Huskers Tip-Off Season with Gorillas Tuesday
vs. Pittsburg State Gorillas
Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595) • Lincoln, Neb.
Tuesday, Nov. 3 • 7:05 p.m.
Radio: Husker Sports Network (93.3 KTWI Omaha)
Live Internet Video: None for Exhibition Games
Live Internet Audio: Huskers.com (Free)
Huskers Open Exhibition Play With Pittsburg State Tuesday
The Nebraska women’s basketball team takes the floor for the first time in 2009-10, when the Huskers play host to Pittsburg State at the Devaney Center on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7:05 p.m.
The Huskers enter the 2009-10 campaign with high hopes after earning their sixth consecutive postseason tournament bid a year ago. Nebraska will feature the largest senior class in school history, and the Huskers hope the class will be regarded as the school’s most successful by season’s end.
NU’s six-player class includes fifth-year senior Kelsey Griffin, who returns to the court for the first time on Tuesday night after missing the entire 2008-09 season with a foot injury. The two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection enters her senior season as the active Big 12 leader in career rebounding with 665, while ranking as the No. 3 active scorer in the conference with 1,348 points.
After a pair of offseason surgeries, the 6-2 senior forward from Eagle River, Alaska, is 100 percent and has practiced at a high level since returning to full speed in September. She was also a preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection by the league coaches, joining All-Americans Courtney Paris (Oklahoma) and Tiffany Jackson (Texas) as the only three-time first-team preseason All-Big 12 picks in conference history. Griffin is drawing plenty of attention from WNBA scouts, and has been projected as a high first-round draft choice.
Griffin is joined in the senior class by 2009 honorable-mention All-Big 12 forward Cory Montgomery and two-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection Yvonne Turner. Senior guard Kala Kuhlmann has also had an outstanding offseason and is expected to earn a start on Tuesday, while senior guard Nicole Neals has also played a major role for the Huskers over the last three seasons. Senior center Nikki Bober is also expected to return to the court on Tuesday, after missing all of Big 12 Conference play in 2009 with an ACL tear in her right knee.
Pittsburg State comes to Lincoln after posting a 20-9 record a year ago. The NCAA Division II Gorillas are entering their third season under Coach Lane Lord. PSU opened the 2009-10 exhibition season on Sunday with an 86-56 loss at Kansas. The Gorillas will complete a three-game exhibition series against Big 12 foes by playing Kansas State on Nov. 9.
Tuesday’s Probable Starters
Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-16, 6-10 Big 12)
23 - Kelsey Griffin - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 15.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg
40 - Cory Montgomery - 6-2 - Sr. - F - 15.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg
13 - Kala Kuhlmann - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg
22 - Yvonne Turner - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 11.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg
24 - Dominique Kelley - 5-7 - Jr. - G - 9.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Head Coach: Connie Yori (Creighton, 1986)
Eighth Season at NU (121-97); 20th Season Overall (316-237)
Pittsburg State Gorillas (20-9, 14-6 MIAA)
40 - Larissa Richards - 6-3 - So. - F/C - 6.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg
42 - Laura Glenn - 5-11 - Jr. - F - 5.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
50 - Nicole McCombs - 6-1 - Sr.- F/C - 15.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg
11 - Maya Onikute - 5-6 - Sr. - G - Transfer
22 - DePrice Taylor - 5-8 - Sr. - G - 10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Head Coach: Lane Lord (Tabor, 1993)
Third Season at PSU (30-26); Third Season Overall (30-26)
Six Seniors Giving Huskers Reasons For Optimism
Nebraska’s six-player senior class - the largest in school history - could play a major role in the Huskers’ hopes for a school-record seventh consecutive postseason tournament berth in 2009-10.
"Our seniors not only did a great job during the offseason of getting better on the court, they also accepted the challenge of leading this team and so far they are doing a great job," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. "We have practiced at a really high level, and their leadership and communication have allowed us to progress very quickly."
Fifth-year senior Kelsey Griffin is the anchor of the class, but NU’s five traditional seniors have also been significant contributors throughout their careers. Griffin, a two-time first-team All-Big 12 pick, averaged 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while leading Nebraska to the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The 6-2 forward from Eagle River, Alaska, returns after redshirting in 2008-09 with a foot injury.
Griffin will be joined up front by 2009 honorable-mentional All-Big 12 selection Cory Montgomery. The 6-2 senior forward from Cannon Falls, Minn., averaged 15.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in her first year as a starter in 2008-09. Montgomery ranked seventh in the league in scoring and eighth in rebounding and enters her senior season ranked among the top 10 in the league in active career scoring (947) and rebounding (457).
"Cory Montgomery is the most underrated player in the Big 12 Conference," Yori said. "She and Kelsey will give us two exceptionally talented scoring and rebounding options inside."
