The Nebraska women’s basketball team will play the third game of its season-opening home stand when the Huskers play host to North Carolina Central on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 21, at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Tip-off between the Huskers and the Lady Eagles is set for 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Huskers.com or by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED. They can also be purchased on the day of the game beginning 90 minutes prior to tip-off at the Pinnacle Bank Arena Box Office.
Live radio coverage on select stations will be provided by the Husker Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln, ESPN 590 AM in Omaha and KRVN 880 AM in Lexington, with Matt Coatney and Jeff Griesch on the call. A live premium video stream will be available on HuskersNside at Huskers.com.
Reigning Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week Jessica Shepard continued her impressive start to open the season. The 6-4 forward poured in 27 points on 13-of-16 shooting while adding 10 rebounds in Monday night’s win over North Florida. Shepard became the first Husker freshman in history to score 20 or more points in the first two games of her career, and the first freshman to notch back-to-back doubles to open a career after producing 24 points and 13 rebounds in an opening-day win over Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Shepard needs just 10 points and three rebounds against North Carolina Central to produce the best three-game start in school history in points and rebounds. Debra Powell scored 60 points and grabbed 25 rebounds in her first three games as a Husker freshman in 1981-82.
As a team, Nebraska has a chance to score 90 or more points for the third straight game to open a season for the first time since the 1987-88 Big Eight champs scored 90 or more in their first four games.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
43 - Rachel Blackburn - 6-3 - Fr. - F - 5.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg
32 - Jessica Shepard - 6-4 - Fr. - F - 25.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg
4 - Kyndal Clark - 5-7 - RSr. - G - 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
5 - Natalie Romeo - 5-7 - So. - G - 18.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg
33 - Rachel Theriot - 6-0 - Sr. - G - 7.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Off the Bench
31 - Anya Kalenta - 6-3 - Sr. - F - 7.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - So. - G - 6.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Fr. - G - 5.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
22 - Allie Havers - 6-5 - Jr. - C - 4.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg
50 - Darrien Washington - 6-2 - RFr. - F - 4.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
12 - Emily Wood - 5-5 - So. - G - 4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg
11 - Esther Ramacieri - 5-8 - Jr. - G - 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
52 - Alicia Ostrander - 6-3 - Sr. - F - DNP
Head Coach: Connie Yori (Creighton, 1986)
14th Season at Nebraska (264-153); 26th Season Overall (459-293)
North Carolina Central Lady Eagles (0-1, 0-0 MEAC)
25 - Tisha Dixon - 5-11 - Sr. - F - 14.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg
35 - Kierona Morton - 6-1 - So. - F - 0.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
4 - Kristin Askew - 5-6 - Sr. - G - 4.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg
10 - Monique Whaley-Briggs - 5-8 - Jr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
23 - Morgan Jones - 5-9 - Jr. - G - 8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Off the Bench
12 - Dominique Adams - 5-7 - Fr. - G - 3.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
22 - Deja McCain - 5-10 - Fr. - F - 5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
3 - Chantal Thomas - 5-6 - Jr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg
00 - Rodneysha Martin - 5-5 - Fr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
15 - Jayla Calhoun - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 2.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg
20 - Tyshay Britten - 6-4 - Jr. - C - 4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
42 - Maya Jackson - 6-2 - RFr. - F - 2.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg
52 - Natalie Udoye - 6-4 - Fr. - C - DNP
Head Coach: Vanessa Taylor (Tuskegee, 1991)
Fourth Season at North Carolina Central (20-70); 22nd Season Overall (318-277)
• Nebraska will face North Carolina Central for the first time in school history on Saturday. It marks the fourth consecutive season that the Huskers have faced at least one team from the state of North Carolina, with games against Duke (2012-13, 2014-15, North Carolina (2013-14) and High Point (2014-15). Nebraska also will face North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Dec. 3.
• Nebraska set a season ticket sales record by reaching the 4,000 mark for the first time in school history this week. The Huskers have sold 4,011 women’s basketball season tickets.
• Jessica Shepard leads the nation with two double-doubles. She also ranks among the top 20 players in the nation in scoring at 25.5 points per game.
• Shepard’s 25.5 points per game rank third nationally among Division I freshmen, trailing only Cal State Fullerton’s Michelle Barry (31.0 ppg) and Central Michigan’s Presley Hudson (26.5 ppg). Only 11 freshmen nationally averaged 20 points per game in the first week of the season.
• Shepard produced 24 points and 13 rebounds in the opener to become the first Husker freshman in history to record a double-double in the first game of her career.
• Shepard’s 42 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes against Winona State on Nov. 8, 2015, marked the most productive exhibition game in school history.
• Natalie Romeo’s career-high 30-point effort against Arkansas Pine Bluff marked the highest point total by a Husker in an opener in school history.
