LINCOLN, Neb. - Six Big Ten women’s basketball teams were selected for the NCAA tournament.
But after Tuesday night, when four of them lost in second-round games, there is only one left in the Sweet 16: Nebraska.
This season, the Huskers started out with barely enough healthy players to conduct meaningful practices. The team was so inexperienced and lacking in depth that coach Connie Yori junked her free-wheeling motion offense and replaced it with the more structured Princeton system. After losing three of five to start Big Ten play, she abandoned her favored full-court man-to-man defense, swallowed hard and played zone.
The adjustments worked. The Huskers have won 13 of 15 games since mid-January.
“We had high expectations for ourselves this season,” said point guard Lindsey Moore, whose Cornhuskers finished second in the Big Ten. “I don’t necessarily think everybody else did.”
Next for the sixth-seeded Huskers (25-8) is Sunday’s game against second seed Duke (32-2) in the Norfolk (Va.) Regional.
“Duke is one of the most talented teams in the nation,” Yori said. “They have a roster filled from top to bottom with college All-Americans, All-ACC players, high school All-Americans and USA national program players. It seems like they are in the national-championship discussion every year, and there are some really good reasons for that.”
Duke’s 6-3 Elizabeth Williams is an intimidating center. The Blue Devils also play a pressure defense conducive to forcing turnovers.
But Nebraska is on a roll, especially after Monday’s 74-63 victory over Texas A&M on the Aggies’ home court.
Yori, the Big Ten coach of the year, has done a masterful job getting her team to peak late.
“I don’t think anyone is ready for our season to be over,” said Moore, who is averaging 15.1 points and 5.6 assists per game. “Nobody’s burned out. Everybody wants to keep playing and keep winning. We know this team is special, and we want to prove to everyone why it’s so special.”