Connie Yori sees the way she now approaches a Nebraska-Creighton basketball game as a sign of maturity.
“It’s not like the first year when I was crying all the way to the game,” Yori said. “I don’t do that anymore.”
Wednesday’s game between the Huskers and Bluejays at D.J. Sokol Arena matches Yori, now in her 10th season as Nebraska’s head coach, against the school where she starred as a player and then coached at for 10 years.
It pits her against her former assistant, Jim Flanery. While Yori doesn’t have to coach against players she recruited, as she did in the first couple of seasons, the matchup doesn’t get any easier.
“This is my least favorite week of the year,” she said.
What helps keep Yori focused this year on the task at hand is a team that, in spite of a 6-2 record, is consistent only in its inconsistency. What she called a weird fall — several key players had to be held out of workouts and practice because of injuries — has been followed by a rapid-fire series of games.
Yori said her players are still learning how to play with one another. In turn, that’s led to some problems once the rush of games started.
“This will be our ninth game in 3 1/2 weeks,” she said. “We have not had much of an opportunity to practice together. We’ve had to be more about playing games, and that’s usually a recipe for a lack of execution.
“Add to it the fact that we’ve changed our offense, and we’re not exactly where we want to be. I still think we’ll be fine as we get deeper into the season, but we’re not quite there now.”
Flanery can empathize with Yori when it comes to problems caused by not having players available for practice. Carli Tritz, a first-team All-Missouri Valley guard, has missed considerable practice time because of back and knee problems.
That’s kept Tritz from getting into game shape and her teammates from developing any type of continuity with her in the lineup. Tritz had fluid drained from her knee on Monday but is expected to play against the Huskers.
“Carli’s struggling to find her game a little,” Flanery said. “She’s trying, but she’s not in shape because she can’t practice. She hasn’t got the reps to do the things that she normally does.”
Wednesday’s game for the Bluejays caps a string to open the season in which they’ve faced five opponents that made the 2012 NCAA tournament. The Bluejays are 3-2, having lost home games to Oklahoma and Kansas while going unbeaten on the road against South Dakota State, South Dakota and Brigham Young.
The win over BYU came when the Bluejays rallied from a 14-point deficit with 7½ minutes to play in regulation to record a 65-62 overtime victory. The comeback should bolster the Bluejays’ confidence, Flanery said, but it doesn’t erase the inconsistency that his team has displayed to this point.
“We showed a lot of toughness against BYU, but we know we have to get better,” Flanery said. “The win is huge from the standpoint that we would have had a week in between games, and that can hurt when you’ve played poorly.
“With Nebraska coming up, that wouldn’t have put us in a good frame of mind. At least we’re going into this game with some good thoughts and more belief than if we would have lost by 20.”
Nebraska is coming off Saturday’s 60-51 win over Idaho State. Yori used her team’s rebounding in that game to illustrate the Huskers’ inconsistent play.
In the previous game, a home loss to Maryland, Nebraska battled one of the nation’s best rebounding teams to a near-draw on the boards.
“We came out and outrebounded Idaho State, but it wasn’t because we boxed out like we should have or showed great effort,” Yori said. “We were just taller than they were. We thought after Maryland we had taken a step in the right direction when it came to rebounding, but then we take a step back in our next game.
“I don’t know if there is one thing that we’re doing consistently well right now, and I take full responsibility for that. We’re not shooting it well, we’re not rebounding it well and we’re not defending all that well. We have a lot of room for improvement.”
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