Fast Five: Husker Quick Hitters
No. 33, Rachel Theriot, 6-0, Sr., G, Middleburg Heights, Ohio (7.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.0 apg)
• Theriot is a national player-of-the-year, All-America, Lieberman Award, Senior CLASS Award, Academic All-America and WBCA Allstate Good Works Team candidate as a senior.
• A two-time preseason first-team All-Big Ten choice (2014, 2015), Theriot was an honorable-mention AP All-American as a sophomore in 2014, after leading the Big Red to their first Big Ten Tournament title as the MVP. She was a first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2014, and a Big Ten All-Freshman pick as a starter on Nebraska’s 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 team.
• Theriot set the Nebraska single-season record with 234 assists as a sophomore in 2013-14. She needs 245 assists to match All-American Lindsey Moore’s school career record (699, 2010-13).
• Theriot averaged 16.5 ppg as a junior, and is ranked No. 28 in career points at Nebraska with 1,037. She needs 11 points to catch Cathy Owen (1,048, 1982-85) at No. 27 and 32 points to match Kate Galligan (1,069, 1993-96) at No. 26 on NU’s all-time list.
• Nebraska’s most experienced player, Theriot will be making her 85th start in a Husker uniform.
No. 4, Kyndal Clark, 5-7, Sr., G, Webb City, Mo. (5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg)
• The 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year as a junior, Clark was a two-time all-conference player at Drake (2013, 2014). She was also an MVC All-Defensive choice as a sophomore in 2013, after earning a spot on the Valley All-Freshman Team in 2012.
• Clark was a member of the 2015 WBCA Allstate Good Works Team.
• Clark suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of her senior season at Drake (vs. South Dakota, Nov. 14, 2014). She graduated from Drake in May of 2015, after majoring in information systems.
• Clark is expected to make her 101st collegiate start on Saturday. She produced double figures for the first time in her Husker career on Monday with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists against North Florida. She owns 73 career double-figure scoring performances, including 24 20-point games and four career 30-point efforts with a career-high of 41.
• She scored 1,418 points and hit 222 three-pointers in her three seasons plus one game at Drake. She averaged 19.3 points per game and set the Missouri Valley Conference single-season record with 116 threes in 2013-14.
No. 5, Natalie Romeo, 5-7, So., G, Martinez, Calif. (18.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg)
• Romeo produced the best season-opening performance in school history with 30 points while going 6-of-9 from three-point range in the win over Arkansas Pine Bluff. Romeo’s career high came despite missing multiple practices during the week due to illness, which also kept her out of the starting five in the opener.
• Romeo started Nebraska’s final 10 games of 2014-15 in place of the injured Rachel Theriot. Over the final eight games, she led the Big Red with 15.4 points per game. She is expected to make her 14th career start on Saturday against North Carolina Central.
• Romeo finished with 51 three-pointers in 2014-15 to produce the second-highest total by a freshman in Nebraska history, trailing only school-record holder Jordan Hooper (67, 2010-11). Romeo achieved her total despite going 3-for-9 in non-conference play while missing eight games with an injury (stress fracture, foot, Nov. 28-Dec. 29, 2014).
• Romeo led Nebraska by averaging 20.0 points in a pair of Big Ten Tournament games, including a season-high 26 points in a win over Illinois March 5. She tied a school record with seven threes against the Illini to set Nebraska’s all-time conference tournament record.
• Romeo tied the Nebraska NCAA Tournament record with five three-pointers in a 72-69 loss to Syracuse on March 20, 2015. She finished with 15 points against the Orange.
No. 32, Jessica Shepard, 6-4, Fr., F, Fremont, Neb. (25.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.5 spg)
• Shepard produced the best career-opening performance by a freshman in school history, powering her way to 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals in 23 minutes against Arkansas Pine Bluff. Nebraska’s previous season-opening bests by a freshman were 19 points (Debra Powell, 1981) and eight rebounds (Angie Miller, 1983; Terri Parriott, 1981). Shepard’s double-double was the first in history by a Husker freshman in an opener. She added a career-high 27 points to go along with 10 rebounds in game two against North Florida. She is the first Husker in history with back-to-back 20-point games and back-to-back double-doubles to open a career.
• The top recruit in Nebraska history, Shepard was the No. 1 ranked post and No. 3 overall recruit in the nation by ESPN last season. A first-team Parade All-American as a senior despite missing nearly all of her final year (ACL tear, Dec. 29, 2014), Shepard was the 2013 and 2014 Nebraska High School Player of the Year.
• Shepard averaged 12.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while helping the USA Basketball U18 Team to a 5-0 record and a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas Championship.
• Shepard totaled 71 points and 24 rebounds in 42 minutes in a pair of exhibition wins to open her career. Her 42 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes against NCAA Division II No. 16 Winona State on Nov. 8, came against former Iowa post Kayla Timmerman, a 6-3 center. Shepard hit 16-of-19 shots and all 10 of her free throws against the Warriors, scoring 34 points in the first and fourth quarters combined. It was the top exhibition effort in school history.
