Huskers Meet Mavs on Halloween

The Nebraska women's basketball team opens its 2005-06 exhibition season by battling the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Monday, Oct. 31, at 7:05 p.m.

The game will mark the third consecutive season that NU has played UNO during the exhibition season, with the Huskers rolling to victories on Nov. 7, 2004 (86-57) and Nov. 9, 2003 (94-47). Nebraska also leads the regular-season series with the Mavs, 14-9, but the two teams have not faced each other during the regular season since UNO's 76-74 win over the Huskers on Dec. 20, 1986 in Omaha.

Monday's matchup with the Mavs will also represent the second straight season that the Huskers have played an exhibition game on Halloween. Last season Nebraska opened exhibition action with an 82-52 victory over Nebraska-Kearney on a Sunday afternoon on Halloween 2004.

The Huskers head into the exhibition season after officially opening fall practice with "Husker Madness" on Friday, Oct. 14. Over the last two weeks, Nebraska has been working hard to prepare for the 2005-06 season, but has been hindered somewhat by injuries in preseason practice.

Jelena Spiric, the 2005 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in practice on Oct. 18. She underwent surgery on Thursday, Oct. 27. In addition to the loss of Spiric, returning senior starter Elena Diaz and sophomore guard Heather Kephart have also missed practice time during the past week with injuries. Diaz is not expected to play against UNO, and Kephart is questionable. Sophomore Danielle Page has also missed practice time, but is expected to see action Monday against the Mavs.

"We're a little thin right now, but we are going with the idea that it is better to rest people now and try to get them fresh later on this season," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. "It is going to give some of our younger players more of a chance to gain experience and contribute right away."

True freshman Kelsey Griffin may be the major benefactor of increased playing time because of the health of her fellow Huskers. Griffin, a 6-2 forward from Eagle River, Alaska, has been penciled into Nebraska's starting lineup for the exhibition opener against UNO. Griffin was the 2005 Gatorade Alaska High School Player of the Year at Chugiak High School last season.

Huskers Return Experienced Lineup in 2005-06
Despite a season-ending injury to 2005 Big 12 Newcomer-of-the-Year Jelena Spiric, Nebraska still returns a talented and experienced lineup to the court for 2005-06. The Huskers return four other starters who accounted for 76 percent of NU's scoring and 69 percent of the Huskers' rebounding during an 18-14 season in 2004-05.

Nebraska's returning nucleus led the Big 12 Conference to pick the Huskers to finish fifth in its preseason coaches poll. It was NU's highest preseason ranking within the conference since the 1999-2000 season.

In her fourth year at Nebraska, Coach Connie Yori believes her team is better equipped to compete against the Big 12's best.

"People are taking Nebraska women's basketball seriously again," Yori said. "Our expectations are higher because we have a better understanding of our team and the individuals that make up our team."

Headlining the list of Nebraska's returning players is first-team All-Big 12 guard Kiera Hardy. The 5-6 junior from Kansas City, Mo., is the top returning scorer in the Big 12 this season after her record-breaking sophomore campaign. Hardy averaged 19.0 points per game last season, while breaking the Nebraska sophomore single-season scoring mark with 609 points. She was even better in conference play, leading the Big 12 with 20.9 points per game in 16 league contests, including a career-high 37 points in a 103-99 triple overtime victory over eventual national champion Baylor on Jan. 12.

In addition to the explosive scoring of Hardy, junior forward Chelsea Aubry lends leadership and starting experience to the NU lineup. Aubry played in all 30 games as a freshman and started 26 contests as a sophomore last season. The 6-2 forward from Kitchener, Ontario, also gained valuable international experience this summer playing on the Canadian Senior National Team that qualified for the 2006 World Championships. The qualifying spot for the Canadians will mark their first appearance at the World Championships since 1994.

Aubry may be a leading contender to pick up the scoring and rebounding load left by the absence of Spiric. Aubry averaged 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, but showed the ability to put up bigger numbers at times during the season. She may need to contribute on a more consistent basis to help the Huskers in 2005-06.

Senior forward Elena Diaz was one of NU's top players down the stretch in 2004-05, starting the Huskers' final 18 games. The 6-1 native of Medellin, Colombia, averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in Big 12 action and led the Huskers by shooting 55.6 percent from the field during league play.

Diaz stepped into Nebraska's lineup after Jessica Gerhart battled illness midway through the Big 12 season. Gerhart was one of NU's top players during non-conference action as a sophomore, averaging 13.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a starter through the Huskers' first 14 games.

With Diaz and Spiric out for the exhibition game, Gerhart will step back into the starting lineup for the first time since making a start at Iowa State on Jan. 22.

