LINCOLN — The ability to refocus is a major reason why the Nebraska women's basketball team is still playing, coach Connie Yori said.
“We had some injuries early in the season and I just didn't think we were practicing very well,” she said. “Then when we started 2-3 in the Big Ten, we all knew something had to change.”
The Huskers refocused, and NU's second berth in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 is evidence. Nebraska nailed down that spot Monday night by defeating Texas A&M 74-63 on the Aggies' home court.
Yori, who spoke Tuesday at a brief press conference at NU's Hendricks Complex, credited her team for getting the season turned around.
“I demanded a lot from them and our players worked hard,” she said. “They're expected to be focused and locked in, and I think that showed in the way we played (Monday night).”
A little celebrating
Yori said she didn't prevent her team from celebrating the victory at Texas A&M in the locker room after the game.
“Everyone was excited and we just let them celebrate,” she said. “Somebody was doing 'the worm' on the floor, but I tried not to get too caught up in that.”
Yori added that the Huskers realize there's more work ahead.
“The players understand that they've got to stay focused,” she said. “And we'll go back to work tomorrow.”
Business as usual
Despite the big victory Monday night, it was a typical school day Tuesday.
“We got back about 4 a.m.,” Yori said. “The kids had class today and we'll give them today off (from practice). We'll practice Wednesday through Friday and then head out.”
Nebraska's next tournament destination is Norfolk, Va. The Huskers play Sunday against Duke, which beat Oklahoma State 68-59 Tuesday night.
Comparing her teams
Yori said there is one major difference between the Nebraska team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010 and this year's squad.
“Everyone expected it from that 2010 team,” she said. “That was the best team we've had here. But this year's team has embraced the underdog role.”
The 2010 Huskers finished 32-2, losing to Kentucky 76-67. The 2013 squad, seeded sixth in the region, improved to 25-8 by defeating the third-seeded Aggies.
Despite being the underdog Monday, Yori said she had a good feeling heading into the game against A&M.
“I felt pretty confident,” she said. “I thought we had some advantages, and that if we could hold them to 60 or so that we had a really good chance.”
The coach added that her team enjoys playing without the favorite's target on its back.
“A lot of people didn't give us a chance,” she said. “I think that helped keep us loose and we played really well at both ends of the court.”
Kudos to Creighton
Yori took a moment Tuesday to compliment Creighton — the school where she once played and coached — for also reaching the NCAA tournament.
“It was great that they got that first-round win,” she said. “I was happy for (CU coach) Jim (Flanery) and I always like to see them do well. They're all friends of mine there.”
The Bluejays' tournament stay came to an end Monday night in a 68-52 loss at Tennessee. Creighton defeated Syracuse on Saturday to reach the second round.
— Mike Patterson