• Shepard participated in her first full-court 5-on-5 practice on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
No. 43, Rachel Blackburn, 6-3, Fr., F, Leavenworth, Kan. (5.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
• The No. 63 player in the nation by Blue Star and No. 69 by Prospects Nation, Blackburn was ranked as the No. 17 post in the country by ESPN coming out of high school last year.
• A hard-working, team-first power forward that has tendencies in her game similar to Kelsey Griffin and Emily Cady (both had more than 1,400 points and 1,000 rebounds in four-year careers as starters), Blackburn earned a start alongside fellow freshmen Jessica Shepard and Maddie Simon in the season-opening win over Arkansas Pine Bluff.
• Blackburn produced the best game of her young career with eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists in Monday’s win over North Florida. Blackburn, who went 4-for-4 against the Ospreys, is 5-of-6 from the field to open her career.
• Blackburn averaged 5.5 points and 8.0 rebounds while starting both of NU’s exhibition wins. She averaged 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game in Nebraska’s four-game tour of Australia in August of 2015. She led the Huskers by shooting 65 percent from the field.
• Blackburn led Leavenworth High School to back-to-back Kansas Class 5A state titles in 2014 and 2015. She set the Leavenworth High School record with a career 67.5 field goal percentage.
Scouting North Carolina Central
Coach Vanessa Taylor brings her fourth North Carolina Central squad to Lincoln to face the Huskers for the first time in school history on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Eagles are coming off a 57-48 season-opening loss to the Fighting Camels of Campbell University in Durham, N.C., on Monday night. The Camels finished 19-12 a year ago.
North Carolina Central went 7-22 last season, including a 5-11 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). The Lady Eagles return their second-leading scorer from a year ago, Morgan Jones. The 5-9 junior guard averaged 9.1 points and 2.7 rebounds while starting all 29 games as a sophomore. She managed eight points and five boards in the opener against Campbell, going just 1-of-9 from three-point range. Last season, Jones hit a team-high 50-of-180 threes.
Senior Tisha Dixon also returns, after averaging 6.2 points and 5.5 boards per game last year. The 5-11 forward produced team bests with 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals in the opener to the Camels.
Senior Kristin Askew, who started three games last year, managed four points and two assists against Campbell. The 5-6 guard averaged two points per game last season.
Junior Monique Whaley-Briggs and two points and two rebounds in her season debut. She appeared in 19 games last season and totaled 13 points.
Sophomore Kierona Martin rounds out the projected starting five for the Lady Eagles. The 6-1 forward did not score in the opener but did grab four rebounds.
Deja McCain, a 5-10 freshman forward, Dominique Adams, a 5-7 freshman guard, and Chantal Thomas, a 5-6 junior, combined for 10 points against the Camels. Overall, 12 Lady Eagles saw action on opening night, combining for 48 points, 43 rebounds, 11 assists and 10 steals. North Carolina Central shot just 30.5 percent (18-59) from the field in the opener, while going 1-for-15 from three-point range.
Huskers Have History of Home-Opening Success
Nebraska owns a history of season-opening success on the Huskers’ homecourt. NU notched its 40th season-opening win with a 96-46 victory over Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 14. NU is 3-0 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in season openers, including a 100-65 victory over Pepperdine on Nov. 15, 2014, and a 77-49 win over UCLA in the first regular-season basketball game in the history of the building on Nov. 8, 2013.
Nebraska’s last loss in a home opener came to South Dakota State on Nov. 19, 2005. NU’s only other home-opening loss was to Kansas (88-56) on Nov. 21, 1980.
Nebraska has been strong in its first six home games every season. In fact, NU is 213-34 in the past 42 years in its first six home contests (.862), including 36-6 in Game No. 2. The Huskers have won 16 straight in their second home games of the year. Nebraska is 33-8 in Game No. 3, 35-6 in Game No. 4, 36-5 in Game No. 5 and 33-7 in Game 6. The Huskers only played five total home games in their first season in 1974-75.
Setting the Stage for Shepard
Nebraska’s record book could be under assault this season from freshman Jessica Shepard. Here’s a few of the most vulnerable records:
Freshman Game Records
Points, Game: 34, Debra Powell at Notre Dame, Feb. 25, 1982 (98-88, 2OT)
Points, Game (Regulation): 31, Jordan Hooper, at Missouri, Feb. 2, 2011
Kelsey Griffin, vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Nov. 27, 2005 (Miami)
Rebounds, Game: 22, Angie Miller, UMKC, Dec. 7, 1983
Points, Season Opener: 24, Jessica Shepard, vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff, Nov. 14, 2015
Rebounds, Season Opener: 13, Jessica Shepard, vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff, Nov. 14, 2015
Double-Double, Season Opener: 24 points, 13 rebounds vs. UAPB, Nov. 14, 2015 (first in NU history)
Freshman Season Records
Total Points: 461, Debra Powell (1981-82)
Points Per Game: 15.4, Debra Powell (1981-82)
Total Rebounds: 277, Kathy Hagerstrom (1979-80)
Rebounds Per Game: 7.6, Debra Powell (1981-82)
Double-Doubles: 9, Debra Powell (1981-82)
Field Goals Made: 201, Darcy Williamson (1975-76)
Field Goal Percentage: .582 (78-134), Charlie Rogers (1996-97)
Free Throws Made: 121, Kelsey Griffin (2005-06)
Second Track of Shepard Even Better than First
After producing the best exhibition effort by a freshman in school history with 29 points and 12 rebounds in just 17 minutes against Nebraska-Kearney on Nov. 1, Jessica Shepard wasted no time improving.
