Coatney's Call: South Florida Preview
Nebraska (7-3) at South Florida (8-0)
Sunday, Dec. 16, 1 p.m. (central)
Sun Dome (Tampa, Fla.)
Live Internet Video: HuskersNside (premium subscribers of Huskers.com)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
(Matt Coatney-PBP; Jeff Griesch-Analyst)
(B107.3 FM-Lincoln; The Wolf 93.3 FM-Omaha; 880 AM-KRVN, Lexington; 94.1 FM-KNEB, Scottsbluff; 1400 AM-KCOW, Alliance; 1230 AM-KHAS, Hastings)
Internet: Free live audio on Huskers.com
If you ever have wondered why I love what I do behind the radio mic so much, all you have to do is consider last Saturday's dramatic 78-77 Nebraska women's basketball win over 24th-ranked Florida State. I had a front-row seat at halfcourt to witness and describe one of the best basketball games anyone could hope to see this season.
Jordan Hooper erupted for 36 points, tied for ninth-most in a game in school history and Lindsey Moore had a complete game with 14 points, five rebounds, eight assists and five steals. Moore's two free throws with 22 seconds left gave the Huskers a one-point lead that would withstand a wild ending to the game which included a foul on the final FSU shot, two video replays, two clock resets, and Seminole All-America candidate Natasha Howard missing two foul shots to give NU the win.
Next up for Nebraska is its final non-conference road trip, as the Huskers travel to Tampa to face South Florida Sunday afternoon.
South Florida is a veteran team that plays an up-tempo style that is intended to disrupt its opponents. Picked to finish ninth in the Big East this season, they return eight seniors and four starters from last year's team that advanced to the third round of the Postseason WNIT. The Bulls are plus-62 in turnover margin through eight games (+7.8 per game) and were 21st nationally in scoring defense (50.0 points) and 10th in field goal percentage defense (30.8%) in last week's national statistics.
USF has started the season 8-0 for the first time since 1976-77. Many teams have consistent starting lineups. That is not the case with South Florida, as 11 players have started as least one game and 12 players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game. Only one Bull player has started every game - senior guard Andrell Smith - who was named to the Big East Conference Honor Roll last week, after averaging 17.0 points in USF's two wins. She had a career-best 47 three-pointers last year, but has committed herself to taking better shots and getting to the rim and finishing this season. She currently leads the team in assists and is second in scoring (14.8 points).
Her twin sister Andrea missed all of last season due to an ACL injury. Coming off knee surgery, she has worked herself back slowly and has started the last four games. The 2010 National Junior College Player of the Year, Andrea Smith was named to the 2011 Preseason All-Big East team prior to her injury. In 2010-11, Smith led the team in three-pointers (53) and her 16.5 points per game ranked third in the league. She had 12 points two seasons ago against the Huskers in Lincoln. The Smith sisters formed the backcourt for the 2010 National Junior College champions from Gulf Coast Community College, before transferring to USF prior to the 2010-11 season. They both played against the Huskers in Lincoln that season.
The injury bug has bitten South Florida particularly hard at the point guard position. The original plan was for sophomore Shalethia Stringfield to start at the point, but she suffered a season-ending ACL injury prior to the start of the season. Senior Sasha Bernard was last year's team Defensive MVP, but tore an ACL during the Big East Tournament and her play has been limited due to her recovery. Bernard transferred to USF after playing her freshman season at Indiana. Senior Kaneisha Saunders is a veteran point guard for USF. She was named to the Big East All-Freshman team in 2009-10 after stepping into the starting lineup midway through the season due to an injury. She led the team in assists last year, was third on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) and started 17 games. This season, Saunders has started two games but has missed the last four contests due to a high ankle sprain. Her availability for the Nebraska game is unknown. True freshman Courtney Williams has played well, starting three games at the point for USF. Although she came off the bench in South Florida's last game, a 92-52 win over Jacksonville, Williams just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. While she has avoided the injury bug, Williams missed significant practice time in mid-November due to illness. She was named the Big East Freshman of the Week on Dec. 3, averaging 14.5 points and seven rebounds in two games. Adding to USF's point guard woes, talented freshman Laura Marcos Canedo had surgery on a fractured foot in early November and is out for the season.
One of South Florida's strengths is size on the wing. Junior Inga Orekhova is a tall guard (6-2) and led the team in three-pointers last season (55). She has started all but one game this season, leads the team in threes (20), and ranks second on the team in assists and ranks third in scoring (11.9 ppg). Senior forward Tiffany Conner led USF in rebounding in 2011-12 (5.9 rpg) and has played in every game this season, starting two. She averages 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds this year. USF's inside game features senior Tahira Johnson and junior Akila McDonald. Johnson leads the team in rebounds (6.5 rpg) and has started five games. McDonald adds 3.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with four starts.
Jose Fernandez is in his 13th season with the Bulls and is the winningest coach in USF history. He has led the Bulls to eight postseason tournaments, the 2009 WNIT championship and also took USF to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006. Fernandez is only three wins away from 200 career victories.
Nebraska is 12-1 all-time against Florida schools, including winning both previous meetings with USF. The Huskers defeated the Bulls 91-50 in 1983 in Lincoln and got by South Florida 78-59 in 2010 at the Devaney Center. Lindsey Moore played the full 40 minutes and had 16 points and nine assists for NU.
I cordially invite you to join Jeff Griesch and me for Nebraska women's basketball on the Husker Sports Network. Our radio broadcast Sunday afternoon beings with the pre-game show at 12:45 p.m. (central) with the tip-off scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on the Husker Sports Network, including Lincoln affiliate KBBK 107.3 FM (B107.3), KTWI 93.3 FM (The Wolf) in Omaha, 1400 KCOW in Alliance, KNEB 94.1 in Scottsbluff, KHAS 1230 in Hastings and available to our entire 25 network stations. All Husker women's basketball broadcasts are also available for free worldwide on the internet at www.huskers.com. I hope you can join us.
There are a number of ways to get enhanced information about our broadcast and Husker women's basketball via social media. You can learn more about the team on the Nebraska Women's Basketball Facebook page or follow the team on their official Twitter page @huskerswbb. I also invite you to friend me on Facebook (Matt Coatney) or follow me on Twitter @coatman1.
Go Big Red!