Coatney's Call: Utah State Preview
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2 p.m. (central)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Neb.)
Live Video: BTN.com All-Access
Radio: Husker Sports Network
(Matt Coatney-PBP; Jeff Griesch-Analyst)
107.3 FM-KBBK, Lincoln; 93.3 FM-KFFF, Omaha; 1400 AM-KCOW, Alliance: 93.7 FM-KRGY, Grand Island; 94.1 FM-KNEB, Scottsbluff; 1230 AM-KHAS, Hastings; 1400 AM-KBRB, Ainsworth
Internet: Free live audio on Huskers.com
The Nebraska women’s basketball team raced out to a 16-7 lead, but No. 18 North Carolina weathered the early Husker three-point storm and used a 23-4 late first-half run to defeat NU 75-62 Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge game in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Utah State is 5-2 this season, coming off an 81-71 loss at South Dakota Thursday night. The Aggies’ game uniforms did not arrive with their luggage, so they played in their practice jerseys. USU probably will be happy to get their regular game gear back, as the 71 points they scored against the Coyotes was a season low. The Aggies came into the week ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense at 86.8 points per game.
Veteran Husker fans probably are familiar with second-year Utah State Head Coach Jerry Finkbeiner. During his 16 years as head coach at Oral Roberts, Finkbeiner brought his 2009-10 team to Lincoln. Finkbeiner’s teams traditionally have been known for being high scoring and playing the ‘Twilight Zone’ defense.
What is the ‘Twilight Zone’? While the coach at Southern Nazarene in the NAIA, Finkbeiner patterned a spread 2-3 zone defense after a defense he saw the University of Portland employ. The goal of his defense is to force the offense to throw lob passes over the defense, allowing the defense a better chance to steal the ball. It is particularly effective against cross-court passes that ‘float’. The name of this zone defense comes from an assistant coach at Oklahoma City University who called it the “Twilight Zone” because he couldn’t figure it out.
This season’s Utah State team has run Finkbeiner’s “Twilight Zone” defense effectively enough to rank eighth in the nation in steals per game (13.2) heading into the week. The most effective Aggie thief is 5-9 junior Elise Nelson, who is 21st nationally in steals per game. The 2010 Oregon Class 5A High School Player of the Year also leads the team in rebounds (7.3 rpg) and adds 4.9 points per contest.
Another Aggie player ranking high in national rankings is 5-6 senior Jennifer Schlott. The leading scorer in the Mountain West Conference, Schlott ranks 12th nationally in points per game (24.0 ppg) and 22nd in assists per game (6.1 apg). Schlott earned second-team all-conference honors last season. She scored a season-high points in a USU win over Utah on Nov. 19. She had a game high 27 points in Thursday night’s loss at South Dakota.
Makenlee Williams, a 5-11 sophomore guard, joins Schlott in giving the Aggies a potent one-two scoring punch. Williams is second on the team in scoring (20.1 ppg) and leads the team in three-pointers made (18). Williams is one of the most improved free throw shooters in the nation. Last season, Williams ranks eighth nationally in free throw percentage, connecting on 94.4 percent (17-18) of her attempts through seven games.
In Utah State’s final season in the Western Athletic Conference last year, Williams led the league in three-point field goal percentage (.423). She had her third career double-double and first of the season with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in Thursday night’s loss at South Dakota.
Junior Franny Vaaulu (Va-ah-oo-lu) gives the Aggies three players who average double figure scoring. The 6-2 center averages 10.6 points per game and had 16 points and eight rebounds against the Coyotes Thursday night. Junior transfer Ingrida Strikas (Streak-us) rounds out USU’s probable starting lineup. The 6-1 guard/forward from Latvia transferred from Vincennes University. She sat out last season, but is averaging 8.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in her first year on the court for the Aggies.
Utah State finished the 2012-13 season with an 18-14 record, and ranked second in the nation in team free throw percentage (.801). This year’s team is still dangerous at the foul line, shooting .748. USU also ranked fifth nationally in scoring offense and 17th in three-point field goals made last season.
Picked to finish sixth in their initial season in the Mountain West, Finkbeiner has stated that his team has to improve its defensive rebounding numbers. While the Aggies rank high nationally and lead the conference in steals, they rank 10th in the 11-team Mountain West in defensive rebounds.
Future Husker opponent South Dakota rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Utah State 81-71 Thursday night in Vermillion. The Aggies were only able to produce one field goal in a span of 8:16 in the second half and made just 11-of-44 second half attempts. USU also committed 31 fouls to just 17 for the Coyotes and the disparity meant that USD was able to get to the foul line 44 times, making 27. Utah State was 15-of-17 at the stripe.
This will be the first meeting ever between Nebraska and Utah State. Aggies Coach Jerry Finkbeiner was 0-1 against the Huskers during his tenure at Oral Roberts. The teams have played one common opponent this season. The Aggies defeated Utah 77-61 in a home game in Logan on Nov. 19. Nebraska defeated the Utes in Salt Lake City 75-69 four days earlier on Nov. 15.
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 begins with the pre-game show at 1:45 p.m. (central) with the tip-off scheduled for 2:05 p.m. on the Husker Sports Network including KBBK (B107.3) in Lincoln, KFFF 93.3 in Omaha, KCOW 1400 in Alliance, KHAS 1230 in Hastings, KRGY 97.3 in Grand Island, KNEB 94.1 in Scottsbluff, KBRB 1400 in Ainsworth and many others. 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!