Basketball Opening Night Photo No. 5

Nebraska’s Keisei Tominaga goes for a layup during the Nebraska Basketball opening night at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The atmosphere inside Pinnacle Bank Arena couldn’t have been more stark in contrast to the empty rows of seats the venue had experienced in the months beforehand.

As both women’s basketball head coach Amy Williams and men’s basketball head coach Fred Hoiberg spoke to the crowd, the audience would respond in kind. Inflections in their voices hit the crowd like a wave rippling from the center of the arena. 

The night involved presentations and speeches, with both teams also playing in  front  of a home audience for the first time since March of 2020, though the highlight of the night for many may’ve been the concert featuring G. Herbo afterwards.

Williams and her team are looking to bounce back this season, and after the performance at the scrimmage, the coach has a few excellent pieces to work with.

Though the Husker women’s basketball team lost center Kate Cain, Nebraska’s all-time blocks leader , it retained the services of junior guard Sam Haiby. Haiby showed her ability during the scrimmage, and will likely be a talismanic figure for the Huskers with the absence of Cain.

Furthermore, a budding star in freshman forward Alexis Markowski showed an ability to replicate some of Cain’s offensive production. Markowski is smaller than Cain, and likely won’t have the same post presence as Cain did, but nonetheless showed an aptitude for the basket.

Markowski went into Nebraska the 76th best player in her recruiting class according to World Exposure, and if she’s able to turn her talent into a real effect, the Nebraska women’s basketball team could plug up a hole in its lineup.

Overall, the Nebraska women’s basketball team has many parts of its game it needs to improve on given how last season ended, but with some new additions, and with certain players taking the next step in their development, the team could manage new heights on the year.

As freshman guard Bryce McGowens, Nebraska’s first five-star recruit in history, walked up to the presentation stage, the energy in the arena exploded. 

That being said, the audience reserved its loudest cheer for sophomore guard Keisei Tominaga from Japan.

“This is one of the most lovely sights I’ve ever seen,” Hoiberg said to the crowd at PBA. “I can promise you this: you’re absolutely going to love this team...We’ve got great skill.”

The roar for Tominaga didn’t die down, as he showed off what made him so valuable during the scrimmage. Tominaga hit a 3-pointer several steps back behind the arc at one point, which compelled delight when it went in. Tominaga was one of the standout performers during the scrimmage, showing off his incredible perimeter shooting ability.

McGowens, too, played up to the crowd. As the lane broke open, perhaps on purpose, the five-star recruit bounced the ball off the backboard for a self alley-oop, which was also warmly received by the audience.

Freshman center Wilhelm Breidenbach had a nice moment when he hit a 3-pointer off of a quick release, though was later embarrassed by senior guard Kobe Webster, who crossed the center up at around the right wing.

Webster wasn’t safe, though. Arizona State transfer and senior guard Alonzo Verge repaid the favor later by breaking the guard’s ankles, the two sharing a laugh about it after Verge drained the shot.

McGowens also turned provider for his brother, junior guard Trey McGowens, at one point in the scrimmage with a nasty reverse alley-oop that excited the crowd. Trey McGowens also later hit a windmill dunk during proceedings. Rather unsurprisingly, the McGowens brothers seem to have an on-court chemistry which will only be helpful when the season begins.

Though it was, of course, just some opening night fun, Verge showed off his incredible handles during the scrimmage. It was this ability which may make him the starting primary ball-handler this season for Nebraska.

Junior forward Derrick Walker, who was a significant piece for the Huskers last season, also tried out his own 3-point shot on occasion. This represents a significant departure for the forward. Walker has only attempted one 3-pointer so far his entire career.

Walker diversifying his arsenal may be a fun one-off, or it may be out of necessity with Breidenbach’s multi-tool set on the periphery of the Husker lineup.

Overall, opening night for Husker basketball achieved what it set out to do. As the first event of the season, the Huskers excited fans with their potential while also showing the most spectacular edges of their game.

There was also G. Herbo, which is also a plus.

sports@dailynebraskan.com