In addition to the four returning starters, senior LaToya Howell played in 30 games and made six starts at point guard last season for the Huskers. Howell, who ranked second in the Big 12 in league play last season with 2.5 steals per game, will be asked to increase her offensive production in her second year in Lincoln. The 5-5 native of Chicago, Ill., certainly has experience as a scorer at the Division I level. In 2002-03, Howell averaged 17.4 points and 7.0 assists per game as a sophomore at Air Force. Last season, she contributed 3.7 points and 2.0 assists per game off the bench for the Huskers.

Sophomores Danielle Page, Heather Kephart and Sarah White and senior Ivana Drmanac have also seen significant playing time for the Huskers and will be counted on for contributions throughout the season.

Scouting the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks
Head Coach Patty Patton Shearer enters her second season rebuilding the Maverick program. In her first season at UNO, Patton Shearer guided the Mavericks to a 14-14 record, after the Mavs finished with a 5-22 mark a year earlier. Former Nebraska start Maurtice Ivy joins Patton Shearer on the sideline for the second season as an assistant coach. Ivy, a 1992 graduate of Nebraska, was the first Big Eight Player of the Year in Husker women's basketball history, claiming the honor while leading NU to its only conference title in 1988. The Omaha Central High School graduate closed her Husker career with 2,131 points, which ranks No. 2 on Nebraska's all-time scoring list.

JJ Smith, a senior forward from Lincoln Southeast High School, leads the Mavericks on the floor for her final season. Smith started all 28 games for the Mavs as a junior and averaged a team-leading 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. She also dished out nearly three assists per game and ranked second on the team with 55 total steals.

Junior guard Karen Thies also returns to the Mavs' starting lineup after ranking second on the team with 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game a year ago. Thies, who followed Patton Shearer from Fort Lewis College to Omaha, started all 28 games for UNO as a sophomore. Junior Carlye Jones gives UNO a third returning starter after averaging 4.6 points and 3.8 boards per game last season. The 6-2 forward out of Omaha Burke also led the Mavs with 18 blocked shots.

Toni Kinsey, a 5-5 junior transfer will be a leading contender for major playing time. A Division I recruit to the University of Idaho out of Florence High School in Colorado, Kinsey transferred to Fort Lewis College for her sophomore season after serving as a part-time starter as a true freshman at Idaho. As a sophomore at Fort Lewis under Patton Shearer, Kinsey joined Thies in the backcourt to lead Fort Lewis to a 23-8 record. Kinsey averaged 8.9 points and 4.5 assists per game in her only season at Fort Lewis before transferring to UNO last season. She was forced to sit out as a two-time NCAA transfer a year ago, but has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Reserve point guard LaCheryl Prince is the only other returning player on a UNO roster that features four freshmen and three junior college transfers.

Cassy Drueppel, a 5-6 freshman guard from Lincoln Southeast, gives the Maverick roster a second Lincoln native. Lacey Geitzenauer, a 6-0 junior forward from Lone Rock, Iowa, is a transfer from Iowa Lakes Community College but played high school basketball with Nebraska's Jessica Gerhart at Sentral High School in Iowa.

Nebraska vs. Nebraska-Omaha Series History
Nebraska leads the all-time regular-season series with Nebraska-Omaha, 14-9, but the Mavericks captured the last regular-season meeting between the two schools with a 76-74 win on Dec. 20, 1986.

Monday's game will mark the third consecutive season that NU has played UNO during the exhibition season, with the Huskers rolling to victories on Nov. 7, 2004 (86-57) and Nov. 9, 2003 (94-47).

Last season, four Huskers scored in double figures against the Mavericks, led by Jessica Gerhart who hit for 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Chelsea Aubry added 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Kiera Hardy pitched in 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.

Jina Johansen added 10 points and seven assists for a well-balanced NU attack that shot 59.6 percent from the field and 50 percent (5-10) from three-point range. The Huskers also outrebounded the Mavs 38-25.

Hardy Earns Preseason First-Team All-Big 12 Honors
Nebraska junior guard Kiera Hardy captured one of five spots on the Preseason First-Team All-Big 12 squad voted on by the league coaches and announced by the Big 12 Conference office in Dallas on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Hardy, a 5-6 guard from Kansas City, Mo., joins Baylor's Sophia Young, Texas' Tiffany Jackson, Texas Tech's Erin Grant and Oklahoma's Leah Rush on the five-player preseason honor squad. Hardy, Grant, Jackson and Young, who was voted the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, all earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2004-05, while Rush claimed a spot on the second-team a year ago.

