A year ago, Nebraska ended a season of disappointment with maybe its most frustrating display. The ‘Huskers lost a second-round WNIT game at New Mexico 54-43, making 11 shots and committing 17 turnovers.
The postgame feeling “was horrible,” Turner remembered.
But at that point, Yori was already thinking ahead. The preparation for next season starts now, she told a dejected group slated to return all but one player.
The players listened. For the first time, every returnee stayed on campus for both five-week summer school sessions. They worked out together constantly. They played pickup games, including every other Sunday driving 50 miles to play members of the Creighton women’s team.
The ‘Huskers also split into small groups, each mini-team making sure all of its members worked to improve.
“For the most part, everybody bought into it,” Kelley said. “Everybody had a really good attitude, hence we’re (undefeated).”
Is it really that simple?
In many ways, Yori says it is. “I’ve said it a lot: What we did in the offseason was what set us up to have this kind of season.”
But Nebraska still had work to do as practice began in October. Defense was at the top of the list.
Yori’s seven previous Nebraska teams all were in the lower half of the Big 12 in scoring defense and opponents’ field goal percentage.
Hoping to reverse the trend, Yori devoted several preseason practices to perfecting the basic principles of her help-and-recover man-to-man defense, something that requires five individuals executing flawlessly.
Any mistake? Everybody ran.
“Before, we talked about it a lot, showed film a lot,” Yori said. “Finally, this year, I said we’ve got to penalize them for our breakdowns. … Some of them didn’t like it very much early on.”
But all say they’re better for it. The ‘Huskers might not have pulled out a 65-56 win Jan. 17 at Baylor if they hadn’t held the Bears to one field goal in the final five minutes. They forced eight turnovers in the last eight minutes Feb. 10 in a 67-60 win at Kansas. Three days later, they finished an 82-78 win at Missouri with five consecutive takeaways.
They clinched the Big 12 regular-season title Feb. 24 with a 16-point victory at Oklahoma, mainly because the Sooners managed one free throw after taking a 63-62 lead with 3:33 remaining.
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