The Nebraska women’s basketball team opened its season on Sunday afternoon with an exhibition against NAIA Dakota Wesleyan at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers took down the Tigers 83-47 as a pair of newcomers led the way. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Strong First Impression for Darian White
The biggest positive from the game was the play of Montana State grad transfer Darian White. The 5-foot-6 guard made as good of a first impression as you could hope for with a perfect and productive first quarter: eight points on 100% shooting (one 3, one free throw and two layups), four assists, two rebounds and a steal.
White buried a 3 on Nebraska’s first play, then soon after jumped up to steal a pass in the backcourt and spun by the defender for an and-one. She tapped out on offensive rebound to a teammate who threw it right back inside to freshman Natalie Potts for a 3-point play late in the quarter as well.
“I was really nervous at first but it felt good to finally be out there and play a different team,” White said. “It’s amazing not to play against each other every day, so to finally able to play on the same team as them and just in front of the fans, it’s an amazing experience.”
White finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 from the field (2-of-3 from 3) and 1-of-1 from the line, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals, and the Huskers outscored the Tigers by 31 in her 24 minutes.
She was incredibly active on the glass for a player of her size and displayed terrific vision, consistently finding open teammates either off penetration or swing passes. She easily could have hit double-digit assists had a few more shots gone down as she got her teammates good looks all game long.
“We haven’t had someone like Darian in this program, I don’t think,” Senior guard Jaz Shelley said. “It makes my life easy. She’s easy to play with and she’s a great teammate and even better off the court, so it’s fun.”
White and Shelley sharing a backcourt should be a lot of fun for fans to watch this season.
All 11 active players saw the court, and all 11 of them scored, including all three freshmen.
Logan Nissley, a 6-foot guard, knocked down a 3 and converted a tough layup on a drive for five points to go with five boards and an assist in 18 minutes. Jess Petrie, a 6-foot-2 forward hailing from Australia, was the 11h player off the bench and finished with two points, two rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes.
The star was undoubtedly Potts, though, as the 6-foot-2 forward led the team with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist in 21 minutes off the bench.
“I’m thrilled with Natalie,” Coach Amy Williams said. “I think that she came out and obviously led us in scoring. But I thought the five offensive rebound hustle plays, a couple of steals, just playing hard on both sides of the ball was pretty efficient …
“Obviously, when you lose a player like Issie Bourne who’s been a multi-year starter in your program in that position, it kind of leaves a hole and we know it’s going to take multiple people to help us fill that hole. But we’ve been asking for somebody to step up and find ways to produce on both sides of the ball and I thought Natalie really took that to heart and did that today.”
Veteran Annika Stewart was productive as well as the back-up five behind Alexis Markowski with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, but Potts provides a different look in the frontcourt and appears to be a potential impact player as a true freshman.
Plenty to Clean Up Before the Opener
The final score shows an easy Nebraska win, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Huskers raced out a 14-0 lead and were up 17-2 before the Tigers converted their first field goal, but Nebraska’s offense ground to a halt soon after.
After leading 24-13 at the end of one, Nebraska played Dakota Wesleyan to an 8-8 draw in the second quarter. The Huskers shot 3-of-16 from the field including 0-of-10 from deep to maintain their 11-point lead at halftime.
“I thought that in the second quarter, we were settling for wanting to try to get things a little bit too easy and we just continued to stand out there and shoot 3s and and forgot our goal of trying to get paint touches,” Williams said. “Part of that is just really credit to Dakota Wesleyan because I thought when we went to the paint off post feeds, they were aggressive and double-teaming, but we’ve got to be able to continue that because our field goal percentage goes way up when we’ve had paint touches first.”
Nebraska turned it back up in the third quarter, however, knocking down 3s on back-to-back possessions early to rip the lid off the rim and pouring in 30 points in total before cruising through the fourth quarter.
With a week to spend on the practice court ahead of the season opener, Williams said her focus will be on cleaning up some of the defensive mishaps the Huskers had, especially late in possessions. She also wants to see improved effort on the defensive glass after allowing 12 offensive rebounds to a team lacking anyone over 5-foot-11.
“We’re going to play quite a few kids quite few minutes, and we try to keep people fresh,” Williams said. “So if we’re going to do that, then you’ve got to be able to empty the tank by playing complete possessions and not having those breakdowns towards the end of shot clocks and finishing through the rebound.”