NU’s backcourt will be led by senior Yvonne Turner. The 5-8 guard from Omaha is a two-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection and averaged 11.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game a year ago. She has ranked among league leaders in both steals and three-pointers made the past two seasons. Turner, who already ranks among the top 10 shooters in NU history with 101 career three-pointers, is poised to make a run up Nebraska’s career steals chart this season. She enters the year with 166 career steals and needs just 25 steals to reach NU’s all-time top eight.
Kala Kuhlmann, a 5-8 senior guard from Charter Oak, Iowa, had a tremendous offseason according to Coach Yori, and is expected to earn the start against Pittsburg State. Kuhlmann averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game a year ago, while playing shooting guard, small forward and even power forward as injuries depleted Nebraska’s inside game.
During the offseason, Kuhlmann improved her lateral quickness and has been almost automatic from outside during practice. She could see time up front as Nebraska’s "Hound" for the first time in her career. Kuhlmann has played in 88 career games off the bench in her first three years at NU.
Nicole Neals was one of Nebraska’s top long-range threats a year ago, hitting 25-of-65 three-point attempts. The 5-6 guard from Chandler, Ariz., averaged 3.2 points and 1.4 assists per game while carrying nearly a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Neals also had an outstanding offseason, but was slowed in late-September and early-October by an MCL strain. Neals has also played in 88 career games for NU.
Center Nikki Bober rounds out the Husker senior class. The 6-4 native of Murdock, Neb., has played in 54 career games, including her first career start last season against Southern Utah. Bober was expected to play a major role inside for NU last season during Big 12 Conference play, but suffered an ACL tear on Dec. 30, 2008, just two days after helping the Huskers to an upset of eventual NCAA Elite Eight qualifier Arizona State. Bober had two points, five rebounds and a career-best four blocked shots in a career-high 25 minutes against the Sun Devils.
Four Juniors Provide Even More Experience for Huskers
While Nebraska’s six-player senior class will take center stage this season, a four-player junior class is also expected to make plenty of noise.
Dominique Kelley, a 5-7 guard from Lincoln, has made 64 consecutive starts to open her NU career. Nebraska’s most vocal and emotional player, Kelley averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a sophomore. She also hit 39.3 percent (22-56) of her three-point attempts and is 39-of-101 from long range in her NU career.
Catheryn Redmon, a 6-3 junior center from Grand Prairie, Texas, made 24 straight starts to close the 2008-09 campaign. The top returning shot-blocker in the Big 12, Redmon averaged 3.7 blocks per game over the final nine games last season and gives the Huskers a dominant defensive presence inside. She averaged 5.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game on the year. She is expected to play a key reserve role in Nebraska’s deep playing rotation this season.
Junior Kaitlyn Burke also saw extensive starting action a year ago. The 5-7 guard from North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, started 19 games and averaged 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists despite playing most of the season with a broken and dislocated finger on her shooting hand. Burke has played all 64 games for NU over the past two years, averaging 4.7 points and 1.4 rebounds, while hitting 56-of-174 three-pointers.She is not expected to play against Pittsburg State, as she is still recovering from September foot surgery.
Jessica Periago rounds out the junior class, and could be one of Nebraska’s biggest surprises of the season. The 6-4 center from Toulon, France, emerged late last season and provided major contributions in Big 12 action, including double-figure scoring efforts off the bench at Texas and against Colorado. In Big 12 play, Periago averaged 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 10.3 minutes per game.
"Jess might be our most improved player, and that is saying something considering the gains that all of our players made during the offseason," Yori said. "She is one of our quickest post defenders and she can even step out and guard on the wing. She can also hit the outside shot, and she has gained a lot of strength, fitness and confidence in the offseason."
Four Freshmen Ready for Debut
Although the Huskers have 10 upperclass players who have all earned at least two varsity letters at Nebraska, the NU freshmen are prepared to make an impact of their own in 2009-10.
Redshirt freshman Layne Reeves will make her NU debut against Pittsburg State after sitting out the entire 2008-09 season while recovering from an ACL tear suffered in high school. The 5-11 shooting guard from Lubbock, Texas, gives Nebraska a reliable outside shooting threat and made impressive gains on the defensive end during the offseason. She could be one of the first players off the bench for the Huskers against the Gorillas.
True freshman Lindsey Moore is also expected to be one of the first players off the bench for the Huskers on Tuesday night. The 5-9 point guard from Covington, Wash., earned Parade High School All-America honors a year ago as the Washington High School Player of the Year. Moore is a true point guard and has already shown the ability to quarterback Nebraska’s offense at a high level.
A third freshman, Katya Leick, could also see significant playing time off the bench against Pittsburg State. Leick, a 6-1 forward from Grey Cloud Township, Minn., has missed some early practice time because of illness, but gives Nebraska an excellent rebounder on the wing, which the Huskers have lacked in recent years.
