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Nebraska women’s basketball prepares for NCAA Tournament

  • Natasha Rausch
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With 7:53 left in the game, Jordan Hooper sprained her ankle.

No. 2 seeded Duke had the game in the bag after that.

The Norfolk regional is where the Huskers ended their NCAA Tournament run last season. Duke took the 53-45 win and moved on to the Elite Eight to play Notre Dame, where it lost 87-76.

Nebraska coach Connie Yori said this year is different, though. With a Big Ten Championship and the most home wins in Husker history (16), she said the team is still looking for more.

“I told them after the Big Ten Tournament that there’s two things that can happen,” the Big Ten Coach of the Year said. “You can either be complacent and satisfied or really hungry, and I feel like in the few days we’ve practiced, we’ve been really hungry.”

On Selection Monday, the (25-6, 12-4 Big Ten) Huskers were given a No. 4 seed and are set to play No. 13 seeded Fresno State in Los Angeles in the first round.

The (22-10, 13-5 Mountain West) Bulldogs also won their conference championship before entering the NCAA tournament.

If the Huskers make it to the second round of play, they will be up against either No. 5 North Carolina State or No. 12 BYU.

“We are not overlooking anybody, and we are not written in the Sweet 16 right now,” Yori said. “It’s hard to win two games in the state tournament.”

But Yori said having experience as a team will help in this year’s bracket.

“Having been there and having had some success in last year’s tournament, our kids should feel some comfort in playing the tournament,” she said. “As much as we’re rooting and cheering for our men’s basketball team, it’s hard when you haven’t been there.”

If the team does make it to the Sweet 16 it could potentially play the reigning champs and No. 1 seeded Connecticut on Nebraska’s home court in the Lincoln regional.

The Huskies have made it to at least this stage of the NCAA Tournament for the past 20 seasons in a row. They went undefeated this season with a 34-0 overall record and have lay claim to six of the past 12 national titles.

“That’s a huge opportunity that we could play them at our home court,” said Hooper, who averages 20.3 points per game. “But you have to take care of business in the first two games.”

Hooper played with two of UConn’s players on the USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team last summer: junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who averages 12.4 points per game and senior guard Bria Hartley, who averages 16.4 points per game.

Junior forward Tear’a Laudermill said she still wants to go farther this year.

“It’s great to have a Big Ten championship on our backs,” said Laudermill, who had the second-highest 3-pointers this season with 54. “It’s not about having a ring, it’s about going further. Like coach said, we’ve got to be hungry.”

If the Huskers make it past the UConn Huskies, they could potentially face No. 2 seeded Duke once again in the NCAA Tournament. This time it would be in the Elite Eight.

Unlike Nebraska and UConn, the (27-6, 12-4 Atlantic Coast) Duke Blue Devils lost in their conference championship game.

“I don’t have any feelings of finishing anytime soon,” Hooper said. “I know it will end, but I’m just focusing on Fresno State and trying to worry about that.”

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