LINCOLN — In a little more than 400 days, the Nebraska women’s basketball team has played Iowa four times. Make it five Sunday afternoon.
Now, can the No. 24 Huskers win one for the thumb in the series? NU’s already won the first four, usually thanks to a late series of plays down the stretch. And Connie Yori’s team has won eight straight games overall, including a 76-75 squeaker in Iowa City.
Yori’s not so sure.
“They get a week to prepare for us, which, to me, is advantage them,” Yori said last week before Nebraska’s 57-39 win at Michigan. “(The Hawkeyes) are in need of a win. ... I can’t say you ever have to win a game, but this is a game that’s a big game for them.”
Because Iowa (17-10, 6-7 Big Ten) finds itself on the NCAA tournament bubble — even after routing Purdue 72-52 on the road — and Nebraska is the best remaining opponent on the schedule.
Because the Hawkeyes — while losing four straight to NU — very easily could have won at least three of those games.
Because the Big Ten is a league filled with giant-slayers. Conference leader Penn State has a single league loss — to the Big Ten’s No. 11 team, Wisconsin.
“That’s just the nature of our league,” Yori said. “Everybody’s good. Legitimately, anybody can beat anybody.”
The Huskers (20-6, 10-3) have put themselves comfortably inside the NCAA tournament bubble. In ESPN’s bracketology, Nebraska is a No. 5 seed — and that was before the win at Michigan. Iowa’s in, too — but as a No. 10 seed. Right now, the Big Ten is projected to land seven teams.
Both the Huskers and Hawkeyes, NU forward Jordan Hooper said, know each other well.
“They play the same kind of way we do, and I feel like we kind of know them a little bit better than other teams,” Hooper said.
What makes Iowa tough, Yori said, is offensive balance. Two of the league’s better 3-point shooters — Jaime Printy and Melissa Dixon — roam outside the arc, while 6-foot-5 post Morgan Johnson leads the team with 15 points per game. It’s a tough assignment for Husker sophomore forward Emily Cady, who is three inches shorter.
“She’s a really great player and she really challenges me,” Cady said. “I try to do my best whenever I go against her.”
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