LINCOLN — Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore couldn't watch Tuesday night's Duke-Oklahoma State NCAA tournament game in their apartment.
“We don't get that channel,” Hooper said Wednesday to a larger group of reporters than she ever faced in the regular season.
So the Nebraska women's basketball teammates went to the Hendricks Training Complex, home of a private TV lounge that any sports bar would envy. They watched games on three screens with what Moore said is one of the best — if fleeting — vibes a basketball player can have at this stage: that of safety, of having already advanced to the Sweet 16.
NU started preparation Wednesday for No. 2 seed and ACC champion Duke — arguably the best team Nebraska's played since losing to 2011 national champion Texas A&M. NU beat the 2013 version of the Aggies to advance to the round of 16.
Wearing a March Madness shirt, Moore smiled and talked as if she were still floating with a safety net beneath her.
“I still feel like I'm on cloud nine,” said Moore, who's coming off a 20-point, 10-assist outing. “It's been a lot of fun, honestly, going back and looking back on that.
“But I think we gave ourselves a couple days to celebrate, and now we need to get focused. We're not done yet. We don't want to be done.”
Said Hooper: “You enjoy your moment, and then you look forward to Duke.”
The Blue Devils nearly didn't survive a scare from seventh-seeded Oklahoma State, rallying from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat the Cowgirls 68-59 on their home floor in Durham, N.C.
Duke forward Haley Peters said in an interview Wednesday that her team played its best half of defense this season against OSU, a performance triggered by coach Joanne P. McCallie's locker-room pep talk.
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“She told us to get ready for a great comeback and have fun doing it,” said Peters, who scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the win.
Duke set goals to cut OSU's lead a little more by each media timeout, finally taking control of the game in the final five minutes.
“You could see they got frazzled,” Peters said of Oklahoma State.
The performance left Moore impressed — but not overwhelmed.
“They have a lot of weapons, and they're going to be tough for us to guard,” Moore said. “But I definitely feel like we can do it.”
Nebraska has a head start in preparation, resuming practice Wednesday to prepare for the Blue Devils. Don't look for the Huskers to scout teams on the other side of the Norfolk, Va., bracket — Notre Dame or Kansas — unless they beat Duke. NU knows the Jayhawks well and, beyond that, Husker coach Connie Yori has said this season she prepares in practice for the next opponent only, regardless of the turnaround time afterward.
Duke had Wednesday off; Peters said her team won't dive completely into scouting the Huskers until Friday. Duke's travel time to Norfolk is bound to be shorter, and its fan contingent at the Constant Convocation Center — three hours from Durham — much larger.
The Blue Devils average 75.1 points a game, and Hooper said they present many of the same defensive challenges as the Huskers do to their opponents: movement, good post scorers and dangerous outside shooters.
“It's kind of like defending ourselves,” Hooper said. “Which is hard. Earlier in the year, we defended Creighton, and we didn't come out with the win. That was the one game I wish we had back. And I guess we kind of do with Duke.”
The teams had three common opponents during the year: Michigan, Maryland and Florida State.
Nebraska beat Michigan 57-39 and FSU 78-77, but lost 90-71 to Maryland at home during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Duke finished 5-0 against those three teams, including a 17-point win at Michigan and a 16-point win at Maryland. Plus, Hooper said she didn't think the Blue Devils would “take us for granted,” as Texas A&M had in the second round.
But players said NU won't be satisfied with simply reaching the Sweet 16. Even if, unlike three years ago, when the team was a No. 1 seed, it's a surprise that the Huskers are still standing — and the only Big Ten team left, to boot.
“I don't think anyone's ready for our season to be over, honestly,” Moore said. “I don't think that it's necessarily that we have to say anything to anyone. Coach doesn't need to give us a pep talk to keep going. The cool thing about it is that everybody wants to keep playing. There's no one who's burned out.
“We know this team is special. And we want to prove to everyone why it's so special.”
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