True freshman Meghin Williams will add to Nebraska’s depth inside. The 6-1 forward from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., will be playing behind All-Big 12 forwards Kelsey Griffin and Cory Montgomery, returning starter Catheryn Redmon, senior Nikki Bober and junior Jessica Periago.
Huskers Getting Healthy as Season Approaches
Injuries have been a major concern for Nebraska over the last 12 months, but entering the tip-off for the 2009-10 season, the Huskers appear to be getting healthier by the day.
Two-time first-team All-Big 12 forward Kelsey Griffin is 100 percent after a pair of surgeries on her left foot during her redshirt season in 2008-09. Two-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection Yvonne Turner had shoulder surgery immediately following last season, and is the healthiest she has been the past two years.
Senior center Nikki Bober is nearing 100 percent after a pair of surgeries on her right knee, after suffering an ACL tear on Dec. 30, 2008. Redshirt freshman Layne Reeves is also 100 percent after a pair of surgeries following an ACL tear in December of 2007, while she was a senior at Trinity Christian High School in Lubbock, Texas.
Senior guard Nicole Neals missed four weeks with an MCL strain in late-September and early-October, but returned to action for the second full week of practice and will be available for the exhibition games.
Junior guard Kaitlyn Burke had foot surgery in September and has not yet returned to full strength, but has been gaining ground as the regular season approaches. She is not expected to play in the exhibition opener. Sophomore Harleen Sidhu may also miss be limited for Tuesday’s exhibition against Pittsburg State with an ankle sprain.
Scouting The Pittsburg State Gorillas
Pittsburg State comes to the Devaney Center on Tuesday night for the first-ever meeting between the Huskers and the Gorillas.
Coach Lane Lord led Pittsburg State to a 20-9 record in his second season heading the Pittsburg, Kan., school in 2008-09. The Gorillas just missed the NCAA Division II Tournament after posting a 14-6 MIAA record.
The Gorillas already have one exhibition game under their belts this season, after playing Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence on Sunday. The preseason No. 20 Jayhawks posted an 86-56 win over PSU, thanks to 20 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Aishah Sutherland and 18 points and five assists from Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Danielle McCray. Krysten Boogaard and Nicollette Smith both added double figures while Angel Goodrich dished out 10 assists in her college debut.
Pittsburg State was led by senior forward/center Nicole McCombs, who managed 11 points and a pair of rebounds. The Division I transfer from Drexel University averaged 15.7 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Gorillas a year ago. Fellow senior DePrice Taylor added 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals for PSU, after averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 boards per game a year ago.
Senior guard Maya Onikute, another Division I transfer from the University of Houston, added seven points, six rebounds and three assists in her first start for the Gorillas, while Larissa Richards (4 points, 6 rebounds) and Laura Glenn (1 point, 4 rebounds) rounded out Pittsburg State’s starting five.
Freshman guard Drew Roberts led the Gorilla bench with nine points on a trio of three-pointers, while junior guard Bailey Waugh added six points on a pair of threes. Amanda Orloske, Whitney Conerly and Aubrey Jones also played double-figure minutes for the Gorillas against the Jayhawks.
PSU hit just 30.2 percent (19-63) of its shots at KU, including 5-of-20 three-pointers. The Gorillas were also just 13-of-26 at the free throw line. Pittsburg State committed 24 turnovers and was outrebounded, 50-39. PSU did force 20 miscues by the Jayhawks.
Last season, Pittsburg State averaged 76.2 points per game and hit 42.5 percent of its shots from the field, including an impressive 36.2 percent (191-528) of its three-pointers. The Gorillas hit 6.6 threes per game.
Huskers Seek Seventh Straight Postseason Appearance
Nebraska claimed its sixth consecutive postseason tournament bid with a trip to the 2009 Postseason WNIT. The Huskers claimed three straight bids in the WNIT in 2004, 2005 and 2006, winning at least one game in all three trips. Nebraska advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2008, advancing to the second round of the Big Dance in 2008 with a win over Xavier in College Park, Md.
Before Coach Connie Yori’s arrival at Nebraska for the 2002-03 season, Nebraska had never earned more than three consecutive postseason berths.
Nebraska made its sixth trip to the postseason WNIT in 2009, joining bids in 1992 and 1976. The Huskers have also advanced to seven NCAA Tournaments in school history (2008, 2007, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1993, 1988), dating back to the first full season of varsity women’s basketball at Nebraska in 1975-76.
Griffin To Contend for National Honors in 2009-10
Two-time first-team All-Big 12 forward Kelsey Griffin will contend for All-America honors on the court, in the classroom and in the community in 2009-10.
After redshirting in 2008-09 while recovering from a left foot injury, Griffin returns as the No. 1 active rebounder (665) and No. 3 active scorer (1,348 points) in the Big 12 Conference. After becoming only the third player in Big 12 history to be named a three-time preseason first-team all-league selection, Griffin will contend for All-America honors on the court.
