LINCOLN — There’s a new young star in Big Ten women’s basketball who brings back memories for Nebraska coach Connie Yori. Not precisely fond ones, either.
Amanda Zahui B. is the 6-foot-5 Minnesota redshirt freshman and Swedish import who’s averaging 14.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. When the Gophers visit Pinnacle Bank Arena Thursday night, Yori figures she’ll see a player who resembles the dominant Courtney Paris, who vexed the Huskers during her All-America career at Oklahoma.
“Amanda’s a huge presence for them,” Yori said. And coupled with another Gopher forward, 6-2 MicaŽlla Richť, NU will have to battle one of the biggest frontcourts it’ll face this season.
Not that the Huskers have let bigger teams in the league daunt them in the past. Since they joined in the Big Ten in 2011, they’ve won all six games over Iowa, four of five from Ohio State and three of four from Minnesota without a true center. Forwards Jordan Hooper and Emily Cady — as comfortable behind the 3-point line as they are under the basket — have often won those position battles. Why?
“With our quickness and our speed — especially with our hounds and smaller post players — we can beat their bigger players,” Hooper said. “We’re quicker.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Yori declined to talk about just how No. 18 NU (12-3 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten) would use its smaller-but-quicker lineup against the Gophers (12-5, 1-2).
“There are some things they can take advantage of and some things we can take advantage of,” Yori said.
One area where Minnesota’s weak: turnover margin. The Gophers average 2.53 more turnovers than their opponents. Zahui B. averages four turnovers per game by herself. When Creighton beat Minnesota 63-52 this season, the Bluejays forced 22 Minnesota turnovers and committed only seven themselves.
But Nebraska can’t sleep on the Gophers’ backcourt. Junior Rachel Banham, an all-Big Ten player last year, leads the league in scoring at 21.8 points per game. She’s also one of the Big Ten’s top 3-point shooters. Minnesota, as a whole, leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 43.4 percent.
Hooper said Minnesota poses a tough inside/outside challenge for the Huskers. In a 70-57 loss to Michigan State, NU didn’t manage the Spartans’ balance with much success.