Huskers Talk NCAA Tourney in Texas
Nebraska Coach Amy Williams and the Huskers met the media in Texas on Friday afternoon before going through a 90-minute practice at the Erwin Center in advance of Saturday's first-round NCAA Tournament match-up with Arizona State.
Williams, the 2018 Big Ten Coach of the Year, told the media in attendance at Friday's press conference that she was humbled and honored to lead the Huskers to their 14th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and proud of the selflessness and work ethic displayed by Nebraska's players throughout the season.
"I feel absolutely just amazing," Williams said. "To be honest with you, I kind of pinch myself almost every day when I walk into work. Incredibly honored and humbled to be the head coach of the university I played for and represented and poured blood, sweat and tears into the program. Just incredibly honored to be part of it.
"I am so happy, especially for our seniors, but really for every one of these young women to have this opportunity to be playing in the NCAA Tournament."
Nebraska senior guard Jasmine Cincore, who was a freshman on NU's 2015 NCAA Tournament team, said a return trip to the Big Dance is especially rewarding.
"It does mean more. Freshman year, a lot of things are happening," Cincore said. "This time, after having some seasons under my belt, going through four completely different seasons to this one, means a lot more."
The No. 10 seed Huskers (21-10, 11-5 Big Ten) will face No. 7 seed Arizona State (21-12, 10-8 Pac-12) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN2. Not only do the Huskers and Sun Devils sport similar seeds and similar records, they also carry similar styles, according to Nebraska junior forward Maddie Simon.
"We talk about Arizona State being a tough defensive team, a tough rebounding team. I think that's what we've seen every game in the Big Ten, so I think we're ready for that," Simon said. "We talked about how they actually remind us of ourselves. They're balanced. They like to do some of the same things we do. We see that as a good match-up for us, being similar to us."
"One thing we have a ton of respect for is obviously them being the No. 1 scoring defense in the Pac-12 Conference," Williams said. "That's someting that we wanted to really pride ourselves in as well. I think they maybe apply a little bit more pressure than we do. Right now they are exactly rebounding-wise where would would strive to be. We like to kind of think we mirror them, but I think they're a slightly better rebounding team than we've proven to be all season, and we know that rebounding will be key in tomorrow's game."
Arizona State Coach Charlie Turner Thorne said she has witnessed the growth of the Huskers from their early games this season through the end of the year.
"It's funny because we had a couple common opponents. Buffalo, I saw them, I watched that game, they were a different team. Even Washington State, they're a different team," Turner Thorne said. "Now watching them, whew. They have improved immensely and really have come together."
Sophomore point guard Hannah Whitish, Nebraska's leader in scoring, assists, steals and three-point shooting, said all the Huskers have come together around the word "family" while committing to the principles of hard work.
"At the beginning of this year, we wanted to be the hardest working team on the floor...We all bought into it...As long as we did that, we were going to like the outcome," Whitish said. "I think we're just going to take this one game at a time and do everything we can to control every game we can."