In her second appearance in a Husker uniform, the high school All-American exploded for 42 points and 12 boards in 25 minutes against Winona State on Nov. 8. She went 16-for-19 from the floor and 10-for-10 at the free throw line for the best performance by any Husker, regardless of class, in exhibition play.
In two exhibition games, Shepard averaged 35.5 points and 12 rebounds in 21 minutes per game, while shooting 71.1 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line.
Only first-team All-Americans Kelsey Griffin (2010) and Jordan Hooper (2014) produced comparable single-game exhibition totals in their careers. Griffin put up 35 points on 14-of-16 shooting from the field while adding 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of action in a win over UNK in 2006.
Hooper erupted for 32 points and nine rebounds in an exhibition win over UNK in 2012, but Hooper’s production came in 32 minutes of work. Hooper scored at least 20 points in seven of her eight career exhibition games. Griffin’s 35-point effort against UNK marked the only time in her career that she scored 20 points in an exhibition game for the Huskers.
Since 2004-05, the only Huskers to score 24 or more points in an exhibition game were first-team all-conference players (Kiera Hardy, 26 vs. UNK, 2004; 27 vs. UNO, 2005; Yvonne Turner, 28 vs. UNK, 2008; Rachel Theriot, 24 vs. UNK, 2015).
Best of the Fresh: Big Red Freshman Classes
Nebraska’s four-player freshman class of Jessica Shepard, Rachel Blackburn, Maddie Simon and Darrien Washington could be poised to be the most productive in school history. The quartet combined for 38 points and 26 rebounds in NU’s season-opening win, producing the third-most productive performance by a freshman class in an opener in school history. The only two other classes (1981-82, 1999-2000) with more points, each had seven players in the class.
The freshman combined for more against North Florida, joining forces for 46 points and 28 rebounds in just 66 minutes against the Ospreys.
Consider that Nebraska’s 2011-12 freshman class of Emily Cady, Brandi Jeffery, Tear’a Laudermill and Hailie Sample led the Big Ten by a significant margin with 26.5 points and 17.7 rebounds per game in their first seasons, before going on to be the most successful class in school history with four straight NCAA Tournament bids.
That group, which also included redshirt freshman Katie Simon, is the only freshman class at Nebraska under Coach Connie Yori to average 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. In fact, the only other freshman class to combine to average a double-double was the 2005-06 group featuring first-team All-American Kelsey Griffin, which managed 18.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.
The 2003-04 class averaged 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, while featuring three-time first-team All-Big 12 shooting guard Kiera Hardy and future Canadian Olympian Chelsea Aubry.
Pump up the Program
• Nebraska set a season ticket sales record with 4,011 season tickets sold as of Nov. 18, 2015. It marks the first time in school history the Huskers have sold 4,000 season tickets.
• Nebraska earned its fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid and its seventh in the past nine seasons in 2015. NU is one of just 21 Division I teams to earn four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.
• The Huskers also have owned a perfect 100 percent Graduation Success Rate every season they have been in the NCAA Tournament under Coach Connie Yori (2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).
• Nebraska Coach Connie Yori owns more wins (264) than any other women’s basketball coach in school history. She has averaged 20 victories per season in her first 13 seasons at the helm of the Huskers.
• The Huskers have produced seven 20-win seasons in the last nine years. Prior to Coach Connie Yori’s arrival in Lincoln in 2002-03, Nebraska had nine 20-win seasons in the first 28 years of the program.
• Nebraska is the only team in the Big Ten to record 10 or more league wins in each of the last four years. The Huskers are the only team to post four straight winning Big Ten regular seasons (2012-15).
• The Huskers, who joined the Big Ten in 2011-12 for the start of the careers of its 2015 seniors, are a Big Ten-best 44-22 in Big Ten regular-season play the last four years (tied with Iowa). The Big Red have added a conference-best eight Big Ten Tournament wins for 52 total victories over Big Ten foes.
• Nebraska has ranked No. 11 nationally in average home attendance in each of the Huskers’ first two seasons at Pinnacle Bank Arena. NU has averaged more than 6,000 fans per game at the arena.
