LINCOLN — Coach Connie Yori's sudden, “scary” collapse in the second half of a Nebraska women's basketball game Sunday turned the Huskers' sixth straight win into a footnote.
Shortly after senior forward Jordan Hooper tied NU's game with Indiana 50-50 with 12:15 to go, a cheering Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd quickly went silent as fans saw Yori flat on her back in Nebraska's coaching box. Paramedics briefly attended to Yori, who sat up, then stood up, and finally walked out the main arena under her own power back to the training room. Just before No. 21 Nebraska finished off the Hoosiers 76-61, she left in an ambulance for an evaluation at a local hospital.
“She's been extremely dizzy — that's why she collapsed,” said Marc Boehm, the Nebraska executive associate athletic director in charge of men's and women's basketball. Boehm said Yori didn't hit her head when she fell to the floor.
Boehm talked to Yori in the training room and found her “coherent” and “aware of her surroundings.” Boehm said he expected Yori to be “fine.”
“But she doesn't feel up to par,” said Boehm, who added that he could not name the hospital.
A statement from Nebraska read in part: “(Yori) was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation as a precautionary measure. We do not anticipate another update on Sunday. If the situation warrants, we may have an update on Monday.”
Sunday night, the Husker women's play-by-play announcer, Matt Coatney, wrote on Twitter that Yori left the hospital, went home and “is resting and is fine.”
Yori, the 12th-year Husker coach, had complained to assistant coaches before and during the game Sunday about dizziness, associate head coach Sunny Smallwood said. Smallwood — who ran Nebraska practices for much of the 2011 preseason while Yori recovered from a severe staph infection in her knee — did not see Yori collapse, but immediately assumed head coaching duties, pulling the team out to the free-throw line as paramedics looked at Yori near the scorer's table. She caught a glimpse of Husker assistant Dayna Finch — one of Yori's former players at Creighton — and saw tears in her eyes.
“All of us experienced that a little bit, but you still have to hand over and leave it to the professional (paramedics),” Smallwood said. “You have to take care of the team and know she's being taken care of. We have to be the steady ones.”
Hooper, who scored 31 points and became the school's all-time leader in 3-pointers, said Yori's ability to walk off the floor, and the crowd's resulting cheers, gave NU a “bigger puff of air.”
“It was a huge relief,” Hooper said. “I saw they brought the stretcher thingie out and I was like, 'Oh ...' Then I saw her walk off. That gave me relief. And I think other people saw it, too. We took a deep breath and focused on the task at hand.”
Guard Rachel Theriot, who scored 23 points and dished out eight assists, agreed.
“You could tell in everyone's eyes,” she said. “The whole attitude just changed.”
Smallwood cut the tension with a brief exhortation.
“I just looked at them and said 'well, it's time to turn up your swag,'” Smallwood said. “And they just kind of giggled, shook it out a little bit and took off. You saw the results.”
Nebraska finished the game on a 26-11 run. Hooper said the Huskers (19-5, 9-3 Big Ten) consistently switched around defenses, which confused the previously hot-shooting Hoosiers (17-8, 4-8). After hitting 10 3-pointers in the game's first 27 minutes, Indiana missed its last six attempts from beyond the arc.
The crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena was as loud, players said, as it's been for any Nebraska women's game this year. So loud, Hooper said, NU players couldn't always hear switch calls on Indiana's screens.
“I think it's awesome our fans got that amped up,” Hooper said. “They knew it was for Coach Yori, and we knew it was for Coach Yori. We were all one big unit.”
Indiana coach Curt Miller saw Nebraska's emotion wash over a young Hoosier team often playing four freshmen. He understood the emotion, too. In January 2012, Miller suffered a mild stroke while coaching. He called Yori's collapse “scary.”
“I understand the pressures and demands of college coaching,” Miller said. “I've been there. I pray she's OK. I wish her well. I look forward to seeing her back on the sidelines. She's a class act.”
Yori left the arena near the final buzzer. As players poured into the locker room, their first question for Smallwood was obvious: How's Coach Yori?
Smallwood shared with them what she briefly shared with the media: “She's being evaluated and she's in great care.”
Even if Yori has to miss games — NU next plays at Ohio State Thursday — Smallwood's confident the team will handle the change well.
“We have unbelievable players, which is a result of a great philosophy from Coach Yori,” Smallwood said. “She recruits kids of character, which shows through in times of adversity. I'm very, very proud of this program right now.”
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Video: Yori collapses on court during Huskers' win:
Video: Nebraska-Indiana highlights: