six meetings between the two teams over Nebraska’s first three seasons in the Big Ten, three of the games have covered a total of six overtimes, while last year’s lone meeting in Lincoln on Jan. 19, 2014, went down to the wire in a 77-75 NU loss. Purdue advanced to the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and finished with a 22-9 overall record that included an 11-5 Big Ten mark to tie for fourth in the regular-season conference standings.
Following a road clash at Wisconsin on Thursday, Jan. 22, the Huskers will play their fifth foe to advance to at least the NCAA Tournament second round in the first eight Big Ten games, when they travel to Iowa on Jan. 26. The Hawkeyes return a majority of their weapons from a team that won a Big Ten-best 27 games in 2013-14. Iowa tied Purdue for fourth in the final conference standings at 11-5 and went 27-9 overall but went 0-3 against the Huskers, including a loss in the Big Ten Tournament title game. Nebraska is 9-0 against Iowa in NU’s first three seasons in the Big Ten.
The Huskers return home to complete their two-game season series with Illinois and the first half of Big Ten play on Thursday, Jan. 29. NU tips off the second half of conference action at home against Michigan on Sunday, Feb. 1, and the Huskers will hope it is the start of another fabulous February. Nebraska, which will play eight games in February, went 8-0 during the month last season. In fact, the Huskers will carry a 16-game February winning streak into the matchup with Michigan. The Wolverines finished 20-14 overall, 8-8 in the Big Ten, and advanced to the third round of the WNIT in 2013-14. NU, which went 7-0 in February of 2013, has won nine straight February home games and have not dropped a home game in the month since losing to Northwestern on Feb. 16, 2012.
After NU’s single-play game with Michigan, the Huskers head to Piscataway, N.J., for the first time in history for their first-ever meeting with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights went 28-9 overall and 12-6 in their lone season in the American Athletic Conference before winning the 2014 WNIT championship. It will be NU’s lone regular-season meeting with Rutgers in 2014-15.
The Huskers continue the East Coast road swing by completing their season series with Maryland in College Park on Sunday, Feb. 8. The Big Red returns home to complete its home-and-home series with Iowa on Feb. 12, giving the Huskers 10 games against 2014 NCAA or WNIT teams in their first 12 Big Ten Conference contests.
NU wraps up its two-game season series with Wisconsin at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday, Feb. 15, before hitting the road for single-play conference games at Northwestern (Feb. 18) and Indiana (Feb. 21). Northwestern finished with a 17-16 overall record and advanced to the WNIT third round, while the Hoosiers fought their way to the WNIT Elite Eight to finish with a 21-13 overall record.
Nebraska completes its two-game season series with Minnesota in Lincoln on Tuesday, Feb. 24, before honoring seniors Emily Cady, Brandi Jeffery, Tear’a Laudermill and Hailie Sample on Senior Day against Ohio State on Sunday, March 1. The four Husker seniors have led Nebraska to the most successful stretch in school history, averaging 25 wins per season in their first three years while claiming three straight NCAA Tournament bids. No Nebraska senior class has ever led their team to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
The regular-season should prepare Nebraska well to defend its 2014 Big Ten Tournament championship, March 4-8, at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The announcement of the NCAA Tournament field will be made on Monday, March 16. The NCAA first- and second-rounds will be held March 20-23 at 16 campus sites this season, before NCAA Regionals in Oklahoma City, Okla., Greensboro, N.C., Albany, N.Y., and Sacramento, Calif. The NCAA Women’s Final Four will be held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Bay, Fla., April 5-7.