With 7:53 remaining in the 2013 Sweet 16 NCAA tournament game against No. 5 Duke, Nebraska forward Jordan Hooper sprained her ankle. Although Hooper contributed six points and 11 rebounds for the Huskers, Duke beat Nebraska 53-45.
The loss ended the National Championship run for Nebraska, but left the No. 6-seeded Huskers with their winningest season in history. Nebraska finished as the Big Ten Conference regular season runner-up with a 12-4 record and 25-9 overall record. Following the season, Hooper recovered from her ankle sprain and was able to play with the gold medal USA basketball team.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, Nebraska will return four of its starters from the NCAA Sweet 16 game. The only Husker missing is point guard Lindsey Moore who graduated and is now playing in the WNBA for the Minnesota Lynx.
Sophomore guard Rachel Theriot has taken over Moore’s place in the starting lineup. In the first exhibition game against Pittsburg State, however, she was forced to sit the bench because of an ankle sprain. She started the following game against the University of Nebraska at Kearney, though.
“As I said there is nobody in our program who is going to replace Lindsey,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We have to do it collectively, everyone has to get better, we have to get more products of our returning starters and they have got to expand their game. Rachel Theriot will be moving to point guard but that leaves a void at the wing spot. There is a reason why Lindsey rarely left the floor.”
With seven returning letter winners on the team this year, Nebraska looks to kick off its first season in the Pinnacle Bank Arena. With the new arena, Lincoln has been chosen to host one of the four-team NCAA regionals – the first time an NCAA basketball tournament game has been held in Lincoln since 1993.
Already having played two exhibition games on the new court, the team is beginning to get used to its new home.
“We’re still getting used to the gym,” said Hooper who was chosen to the preseason coaches and media team. “It’s starting to feel more like home.”
Before the season began, the Huskers were named the Big Ten Conference preseason team of the year. This is the first time in Nebraska history that the Huskers have been chosen for the honor.
“I didn’t pick us to win the Big Ten and I’m not sure why everybody else did, because we have a lot of work to do, but, you know, the poll is for you guys to have an opportunity to write about something,” Yori said. “That’s how we look at it and it doesn’t change what we do or who we are. It does put more of a target on our back, but, yet, we still go about our business and try to do the things we always do.”
Yori will be returning for her 12th season at Nebraska. As the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2013, Yori has become the winningest coach in Husker history. She is hoping to be able to play in the regional that will be hosted on her home court at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“We’re excited to be in that position,” Yori said, “but to be playing on those dates is another thing, whether that comes to fruition. In terms of the big picture and what is happening with women’s basketball, I’m overall a proponent for what is going to happen in the future with going back to the top 16 seeds hosting and having neutral regionals.”
Beside the returning players and coach, the Huskers have a few new faces in the team roster including guards Hannah Tvrdy and Esther Ramacieri and forward Allie Havers. Tvrdy started in her first collegiate exhibition game against Pittsburg State. In the first two exhibition games combined, Tvrdy has averaged 10 points. Alongside Tvrdy is the 6-foot-5-inch Havers who has averaged five rebounds in the past two games.
In the preseason, Nebraska beat both Pittsburg State and UNKwith final scores of 95-47 and 75-34, respectively. The Huskers will kick off their regular season this Friday when they play UCLA in the Pinnacle Bank Arena.