• Every Husker on the roster has earned a spot on Nebraska’s Tom Osborne Citizenship Team in each of the first two years of NU’s all-sports, community service recognition program.
Whole New Ballgame: 2015-16 Rule Changes
NCAA Division I women’s college basketball will have a whole new look in 2015-16, with sweeping rule changes that will create distinct differences from the men’s game, while more closely falling in line with both WNBA and international rules.
New in 2015-16, NCAA Division I women’s basketball games:
• Games will feature four, 10-minute quarters, rather than two, 20-minute halves.
• A team will reach the bonus after five team fouls in each quarter. The fouls will reset each quarter.
• Once the team reaches the bonus (5 fouls, quarter), a common foul will result in two free throws (no more 1-and-1 in women’s basketball).
• Only one standard media timeout exists in each quarter, and will occur at the 5:00 mark or under in each quarter, or whenever the first coach-called timeout of the quarter occurs. In the second half,the first called timeout will become an extra media timeout.
• When a timeout is charged to the offensive team in the final 59.9 seconds of the fourth quarter (and any overtimes), the team has the option to advance the throw-in spot (as long as no attempt to advance has occurred) to the 28-foot line in the front court on the scorer’s table side.
• The 10-second count in the backcourt shall reset on all stoppages of the game clock except when the defense causes the ball to be out of bounds, the offense retains possession after a held ball, or there is a technical foul assessed to the offensive team.
Theriot Earns Preseason All-Big Ten Honor
Nebraska’s Rachel Theriot earned preseason All-Big Ten honors for the second straight year when the conference announced its preseason awards on Oct. 14.
Theriot, a senior point guard from Middleburg Heights, Ohio, was one of nine players to earn recognition from both the coaches and media on their 10-player teams. Theriot, who was a first-team preseason All-Big Ten choice in 2014-15, averaged 16.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists while starting Nebraska’s first 21 games a year ago. Theriot led the Huskers to a top-15 national ranking and a 17-4 record heading into February, before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in practice on Feb. 3.
She was a second-team All-Big Ten choice a year ago despite missing the second half of the conference season.
Theriot, a preseason candidate for the Wade, Naismith and Wooden national player-of-the-year awards in 2014-15, was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore for the Huskers in 2013-14. She led Nebraska to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after earning Big Ten Tournament MVP honors in 2014. She averaged 18.0 points and a Big Ten-record 10.0 assists while leading the Huskers to their first-ever conference tournament title in 2014. She was also an honorable-mention Associated Press All-American after setting the Nebraska single-season record with 234 assists in 2013-14.
Theriot is expected to be a national player-of-the-year candidate again in 2015-16, while also being a candidate for CoSIDA Academic All-America and Senior CLASS Award accolades.
Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Kelsey Mitchell from Ohio State led the voting, while her backcourt mate Ameryst Alston also earned a spot. Defending Big Ten champion and preseason favorite Maryland added a pair of honorees with Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
Michigan State’s Aerial Powers, Northwestern’s Nia Coffey, Kahleah Copper from Rutgers and Minnesota’s Rachel Banham were all chosen to both teams. Banham was the 2014-15 Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, before suffering a season-ending knee injury early in her senior season with the Gophers.
Iowa’s Ally Disterhoft added recognition from the conference coaches, while Tori Jankoska earned a spot on the media’s preseason team.
Shepard Claims Preseason Big Ten Freshman Honor
Nebraska’s Jessica Shepard was named the Preseason Big Ten Freshman of the Year for women’s basketball in 2015-16 by College Sports Madness.
Shepard, a 6-4 forward from Fremont, Neb., is the highest ranked recruit in Nebraska history and arguably the best high school player the state has ever produced, Shepard competed on the gold-medal winning USA Basketball team at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championships. She was the No. 3 overall recruit in the freshman class of 2015-16, according to ESPN.
A two-time Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year (2013, 2014) and four-time first-team Super-State (Lincoln Journal Star) and All-Nebraska (Omaha World-Herald) selection, Shepard missed most of her senior season after suffering an ACL tear on Dec. 29, 2014.
A Naismith Trophy Preseason National High School Player-of-the-Year candidate, Shepard earned first-team Parade All-America honors in 2015. In nine games as a senior, Shepard averaged 33.0 points and 14.3 rebounds. She scored 132 points in four games at the Nike Tournament of Champions, including 36 against national power Long Beach Poly.
As a high school senior, she shot 71 percent from the field, including 41 percent from three-point range. Despite missing most of her senior season, Shepard finished fourth in Nebraska high school history with 2,227 career points, which was the Class A (largest) all-time record. She also finished No. 15 in state history with 1,031 rebounds, just 16 shy of the Nebraska Class A career record.
As a junior in 2013-14, Shepard averaged a Class A state record 30.4 points per game to go along with 15.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in leading Fremont to a 22-4 record and a state tournament berth for Coach Tony Weinandt. Her performances included four 40-point games, including a career-high 46.
