LINCOLN — Nebraska will turn its first regular-season men's and women's basketball games at Pinnacle Bank Arena into a day-night double dip.
The Husker women will host Pac-12 power UCLA at the $179 million arena Nov. 8 in a noon start on NET, while the NU men will host NCAA tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast later in the day. The time for the men's game hasn't yet been set, but BTN will televise it.
“We're thrilled with the caliber of competition our teams will face on opening day and night at Pinnacle Bank Arena,” Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm said. “With school-record season-opening crowds for both the men and women promising to be on hand for NCAA tournament-caliber basketball teams, we think we will set the tone for a memorable first season at the new arena.”
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FGCU advanced to the Sweet 16 this year, earning the name “Dunk City” during upsets of Georgetown and San Diego State for an up-tempo, jam-happy style. NU, which beat the Eagles 51-50 in 2011, will sport a revamped roster with four transfers (Deverell Biggs, Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford and Leslee Smith) and several true freshmen expected to contribute. FGCU returns four starters from a team that finished 26-11.
“We are excited to have 'Dunk City' be our first game at Pinnacle Bank Arena,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “They play a style that I believe our fans will enjoy watching and have four starters back from a Sweet 16 team so it will be a challenge for the Huskers to start the season. Our players are excited for the opener in Pinnacle Bank Arena.”
The Huskers will play to a full house, too; season tickets have been sold out for the 2013-14 season. Since Pinnacle Bank Arena holds 15,100, it'll be the largest home-opener crowd in NU history.
The Nebraska women — Sweet 16 participants last year who expect to be in preseason top 20 polls with four starters returning this year — should have a large crowd as well. Since May 8, NU has sold 2,600 women's season tickets — most in school history — and will get 5,000 more fans from a university-sponsored middle school pep rally held in the morning. The “Invest 2 Be the Best” rally, NU Associate Athletic Director Keith Zimmer said, will show students and teachers “through music and other entertainment” how to “discover unique talents” and “strive to be multi-dimensional.”
“It promises to be a memorable morning and afternoon, not only to be inspired at the pep rally but to enjoy a marquee women's basketball game at the new arena,” Zimmer said.
Said Boehm: “We also wanted to reach out to people of all ages from Lincoln and the surrounding communities, so they could join us in the celebration of a truly historic day in the Haymarket. Partnering with Lincoln Public Schools and other schools in the area gives local youth a chance to see the first regular-season game inside the arena and be a part of history.”
The Bruins finished 26-8 last year — 14-4 in the Pac-12 — while advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament and finishing No. 15 in the final coaches poll. Nebraska will play at UCLA next year. The Huskers beat UCLA in 2010 to advance to their first NCAA Sweet 16.
The Bruins are part of a challenging nonconference schedule that has yet to fully be revealed, but includes a game at ACC power North Carolina.
“UCLA was an exceptionally talented team last year, and they will be again this season,” NU women's coach Connie Yori said. “We are expecting a great game. We're excited they agreed to come to Lincoln, and we look forward to a return trip to Los Angeles next year.”
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