Hardy is the top returning scorer in the Big 12 Conference this season after averaging 19.0 points per game as a sophomore in 2004-05, including a league-leading 20.9 points per contest in conference games. She set Nebraska's sophomore single-season scoring record with 609 points, while also tying the school record with 85 made three-pointers on the season.

Huskers Fifth in Preseason Big 12 Poll
The Nebraska women's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the 2005-06 Big 12 Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, released by the league office in Dallas on Thursday, Oct. 13. The Huskers, who return four starters from last year's club that advanced to the postseason for the second straight year, were picked higher than any other team from the Big 12 North Division.

Schools from the Big 12 South Division occupied the top four spots in the poll, with defending national champion Baylor (113) claiming the No. 1 position with six first-place votes from opposing coaches in the league. Texas (110) earned the No. 2 spot with two first-place votes, while Texas Tech (108) took the No. 3 spot with four first-place votes. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team in the 1-12 predicted order of finish.

After the predicted log jam in the top three spots, Oklahoma, which tied Nebraska in sixth place in the final 2004-05 Big 12 standings, received the fourth-highest vote total with 91 points. Nebraska was picked to finish fifth with 70 points, while fellow Big 12 North foe Kansas was close behind with 66 points. The four schools ahead of the Huskers in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll have all received top 25 national rankings from several preseason publications.

Texas A&M (7th, 59 points), Kansas State (8th, 56 points), Iowa State (9th, 45 points), Missouri (10th, 37 points), Oklahoma State (11th, 23 points), and Colorado (12th, 14 points) rounded out the poll.

Huskers Launch Season with Madness
The Nebraska men's and women's basketball teams celebrated the official start of practice for the 2005-06 season with Husker Madness on Friday, Oct. 14, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. Nearly 2,500 Husker fans attended the free event to watch the new batch of Huskers in action for the first time.

The Husker women tipped off the festivities, which included free men's and women's basketball schedule posters and schedule cards, autograph cards, $1 hot dogs and $1 Pepsi products, with a "Select Your Seat" event from 3 to 6 p.m. After the women's fans chose their seats for the entire season to watch the Huskers at home in the Devaney Center, they got their first look at the 2005-06 women's squad in action.

The women went head-to-head in a full-court scrimmage for 20 minutes. The Husker Red Team used a strong inside game to roll to a 29-18 victory over the White Team. Junior forward Chelsea Aubry scored the first two points of the year for the Huskers and led all scorers with eight points to lead the Reds.

First-team All-Big 12 guard Kiera Hardy added seven points, including a three-pointer, while sophomore Sarah White pitched in five points. Senior point guard LaToya Howell contributed three points.

Along with the strong showing of their returning players, the Reds received impressive production from true freshman forward Kelsey Griffin, who added six points. The 2005 Gatorade Alaska High School Player of the Year, Griffin also joined White and Aubry in strong efforts on the glass for the Reds.

Senior forward Elena Diaz and sophomore Heather Kephart each scored six points to lead the Whites. Kephart, who sat out the 2004-05 season as a medical redshirt, knocked down a pair of three-pointers to help keep the White squad close. Jelena Spiric, Jessica Gerhart and TK LaFleur each added two points for the Whites.

Although Gerhart's White team came out on the losing side in the scrimmage, Gerhart stole the show with her winning effort in the women's three-point competition. Gerhart knocked down 8-of-15 three-point attempts, including a pair of two-point "Money Balls" to finish with 10 points to win the competition.

Gerhart defeated Howell's runner-up score of nine points, while Kephart finished with eight points. Hardy, who tied the Nebraska school record with 85 three-pointers last season, including a school-record tying seven threes in a the Huskers' season finale against Iowa, finished fourth with seven points.

Aubry Aids Canada's Run to World Championships
Nebraska forward Chelsea Aubry scored eight points and hauled down six rebounds to help the Canadian National Team roll to an 89-57 victory over the hosts from the Dominican Republic in the final game of the FIBA Americas Tournament in Hato Mayor on Sept. 19.

With the victory, the Canadians finished third at the eight-team event and qualified for the 2006 World Championships in Brazil. The appearance at the 2006 World Championships will be the first for the Canadians since 1994. The Canadians finished the five-day tournament with a 3-2 record, while Cuba won the event with a perfect 5-0 mark. Brazil finished second with a 4-1 record, while Argentina captured the final spot in the World Championships by finishing fourth with a 2-3 mark.

Aubry, a 6-2 forward from Kitchener, Ontario, has spent the past two seasons as a member of the Canadian Senior National Team. She was also a member of the Canadian World University Games Team in 2003 as a member of the Canadian Under-20 National Team.

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