The two-time first-team academic All-Big 12 honoree will also contend for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in the classroom while carrying better than a 3.4 GPA as a biological sciences major. In the community, she is a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award nominee after being named to the 2007 Big 12 Winter Good Works Team.
A projected 2010 WNBA first-round draft pick, Griffin was dominant down the stretch for the Huskers as a junior, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per game over the Huskers’ last 12 contests.
Griffin finished 2007-08 as the No. 7 scorer (15.3 ppg) and No. 12 rebounder (7.2 rpg) in the Big 12 Conference, despite playing with a cracked rib the entire season, which limited her playing time to just 25.9 minutes per game. Despite being limited by the injury, Griffin ranked among the top three players in the Big 12 in points per minute and rebounds per minute, joining 2006 National Player of the Year Courtney Paris. Griffin trailed only Andrea Riley in points per minutes, while trailing only Paris in rebounds per minute across the league.
In NU’s last 12 games, Griffin scored 20 or more points on six occasions, including a 26-point effort against Xavier’s inside duo of Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips to lead the Huskers to their first NCAA Tournament win in 10 seasons. Griffin notched four double-doubles in those 12 games, including a season-high 14 rebounds at Texas Tech.
Griffin was at her best in Big 12 play, ranking fifth with 16.8 points per game and sixth with 8.2 rebounds per contest, despite being the focus of every opposing defense. She also ranked among the top 10 players in the league in both field goal and free throw percentage. She had season highs of 26 points against Xavier, at home against Colorado and at home against Missouri, carrying NU to victories in all three games.
She opened February as the Big 12 Player-of-the-Week on Feb. 4. She produced 23 points and nine rebounds in a win at Missouri on Feb. 3, after going for 19 points and 11 rebounds against No. 18 Kansas State on Jan. 30. She added 25 points in a comeback win at Colorado on Feb. 6, producing 17 second-half points.
Defensively, Griffin led the Huskers with 20 charges drawn in 2007-08, while adding a career-best 40 steals. She also blocked 25 shots on the year.
Griffin ranks 11th on Nebraska’s all-time scoring list with 1,348 points, seventh on NU’s career rebounding list with 665 and ninth on the Husker career block chart with 68.
Montgomery Aims for Memorable Senior Season
Nebraska Coach Connie Yori likes to call senior Cory Montgomery the forgotten player in the Big 12. Yori also believes the 6-2 forward from Cannon Falls, Minn., is the most underrated player in the league.
Last season, Montgomery was overlooked by league coaches for first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors despite ranking among the top 10 players in the league in both scoring and rebounding with 15.2 points (7th) and 7.8 rebounds per game (8th).
Entering the 2009-10 campaign, Montgomery was again passed over by the Big 12 coaches for preseason All-Big 12 honors, not earning a vote for either first-team or honorable-mention honors despite ranking sixth among active Big 12 players in career rebounding (457) and ninth in career scoring (947 points).
Montgomery is out to prove that she belongs among the league’s elite players in 2009-10, while making it a memorable campaign for the Huskers.
Last year, in her first season as a starter, Montgomery was a force inside for the Huskers, averaging 16.2 points and 7.8 boards in Big 12 action. She was at her best over the last seven games of the season, as the honorable-mention All-Big 12 selection increased her production to 19.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Her efforts earned her Nebraska’s Offensive Player-of-the-Year Award at the conclusion of the season.
Montgomery capped the regular season with a career-high 30 points to go along with 11 rebounds in a win at Oklahoma State on March 7 for her seventh double-double of the year. She added 20 points and nine boards against Kansas on March 12, before pitching in 17 points and seven rebounds while tying her career high with a trio of three-pointers in a second-round WNIT loss at New Mexico on March 25.
Montgomery produced double figures in 15 of NU’s last 17 games, including seven 20-point efforts. She had a 20-point, nine-rebound night at Kansas on Feb. 28, which followed a 21-point, eight-rebound effort in a win over No. 20 Kansas State on Feb. 25. She also scored 21 points in the first meeting with KSU on Jan. 27. She notched a then-career high with 24 points, while adding nine boards at Colorado on Jan. 31. She added 22 points and a career-best 14 rebounds against No. 8 Baylor (Feb. 4), while playing a career-high 38 minutes. She notched 24 double-figure scoring efforts on the season.
Overall, Montgomery owns 13 career 20-point efforts, including 11 in 2008-09. She also owns eight career double-doubles with seven coming as a junior.
One of the best free throw shooters in the Big 12 and the nation, Montgomery finished second in the league with her 85.6 percent accuracy at the stripe, which ranked 20th in the final NCAA Division I statistical rankings. She also finished fifth on NU’s single-season free throw percentage list.
Although 2008-09 marked her first year as a full-time starter, Montgomery is one of the most experienced Huskers. In 2007-08, she averaged 9.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as one of the most productive reserves in the Big 12, while also starting four games in place of an injured Kelsey Griffin at the end of the non-conference season.