Romeo Returns: Soph Shoots for Super Season
Sophomore Natalie Romeo produced the best scoring effort by a Husker in a season opener in school history with 30 points in 26 minutes off the bench in Nebraska’s win over Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 14. She hit 11-of-18 shots from the floor, including 6-of-9 threes, to produce her first career 30-point game and the first 30-point performance in an opener in 42 seasons.
Big production is nothing new to Romeo, even though she has only started 12 career games. Over Nebraska’s final eight games of 2014-15, Romeo led the Huskers in scoring with 15.4 points per game. The 5-7 guard from Martinez, Calif., added 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game in a team-best 35.8 minutes per contest down the stretch in her freshman campaign. She also hit 39.7 percent (31-78) of her threes while averaging 3.9 threes per game.
During the summer of 2015, Romeo averaged a team-best 19.8 points per game, while adding 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists during Nebraska’s four-game tour of Australia (Aug. 1-12).
In her first season as a Husker, Romeo averaged 9.0 points and 2.5 rebounds over 24 games. She missed eight games in mid-season with a stress reaction in her foot (Nov. 28-Dec. 29).
Romeo started Nebraska’s final 10 games in place of the injured Rachel Theriot. In 12 games as a starter in 2014-15, Romeo averaged 13.7 points per game, while adding 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists. She produced double figures in seven of her starts, including each of Nebraska’s final three games.
She erupted for a season-high 26 points with a school-record-tying seven three-pointers in a Big Ten Tournament win over Illinois March 5. She added 21-point efforts in wins over Wisconsin (Feb. 15) and Minnesota (Feb. 24). She hit six threes against Penn State (Jan. 15) and Minnesota (Feb. 24).
Romeo tied a school record and smashed the Nebraska conference tournament record with seven threes against the Fighting Illini. She hit seven of her first nine attempts in the first 24 minutes of the game against the Illini. The previous NU conference tournament record was four, which had been accomplished four times (Jordan Hooper, Lindsey Moore, Amanda Went, Amy Stephens).
Romeo added four threes against Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament on March 6. Her 11 threes match Nebraska’s career Big Ten Tournament record. She is 11-for-22 in two career games.
Romeo tied Nebraska’s single-game NCAA Tournament record with five threes against Syracuse on March 20.
Clark Fires Way into Starting Five
Kyndal Clark has exceeded Nebraska’s expectations since arriving on campus in June. The transfer from Drake who earned her bachelor’s degree from the Des Moines, Iowa, school before joining the Huskers for a fifth season of eligibility, came to Nebraska in the middle of a long rehab from surgery after suffering a microfracture of her kneecap in the first game of her senior season at Drake on Nov. 14, 2014.
Unable to run when she first arrived at the Hendricks Training Complex, Clark has excelled in August, September and October, earning a spot in Nebraska’s starting five each time the Huskers have taken the floor this season. She is averaging 5.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals after producing her first double-figure scoring night as a Husker with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in Monday night’s win over North Florida. It marked the 100th collegiate start of her career.
As a collegian, Clark owns 73 double-figure scoring efforts, including 24 20-point efforts at Drake. She scored 30 or more on four occasions for the Bulldogs, including a career-high 41 points against Northern Iowa on March 2, 2014.
One of the best shooters in Nebraska history the day she set foot on campus, Clark knocked down 222 threes in 98 career starts at Drake, finishing with 1,418 points. She was the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, a two-time All-MVC selection, a member of the MVC All-Defensive Team (2013), and she was honored on the 2012 MVC All-Freshman Team in her only season playing for current Nebraska assistant coach Amy Stephens at Drake.
Since practice officially started in October, Clark has shown quick feet, excellent hands, and a high basketball IQ. Coupled with her experience, her outstanding long-range shooting, and her team-first approach at both ends of the court, Clark could join Rachel Theriot, Natalie Romeo, Maddie Simon, Jasmine Cincore, Esther Ramacieri and Emily Wood in giving Nebraska a talented, versatile and deep backcourt.
Freshman Blackburn Earns Starts With Shepard
The least heralded of Nebraska’s three freshmen in 2015-16, Kansas prep star Rachel Blackburn has earned a starting role alongside fellow rookie post Jessica Shepard for the Big Red.
Blackburn is coming off a strong eight-point, 10-rebound effort against North Florida on Monday, when she also dished out three assists. She is averaging 5.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. Blackburn also earned starts in Nebraska’s exhibition wins over Nebraska-Kearney and Winona State. She performed well against UNK, producing 11 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes, before adding 12 rebounds against Winona State.
She made the most of her opportunity inside this summer, averaging 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in just 23.5 minutes per game while shooting a team-best 65 percent from the field over four games in Australia.
