Husker women hoping for lots of winning

November 17, 2018

Nebraska head coach Amy Williams argues with a referee at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday.

Nebraska women’s basketball coach Amy Williams says she probably didn’t do the team any favors when putting together the nonconference schedule for this season, especially with a team with seven first- or second-year players.

In the first game of the season Nebraska played Drake, an NCAA Tournament team with veteran players, and lost.

Now, the Huskers (1-1) will play their next five games on the road, starting with Friday’s game against Washington State (0-2) in Pullman, Washington. In one week, Nebraska will have played on both sides of the country, after playing in Miami next week.

In the nonconference season, Nebraska will play four teams from the Power Five conferences on the road: Washington State, Miami, Louisville and Arkansas.

The plan was to play a more challenging schedule this season in hopes of improving the Huskers’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament, then a few factors led to the schedule getting even more difficult.

Last season, Nebraska finished in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten Conference, and also reached the semifinals of the conference tournament. Williams felt like doing that should have safely had the Huskers in the NCAA Tournament. But Nebraska was on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament because the Huskers’ RPI was 60, and its strength of schedule No. 61. Nebraska did get chosen for the NCAA Tournament last season.

Williams wants to give Nebraska a chance to have a better RPI this season, assuming the Huskers win enough.

“When people were talking a little bit about our RPI one year ago being a little too low, I certainly wanted to make sure that we were not going to be in that position again,” Williams said. “We scheduled a little bit more challenging. We picked up some games that we knew were going to be tough.”

Several of Nebraska’s opponents were already set because this was the second year of two-year contracts, including games against Washington State, Kansas and Arkansas.

But, Nebraska got in a more challenging tournament over Thanksgiving weekend this year, having to play 24th-ranked Miami on its home court, and also Radford, which won 24 games last season.

Then after Nebraska got a lot of its schedule set up, the slate got even more challenging with some factors out of the Nebraska’s control.

In the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Nebraska got matched up against No. 5 Louisville. Also, the Big Ten went from playing 16 conference games to 18. And the five teams Nebraska has to play twice in league play are historically some of the best, including Maryland, Michigan, Iowa and Purdue.

“It’s maybe gone violently into significantly more challenging schedule, and we were shooting for a little bit more challenging schedule,” Williams said.

But Williams thinks the Huskers can handle what’s ahead of them.

“It’s something that our players welcome, and they know that it’s going to prepare us for where we want to be in the end,” Williams said.

With two games to study now, Williams is looking for the Huskers to play better and with more urgency on defense.

“We have plenty of possessions in our first two ballgames where we have people working hard and then a shot goes up and maybe three of our five people make the commitment they need to finish the possession with a box-out,” she said. “The one or two that didn’t keep their focus all the way through the end of the possession, that would be where we gave up an offensive rebound, or something.”

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