Montgomery scored in double figures 15 times in 2007-08. She set a season high with 21 points in a win over USC (Dec. 8, 2007), before matching that effort with 21 points and eight boards in 23 minutes off the bench in a victory at Iowa State (Jan. 19, 2008). She also produced her first career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Robert Morris (Dec. 2, 2007).
Turner Trying to Turn Up Nebraska’s Pressure
Yvonne Turner solidified her spot as one of the Big 12’s best defenders in 2008-09 by earning her second straight appearance on the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and earning NU’s Defensive Player-of-the-Year Award. She ranked fourth in the Big 12 with 2.2 steals per game, after leading the Big 12 in league games in 2007-08 with 2.6 steals per contest.
Her 81 steals in 2007-08 ranked as the second-best total by a Husker sophomore in history, while ranking eighth overall on NU’s single-season steals list. She registered just 67 steals last season, while playing much of the year with an injured shoulder. She also spent more minutes on the floor, and without Kelsey Griffin and Nikki Bober in Nebraska’s inside rotation, the Huskers were forced to back off their defensive pressure because of an overall lack of depth.
This season, the Huskers will have their deepest and most experienced lineup in at least a decade, and Turner and the Huskers are hoping that means more steals and easy transition baskets.
Last season, Nebraska totaled just 208 steals on the year, including just 93 in Big 12 action, after producing 266 steals overall and 121 thefts in Big 12 play in 2007-08. It is no coincidence that NU’s scoring average was down 7.7 points per game from a year ago.
With 166 career steals, Turner is approaching Nebraska’s all-time top 10 on that list, needing 22 steals to catch three-time first-team All-Big 12 guard Kiera Hardy (2004-07) in 10th at 188.
Turner owns career highs of eight steals against Florida (Nov. 17, 2007) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Jan. 2, 2008). Those totals rank among the top-10 single-game marks in NU history. She is one of only three Huskers to notch eight or more steals twice in a career.
VT for Three
Yvonne Turner (nickname VT) led the Huskers with 57 three-pointers in 2008-09. Turner hit 44-of-116 three-point attempts (37.9 percent) over the last 22 games, despite missing 19 consecutive long-range attempts following a shoulder injury in the second half of the Iowa State game. The recurring injury required surgery at the end of the season.
Before the three-game slump, Turner had connected on 47.7 percent (21-44) of her attempts dating back to the Long Beach State game on Dec. 12. After missing her first three attempts against No. 8 Baylor, she knocked down three straight three-pointers in the second half against the Lady Bears.
In Big 12 Conference action, Turner finished in a tie for second with KU’s Danielle McCray with 2.1 made three-pointers per game, trailing only Iowa State senior Heather Ezell’s 2.4 per contest.
Turner finished second on the Husker junior single-season three-point made list, trailing only three-time All-Big 12 selection Kiera Hardy’s 81 in 2005-06. Turner cracked NU’s career top 10 in three-pointers at Texas and sits in sixth with 101 career triples. She needs 28 more three-pointers to catch Husker greats Nicole Kubik (1997-2000) and Amy Stephens (1986-89) on the Husker career chart.
As a junior, Turner averaged 11.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. She enters her senior season ranked among the top 10 active Big 12 players in both career three-pointers and career steals (166).
Huskers Earn Votes in AP Preseason Top 25 Poll
Nebraska received six votes in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 poll released on Oct. 30. Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas were all ranked in the preseason top 25, while fellow Big 12 schools Texas A&M, Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State all received preseason votes.
Last season, Nebraska received votes in five regular-season USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 polls, most recently earning four votes on Dec. 16, 2008. The Huskers were one of eight Big 12 Conference schools that received votes in the coaches poll in 2008-09, joining Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas Tech.
Huskers Geared Up for Another Strong Schedule
The past two seasons, Nebraska has faced the two strongest regular-season schedules in school history with both ranking among the top 25 nationally.
Last season, the Huskers faced the No. 23 Strength of Schedule in the country according to CollegeRPI.com, while finishing No. 71 nationally in overall RPI.
The 2008-09 Huskers played 19 of their 31 games against 2009 postseason qualifiers, including 11 against NCAA Tournament teams
This season, Nebraska will face another challenging schedule that will feature 15 regular-season games against 2009 postseason qualifiers, including 10 games against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams.
The highlight of Nebraska’s non-conference schedule will come with a Dec. 20 showdown against AP Preseason No. 7 LSU at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. The Huskers battled the Tigers on New Year’s Day in Baton Rouge, and will be looking to even the two-game home-and-home series when the preseason SEC favorites come to Lincoln. LSU advanced to five consecutive NCAA Final Fours before settling for a trip to the second round with a young squad a year ago.
Nebraska will face preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite Creighton on Dec. 9 at the Devaney Center, and will also square off with preseason America East favorite Vermont at Burlington, Vt., on Jan. 4. The Catamounts lost to 2009 national champion Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament first round a year ago.