Blackburn has continued to grow in practice the last three months, and provides Nebraska with a smart, tough, aggressive and team-first attitude on the court.
The 6-3 forward out of Leavenworth High School was ranked as the No. 63 player in the nation by Blue Star and No. 69 by ProspectsNation. ESPN ranked her as the No. 17 post in the country.
Blackburn averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds as a junior for the 2014 Class 5A state champions, while also leading the Sunflower League in the number of charges drawn.
Blackburn, who was a third-team Class 5A all-state selection as a senior, was an honorable-mention Class 5A all-state pick by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association in both 2014 and 2015, helping Leavenworth to another state title in 2015. She also was one of five finalists for the 2015 DiRenna Award, which honors the top player in the greater Kansas City area.
A talented athlete, Blackburn set the Leavenworth school record with a javelin throw of 125-7 as a sophomore in 2013. She won the Sunflower League title and qualified for the state meet in the event.
Big Red Add Cornhusker State Flavor
Nebraska welcomed the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history to Lincoln this summer, as Coach Connie Yori’s three-player class was ranked No. 8 nationally by ESPN. The class featured the highest profile recruit in Husker basketball history - two-time state Gatorade High School Player of the Year Jessica Shepard - and 2015 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year Maddie Simon.
Shepard, who averaged 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds to help the USA Basketball U18 National Team to a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas Championships, was ranked as the No. 3 overall player and the No. 1 post in the country by ESPN. The 2013 and 2014 Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year, Shepard was a three-time first-team All-Nebraska and Super-State selection.
In nine games as a senior, Shepard averaged 33.0 points and 14.3 rebounds. She scored 132 points in four games at the Nike Tournament of Champions in December, including 36 against national power Long Beach Poly. The 6-4 forward hit 71 percent of her field goals and 41 percent of her threes in an injury-shortened season. Shepard tore her ACL on Dec. 29, 2014, while her Fremont team played at Lincoln North Star High School.
Shepard, who committed to Nebraska in 2011, averaged a Class A record 30.4 points per game as a junior in 2013-14, while adding 15.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for Fremont. She averaged 24.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals while leading Lincoln Southeast to the 2013 Class A state title, before moving with her family to Fremont in the summer of 2013. She averaged 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds for the Class A runner-up Knights in 2012.
Lincoln native Maddie Simon captured Nebraska Gatorade High School Player of the Year honors in 2015. Simon led Lincoln Pius X to the 2015 Class B state title by averaging 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game as a senior. A two-time first-team Super-State selection, Simon finished as Pius X’s all-time leading scorer with 1,373 points.
A 6-2 guard, Simon was ranked as the No. 22 player in the nation at her position by ESPN, while being ranked No. 149 overall by Blue Star Basketball. As a junior at Lincoln Pius X in 2013-14, Simon averaged 19.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists to lead Pius X to a Class B runner-up finish.
A tremendous all-around athlete, Simon added gold medals in the Class A 100- and 300-meter hurdles at the 2015 Nebraska State Track and Field Championships in Omaha.
Season Ticket Sales Reach All-Time High
Nebraska women’s basketball season ticket sales reached an all-time high with 4,011 sold (Nov. 17), an increase of 109 tickets over last year’s previous record high of 3,902.
In Nebraska’s first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2013-14, the Huskers shattered their previous season ticket sales record with more than 3,700. The previous record came in 2010-11, when NU sold approximately 2,700 season tickets.
Triple Threats: Three Things to Talk About
No. 11, Esther Ramacieri, 5-8, Jr., G, Repentigny, Quebec, Canada (0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg)
• Esther Ramacieri tied her career high with one assist in Nebraska’s season-opening win over Arkansas Pine Bluff. Ramacieri appeared in 17 games in each of her first two seasons, with one career start (vs. Penn State, Jan. 15, 2015). She owns five points, 17 rebounds and three assists and two steals in 129 minutes in her career.
• Ramacieri missed much of the summer and preseason with a knee injury, but was cleared to play for the start of the 2015-16 regular season.
• Ramacieri is the fourth Canadian to play for the Huskers under Coach Yori, including Chelsea Aubry (2004-07), Kaitlyn Burke (2008-12) and Harleen Sidhu (2009-12).
No. 12, Emily Wood, 5-5, So., G, Salina, Kan. (4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
• Emily Wood enjoyed a career night with six points on the first two three-pointers of her career while adding two rebounds, an assist and a steal in Nebraska’s win over North Florida on Nov. 16. She opened her sophomore season with two points in a win over Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 14. Wood played in 10 games as a freshman after walking on to the Nebraska program. She claimed Nebraska’s Teammate Award for her commitment to the Husker program in 2014-15.
• Wood had two points and five rebounds in 29 minutes as a freshman. During the summer of 2015, Wood started for the Huskers on their four-game Australian Tour, averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 26 minutes per game.
