Nebraska (16-6, 6-3) at Northwestern (11-11, 3-6)
Thursday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m. (central)
Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, Ill.)
Live TV/Video: NET/BTN.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; 1230 AM-KHAS, Hastings; 94.1 FM-KNEB, Scottsbluff; 1400 AM-KCOW, Alliance)
Internet: Free live audio on Huskers.com
One of the great joys of watching a team play game after game each season is to watch them grow and develop. Most teams aren't the same from November to February and that's certainly the case with this year's Nebraska women's basketball team.
After struggling to find an offensive rhythm and a defensive identity early in the season, the Huskers have won four games in a row, including last Sunday's 80-56 win over Minnesota. The 24-point victory gave NU a season sweep over the Gophers and now Nebraska finds itself in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten with a 16-6 overall record, 6-3 in the league.
Jordan Hooper has been torching the nets lately, scoring 27 points against the Gophers after posting 28 points in her previous game at Ohio State. The development of guard Rachel Theriot, who has quickly become one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten, has been fun to watch. Her offensive numbers are impressive, but her nose for the ball on the defensive end has been key to Nebraska stopping their opponents.
Theriot and senior Lindsey Moore have become a great backcourt tandem. The two combined for 23 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists and only one turnover against Minnesota. Moore is expected to set the school record for consecutive starts with 121 when Nebraska faces Northwestern in Evanston Thursday night.
Northwestern is a scrappy team with a deceptive 11-11 overall record (3-6 Big Ten). Five of the their 11 losses have been by five points or less, but the Wildcats head into Thursday night's game with momentum, coming off a dramatic last-second 67-65 come-from-behind victory at No. 24 Iowa Sunday. Trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, point guard Karly Roser went coast-to-coast and hit a running layup that beat the buzzer to give Northwestern the win.
The Wildcats lead the Big Ten Conference in blocked shots per game (5.8) but are last in turnover margin (-2.8). They have used the same starting lineup the last eight games, and those five starters feature one tall point guard (5-10) and four forwards who are all over six feet tall, including a 6-5 forward who has stepped out beyond the arc to hit 20 three-pointers.
Senior forward Kendall Hackney has never missed a game in her college career and is expected to start her 90th straight game Thursday night against Nebraska. The 2009 Ohio High School Player of the Year, Hackney has been named honorable-mention All-Big Ten twice. She leads the Wildcats in scoring this season (14.9 ppg).
Dannielle Diamant, a 6-5 senior, leads the team in rebounds (7.5 rpg) and adds 12.2 points per contest. A matchup nightmare for the opposition, she has hit 73 three-pointers in her career, including 20 this season. Basketball is a huge part of Diamant's family as the Las Vegas native is the granddaughter of legendary UNLV men's coach Jerry Tarkanian. She was named honorable-mention All-Big Ten last year. She had a game-high 19 points in Northwestern's win in Lincoln in 2012.
Two true freshmen have solidified the Wildcats' starting lineup this season. Maggie Lyon is second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg) and leads the team in three-pointers (35). In fact, Northwestern is 9-3 this season when Lyon makes at least two threes in a game. Lauren Douglas is one of three Wildcats to start all 22 games this season. She leads the team in blocked shots (38) and adds 9.6 points per game. Roser has been the workhorse at point guard, leading the team in assists and steals. The former team captain of Canada's Under-17 National Team adds 9.5 points per contest and ranks 15th nationally with 6.5 assists per game.
Joe McKeown is in his fifth season as head coach at Northwestern. He spent most of his 27-year career at George Washington, where he was the five-time Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year during his 19 years at the Washington, D.C. school. A 1979 graduate of Kent State, McKeown still holds the school single-game assist record when he dished out 15 assists against Bowling Green for the Flashes in 1978.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northwestern 5-2. The teams split two games last season with the Wildcats winning the regular season meeting in Lincoln 63-51. The Huskers flew past Northwestern 88-56 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, racing to a 41-10 lead in the first 13 minutes.
The last time Nebraska faced the Wildcats in Evanston was in 2005. Kelsey Griffin had 22 points and seven rebounds and Danielle Page came off the bench to add 14 points and five rebounds to lead NU to an 80-50 victory.
I cordially invite you to join Jeff Griesch and me for Nebraska women's basketball on the Husker Sports Network. Our radio broadcast Thursday night begins with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. (central) with the tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. on the Husker Sports Network, including Lincoln affiliate KBBK 107.3 FM (B107.3), KTWI 93.3 FM (The Wolf) in Omaha, KRVN 880 in Lexington, KHAS 1230 in Hastings, KCOW 1400 in Alliance, KNEB 94.1 in Scottsbluff, 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!