The Huskers will face their first tough test against defending Sun Belt Conference champion UALR in the first game of the Saint Mary’s Hilton Tournament in Moraga, Calif., on Nov. 27. UALR returns all five starters from a team that finished with a 26-7 record a year ago.
Once Big 12 play begins, Nebraska will be faced with an NCAA Tournament-caliber atmosphere every night. The Big 12 sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament as top-six seeds in 2009, and all six teams (No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Baylor, No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 Iowa State, No. 5 Kansas State, No. 6 Texas) closed the regular season in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25.
In addition, Kansas returns five starters from a team that advanced to the WNIT championship game, while Oklahoma State also advanced to the WNIT and Texas Tech was postseason eligible.
Powerful Big 12 Produced Postseason Success in 2009
The Big 12 was rated as the No. 1 RPI league in the nation for the third consecutive season in 2008-09 by CollegeRPI.com. When the field of 64 teams for the NCAA Tournament was announced, six league teams (Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas) earned top-six seeds into the tournament. Three more teams, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma State, claimed spots in the 48-team WNIT field.
The Big 12 matched the Big East Conference by sending four teams to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2009, while Oklahoma and Iowa State both advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. OU went on to the Final Four. In addition to the league’s success in the NCAA Tournament, Nebraska earned a bye to the second round of the WNIT, while Oklahoma State went 1-1 in the tournament. Kansas advanced all the way to the WNIT championship game.
All 12 conference teams closed the 2008-09 regular season among the top 126 teams in the CollegeRPI.com rankings of the 341 teams in NCAA Division I. Only Missouri and Colorado ranked outside the top 100.
Nebraska Hopes to Benefit From Big 12 Changes in 2009-10
Last season a Nebraska team that was hit hard by injuries battled to a seventh-place tie in the Big 12 Conference standings, finishing with a 6-10 league record against the nation’s strongest conference.
Entering the 2008-09 campaign, the Big 12 returned 48 starters from the 2007-08 season. Overall, only 35 letterwinners were lost from the Big 12 schools from the 2007-08 season, while 98 letterwinners returned for 2008-09.
This season, just 38 starters return for the 2009-10 season across the 12 league schools, including a league-leading six Huskers. A total of just 53 letterwinners are gone from the conference, including just two Huskers, while 96 letterwinners return, including 11 Huskers.
Last season, the top five Big 12 teams (Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Iowa State) all featured lineups with more than 375 career starts, while Nebraska ended the year with far and away the most inexperienced starting five, which had just 202 combined career starts.
Baylor loses more than 350 career starts from its lineup last year, while Kansas State and Texas A&M must compensate for the loss of more than 300 combined career starts. Iowa State must replace nearly 300 starts, while Oklahoma needs to make up for the more than 200 career starts and the amazing scoring and rebounding production of Courtney and Ashley Paris.
While those five Big 12 teams will have drastically new looks in their starting lineup in 2009-10, the Huskers will be bolstered by the return of Kelsey Griffin to its starting five. Griffin has started 93 games in her Nebraska career and gives the Huskers well over 250 career starts among the projected starting five and nearly 300 career starts from the roster.
Hometown Husker Kelley Stepped Up as Sophomore
Dominique Kelley stepped up her game in every area in her second season with the Huskers in 2008-09. The 5-7 guard out of Lincoln Northeast High School ranked third on the team in scoring with 9.7 points per game, while adding 3.3 rebounds per contest. Kelley also led the Huskers with 2.5 assists per game while adding nearly one steal per contest.
Kelley produced a strong 16-point, six-rebound effort in NU’s win over Missouri on Feb. 21, just a week after going for 15 points and five rebounds in a win over Texas Tech (Feb. 14). She also added three assists and a career-high three steals in a career-high 35 minutes against the Lady Raiders. Kelley produced double figures in four of NU’s last seven games, including 10 points in NU’s win over Oklahoma State on March 7, when she added a game-high five assists and tied her career best with three steals. She had 13 points in NU’s win over Colorado on March 3.
Kelley produced 16 double-figure scoring efforts in 31 games as a sophomore, after managing double-digit point totals just seven times in 33 starts as a freshman. In 2007-08, Kelley set a school record by starting all 33 games as a true freshman. She finished the year averaging 6.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
She was honored as a "Hometown Husker" during NU’s win over Kansas on Jan. 21. As part of the festivities, Kelley’s younger sister, Taneah, a freshman at the University of Nebraska, sang the national anthem during pregame ceremonies.
Kelley, who has made 64 consecutive starts to open her career, had a 16-point, four-assist effort at Colorado on Jan. 31. It was Kelley’s highest scoring performance of her career in a Big 12 game, which she matched in a win over Mizzou (Feb. 21).