• Wood was a first-team Kansas Class 5A all-state selection as a senior at Salina Central High School in 2014. Wood averaged 16.0 points per game as a senior, while hitting a school-record 91 threes. She hit 42.1 percent of her threes and 86.2 percent of her free throws as a senior.
No. 22, Allie Havers, 6-5, Jr., C, Mattawan, Mich. (4.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
• One of the tallest Nebraska women’s basketball players in history, Allie Havers averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds while playing 14.8 minutes per game as NU’s top post off the bench in 2014-15.
• Havers owns seven double-figure scoring games in her career, including five as a sophomore in 2014-15. Two double-figure efforts have come in the Big Ten Tournament, including a career-high 17 points in a semifinal win over No. 19 Michigan State on March 8, 2014.
• Havers was NU’s top post off the bench as a true freshman in 2013-14, averaging 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds while playing in all 33 games. She averaged just over 10 minutes per contest.
No. 24, Maddie Simon, 6-2, Fr., G, Lincoln, Neb. (5.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 apg)
• Maddie Simon started alongside fellow freshmen Jessica Shepard and Rachel Blackburn in Nebraska’s season opener. Simon produced six points, two rebounds, an assist and a block in her debut. She added five points, three rebounds, a career-high four assists and the first steal of her career against North Florida on Nov. 16. She ranked third among the Huskers in exhibition play with 7.5 points, while adding 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal in 20.5 minutes per game. Simon averaged 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist during Nebraska’s four-game summer tour of Australia in August of 2015.
• The 2015 Nebraska High School Player of the Year, Maddie Simon was a two-time first-team Super-State selection while leading Lincoln Pius X to the 2015 Class B state championship. Simon was the No. 149 player in the nation according to Blue Star and the No. 22 guard nationally by ESPN in 2015.
• A tremendous all-around athlete, Simon won the Class A 100- and 300-meter hurdles championships at the 2015 Nebraska State Track & Field Championships. Her mother, Nicole Ali Simon, was the first female CoSIDA Academic All-American in the history of Nebraska athletics, competing for Coach Gary Pepin’s national champion Huskers in 1983 and 1984.
No. 31, Anya Kalenta, 6-3, Sr., F, Minsk, Belarus (7.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
• Anya Kalenta produced the third double-figure scoring effort of her Nebraska career with 10 points and eight rebounds in just 13 minutes off the bench in NU’s win over North Florida on Monday. She appeared in 12 games in her first season at Nebraska as a junior in 2014-15, competing in five of NU’s first six games before missing NU’s next nine games with a stress fracture in her foot. She also suffered a broken nose in preseason practice (Oct. 29, 2014), and battled anemia throughout the year.
• Kalenta averaged 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds on opening weekend of 2014, establishing career highs with 14 points and eight rebounds against Pepperdine on Nov. 15. She went 2-for-2 from three-point range against Alcorn State on Nov. 16.
• Kalenta earned third-team NJCAA All-America honors in 2013-14 at Vincennes University in Indiana. She transferred to Vincennes after spending her freshman season at Broward College in Florida in 2012-13. She ranked in the NJCAA’s top 25 in scoring (20.8 ppg, 13th), rebounding (10.7 rpg, 22nd) and blocked shots (2.1 bpg, 20th) in her only season with the Trailblazers at Vincennes in 2013-14.
No. 34, Jasmine Cincore, 5-10, So., G, Arlington, Tenn. (6.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg)
• A two-time Tennessee Class 2-AA Player of the Year (2013, 2014), Jasmine Cincore battled ankle and foot injuries to play in 20 games for the Huskers as a true freshman. She totaled 25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in 97 minutes on the season.
• Cincore has opened her sophomore season strong, setting or tying her career bests in every category. She had career highs with seven points and four steals while matching a career-best with three assists in a career-high 20 minutes against North Florida on Nov. 16. She tipped off the year with six points and three assists while adding career bests in rebounds (4) and blocks (1) against Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 14.
• During Nebraska’s 2015 summer tour of Australia, Cincore was NU’s second-leading scorer with 10.0 points per game, while adding 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in four games against Australian pro teams.
No. 50, Darrien Washington, 6-2, RFr., F, Oakland, Calif. (4.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
• Darrien Washington produced six points, five rebounds and an assist in eight minutes off the bench in her career debut against Arkansas Pine Bluff after enjoying a strong redshirt season in 2014-15. She added three points, five rebounds and her first career steal in six productive minutes against North Florida on Nov. 16.
• Washington played on the Cal Stars Elite with current Husker sophomore guard Natalie Romeo.
• A first-team All-Oakland performer at Skyline High School, Washington averaged 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game as a senior. She scored 1,181 career points and came up just short of 1,000 career rebounds in high school.
Huskers continue home stand with Lady Eagles
The Nebraska women’s basketball team will play the third game of its season-opening home stand when the Huskers play host to North Carolina Central on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 21, at Pinnacle Bank Arena.