LINCOLN — Two teams, different goals.
The Nebraska women’s basketball squad, 16-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena last season, wants to sell out one of its home games during Big Ten play.
Sellouts aren’t necessarily a problem for the Husker men. Winning is. And NU coach Fred Hoiberg, speaking briefly at the “Opening Night with Husker Hoops” event Friday, made a mild prediction.
The Nebraska men will improve on last year’s 7-12 record at home.
“It’s incredible to see the crowd we get tonight for this great event,” Hoiberg said before Nebraska conducted a fast-paced, 30-minute open practice of drill work. “Like I said, we need to be better in this building, there’s no doubt about that. We’re going to be.
“I could not have more confidence in the 16 guys who are standing out here today. I really do think it’s a group this fan base can rally behind.”
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Fans cheered loudest for the local stars — Lincoln Pius X graduate Alexis Markowski for the women and North Dakota State transfer Sam Griesel for the men.
“I’m pretty speechless, to be honest,” said Griesel, the Lincoln East graduate who cited Hoiberg and “the community” as his primary reasons for transferring to NU.
Markowski, meanwhile, had a strong night for the Husker women, who beat their scout team 43-22 in a 24-minute scrimmage. Point guard Jaz Shelley, who unofficially finished with ten points, opened the second half with two quick baskets while Markowski anchored the post and South Dakota transfer Maddie Krull hit at the buzzer.
In brief comments before the scrimmage, Husker coach Amy Williams said the team has set the goal of selling out PBA for its Feb. 18 home game against rival Iowa.
Last year’s Husker/Hawkeye game, played on a Sunday, drew 8,415 fans.
“As we start to build momentum this season, I think everybody’s really going to get on board and come out and watch this team lay it on the line,” Williams said. “We believe this place can be packed full for a women’s basketball game.”
Nebraska sold all 12,000 of its available tickets for the “Opening Night” event. Fans trickled into Pinnacle Bank Arena during the 90-minute event that served as an appetizer for Waka Flocka Flame’s rap concert. The artist — a late addition after the original artist, EST Gee, canceled due to “unforeseen” circumstances — tossed a few t-shirts into the crowd while the Husker men practiced.
» In a 3-point contest between the men and women, Keisei Tominaga hit 17 3-pointers, beating Jaz Shelley’s 14. Wilhelm Breidenbach and Annika Stewart each had 13.
» At least for opening night, Nebraska’s women replaced injured guard Sam Haiby in the starting lineup with Trinity Brady. Brady, who hasn’t played a game in nearly two years and has battled a variety of injuries since her arrival, took one rebound coast-to-coast for a layup. Nailah Dillard, who has not played a game in a Husker uniform over two years, did not appear in the scrimmage.
» Quaran McPherson, out for the season after knee surgery, still participated in introduction, crutching his way down the stairs. Maggie Mendelson, currently playing for the Husker volleyball team, recorded a an introduction, although the pre-filmed videos malfunctioned and did not appear on the big center court screens.
» Both teams started practice this week and open regular season play at home Monday, Nov. 7. The Husker women will host UNO at noon, while the NU men host Maine at 7 p.m. The women have a home exhibition game Oct. 30, while the men host Chadron State for an exhibition Oct. 23.