Kelley produced the best all-around game of her young career with a career-high 21 points to help NU to a 67-54 win over Butler (Nov. 28). She hit 5-of-8 shots from the field and set career bests by going 11-for-12 at the line. She added five rebounds, three assists, two steals and her first career blocked shot against the Bulldogs.
Kelley’s effort in Albuquerque came a week after two solid performances against Creighton and Southern Utah. She tied her then-career high with 16 points, while adding four assists and three rebounds to shoot the Huskers to victory at CU. Kelley hit 7-of-11 shots from the field, including both of her three-point attempts against the Bluejays. Her second three of the night put the Huskers ahead for good with 3:10 left in the game.
After celebrating her 20th birthday on Nov. 20, Kelley finished with 14 points and a career-high six assists, while adding four rebounds and two steals in a win over Southern Utah (Nov. 22). She added 12 points against Oral Roberts, before contributing 16 points and 9-of-10 free throw shooting against Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 9.
Take Cover When the Big Cat Roars
Center Catheryn Redmon produced one of the best single-season block efforts in school history with 67 rejections as a sophomore in 2008-09. She ranked second on the sophomore single-season list, trailing only Janet Smith’s 69 blocks in 1979-80. Nebraska’s overall single-season mark was set by Danielle Page with 78 in 2007-08. Redmon is just the third player in history to record 60 or more blocks in a season.
Redmon’s single-season mark was even more amazing considering she blocked 64 of her 67 shots on the year in her 24 games as a starter, after blocking just three shots in limited action through NU’s first seven games of the season. As a starter, Redmon averaged 2.7 blocks per game, including 2.8 in Big 12 Conference action.
Her conference blocks trailed only All-Americans Courtney Paris from Oklahoma (3.1 bpg) and Danielle Wilson from Baylor (3.0 bpg). In fact, Redmon is the only top-five shot-blocker returning to the Big 12 in 2009-10, as Kansas State’s Marlies Gipson and Texas’ Ashley Lindsey both departed the league as seniors. Paris was also a senior in 2008-09, while Wilson left the Baylor team following her junior season.
Redmon continued to increase her defensive dominance inside throughout the 2008-09 season, blocking 30 shots in NU’s final nine games (3.3 bpg), including one of the top single-game block performances in NU history with a career-high seven rejections in the win over No. 20 Kansas State on Feb. 25. Redmon’s total tied for the second-best mark in school history, trailing only Page’s nine blocks against Baylor on Feb. 3, 2007.
Redmon added five blocks in a win over Colorado on March 3 and five more rejections at New Mexico in the second round of the WNIT on March 25. Her amazing shot-blocking season catapulted her into eighth place on Nebraska’s career block list with 76, eight more than two-time All-Big 12 forward Kelsey Griffin (68).
Redmon Provided Solid Production as Starter
Center Catheryn Redmon started NU’s final 24 games in 2008-09 and averaged 6.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in the lineup. Twenty of Redmon’s starts came against teams that qualified for 2008 postseason play, including 13 2008 NCAA Tournament squads.
Redmon made a name for herself as one of the best shot-blockers in NU history. With 67 blocks, Redmon produced the second-best total by a sophomore in school history and jumped to eighth on Nebraska’s career list with 76.
She produced arguably the best game of her career with 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots at Missouri (Jan. 17), for her third career double-double. She just missed her fourth double-double, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds at Colorado on Jan. 31.
Just two days after two-time first-team All-Big 12 forward Kelsey Griffin underwent season-ending ankle surgery (Dec. 4), Redmon made her first career start against two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Jantel Lavender and No. 18 Ohio State. In the first half against the Buckeyes, Redmon outscored Lavender, 8-6, to help the Huskers to a 10-point halftime lead. The Buckeyes rallied for a late victory against NU, but Redmon posted the first double-figure scoring effort of her career. Three days later, Redmon earned her second career start and provided a memorable effort in a win over Cal State Bakersfield.
Redmon erupted for her first career double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds against the Roadrunners, while also adding three blocked shots and two steals. She produced a double-double in the second half alone, going off for 11 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals after halftime, including seven points, seven boards and both blocks in the final seven minutes.
Redmon added her second straight double-digit rebounding effort with 10 boards to go along with six points, two blocks and a steal in NU’s run past Long Beach State. She added her second career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds at UTEP on Dec. 20, her third straight double-figure rebounding effort.
In NU’s win over No. 24 Arizona State on Dec. 28, Redmon scored 10 or her 12 points in the second half to help fuel the Huskers’ comeback from a 16-point first-half deficit. She added six rebounds and added three blocks against ASU.
Redmon added solid numbers in her 2009 Big 12 debut against All-American Courtney Paris. Redmon scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds and had three blocked shots going head-to-head with Paris.
Huskers a Fixture on FSN in 2009-10
Once Big 12 Conference play heats up in January, Nebraska will become a regular on the Fox Sports family of networks.
The Huskers will play three nationally televised games on FSN during the first half of the 16-game Big 12 Conference schedule. Nebraska makes its national TV debut at Baylor on Saturday, Jan. 17, when the Huskers take on 6-foot-8 dunking machine Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears.
Six days later, Nebraska will be back on FSN at the Bob Devaney Sports Center when the Huskers play host to the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 11 a.m.
On Saturday, Jan. 30, Nebraska travels to Boulder to take on Colorado in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports Rocky Mountain, with a 4:30 p.m. central time tip-off. NU’s next contest with Oklahoma State on Feb. 3 at 7:05 p.m. will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest as part of the Huskers’ third-tier television agreement.
Nebraska plays its third national TV contest in its first eight Big 12 games when the Huskers square off with Texas A&M at the Devaney Center on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Noon.
The Huskers return to Fox Sports Midwest for road action at Kansas on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m.
Both of Nebraska’s contests on Fox Sports Midwest will also feature a free live video stream on Huskers.com. As many as five of NU’s games will appear for free on Huskers.com throughout the season, while all of Nebraska’s non-nationally televised home games will be available to premium subscribers of HuskersNside.
Many of Nebraska’s road games will also be available through the premium service on HuskersNside.
All of Nebraska’s games will be available with free live audio on Huskers.com.
Huskers Have Success Against Top 25 Foes
Nebraska has made a habit of knocking off top-25 opponents during Coach Connie Yori’s seven seasons at the helm. In fact, the Huskers’ most recent win over No. 20 Kansas State marked the 12th victory over a ranked foe during Yori’s tenure. The Huskers notched two wins over top-25 foes in 2008-09, including a victory over No. 24 Arizona State on Dec. 28.
Included in those victories is a 103-99 triple overtime win over No. 2 and eventual national champion Baylor on Jan. 12, 2005, which marks the highest ranked team Nebraska has ever defeated.
The Huskers also posted an 18-point win over No. 9 Kansas State in 2004, and a 29-point win over No. 14 Iowa State in 2005 - NU’s largest victory margin in history over a top-25 foe.
Nebraska’s 56-45 win over No. 15 Texas last season at the Devaney Center also marked the lowest point total ever allowed by the Huskers against a ranked opponent.
Before Yori’s arrival at Nebraska in 2002-03, the Huskers had not defeated a top-10 team since a 73-67 win over No. 9 Iowa on Dec. 8, 1996, and had never beaten a top-five opponent.
NU Shows North Division Dominance over Last Four Years
Over the last four years, Nebraska leads the North Division with a 26-14 regular-season record against the other five Big 12 North Division opponents. Kansas State and Iowa State are both 25-15 over the past four years against North foes.
Despite suffering multiple season-ending injuries to key contributors in 2008-09, Nebraska still battled Big 12 North Division foes with success. During the second half of the league season, the Huskers posted a 3-2 record in Big 12 North rematches to finish the season with a 4-6 regular-season mark against North opponents.
Nebraska closed 2008-09 North Division play with a 75-64 win over Colorado on March 3. The Huskers managed season splits with Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri and Colorado, while surrendering a sweep to Iowa State. The Huskers suffered a 67-66 loss at Missouri on Jan. 17, and a 75-73 loss at Colorado on Jan. 31. In the rematches in Lincoln, NU posted double-figure wins over both the Tigers (65-52) and Buffaloes (75-64). NU also posted a nine-point home win over Kansas (67-58) on Jan. 21, before notching a 52-47 win over No. 20 Kansas State in Lincoln on Feb. 25.
Nebraska’s History of Success at Home
Since the Bob Devaney Sports Center opened in 1976-77, the Huskers are 335-118 (.740) in games played in the arena, including 125-77 (.619) in conference games. NU finished 2007-08 with a 14-2 home record, tying for the second-highest home victory total in school history. Nebraska added an 11-4 record at the Devaney Center in 2008-09, marking NU’s sixth consecutive season with 10 or more home wins, the longest stretch in school history.
Nebraska’s success at home is even more remarkable considering the strength of the Huskers’ home schedule the past two years. Nebraska’s only losses at the Devaney Center in 2008-09 came to top-25 foes Oklahoma, Ohio State, Iowa State and Baylor. NU also owns top-25 wins over No. 20 Kansas State and No. 24 Arizona State in 2008-09.
In 2007-08, 11 of NU’s 16 home games came against teams that advanced to the postseason in 2008, with the Huskers rolling to an impressive 9-2 record. Not only did Husker foes advance to postseason play, 10 of the 11 opponents won at least one game in a postseason tournament, including 2008 NCAA Elite Eight qualifier Texas A&M. Included among the five Husker home foes that did not advance to postseason play in 2008, were traditional powers USC and Ole Miss, which was coming off a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2007.
Since 2003-04, NU is 71-22 (.763) at the Devaney Center, with no more than four losses in any season.