NCAA WBB Tournament: the party's over for A&M

At least half of this was very wrong.

It seems likely that the Huskers will go back to the zone against the Ags on Monday night. Nebraska starts 4 players over 6 ft tall, and two or three of these will sandwich Bone.

Coach Blair said in the post-game that he had also been expecting zone, so I was in pretty good company. But Nebraska didn't need to play zone to frustrate the Aggie Women's Bouncy Ballers earlier tonight and bounce the 3-seed home squad from the Big Dance. The did, however, use their length and a sagging man defense to sandwich and frustrate Kelsey Bone, whose night was far worse than her 13 pts on 6-10 shooting with 5 boards, and 3 blocks would seem to indicate. Unlike most teams, Nebraska's double-team was done by having the outside defender turn her back to the ball and face up on Bone. Coach Connie Yori explained that most teams never do this; it's something that Yale has run. Bone described it as a different D than what she had seen.

if you told me before the game that A&M would shoot 45.9% and 42.9% from three-point land, and that those numbers were higher than the Huskers, I would have assumed a solid win, especially when the Ags took 4 more shots (61-57) ended up with only one more turnover than the Corn. But in fact, after roaring out to a 14-6 lead to start the game, the Ags were outplayed the rest of the way. Although Nebraska dominated the game, the Ags didn't quit and made a number of runs. Each time the Huskers would make a key stop or it a clutch shot to quell the comeback. After A&M's initial burst to get to 14-6, NU went on a 19-2 run to take a 23-16 lead. A&M cut it to 2 twice before the intermission. Nebraska pushed it back up to 11 at the break on a buzzer-beating turnaround 3 by Rachel Theriot. Nebraska stretched their lead to 16 in the second half, but the Ags tried to claw their way back. Our last serious run, sparked by PG heir apparent Jordan Jones cut the lead to 7 with 2:44 left. Jones, who averages less than 1 3FGA/game, hit two treys in a row, and then swiped the ball from Moore in the open court and took it for a layup and one. That was Moore's low point of an otherwise stellar evening.

Nebraska also defied this from Nate Parham's preview:

Nebraska is a team that has shown a tendency to drift out to the perimeter and the problem is that they only shoot 31.2% from the 3-point line - in each of their losses a combination of cold shooting and an inability to get to the line did them in. And where that stands out in their statistical profile is a low free throw rate.

In the two rounds at Reed, Nebraska shot 53.8% and 42.1% from beyond the arc, on 13 and 19 attempts. The long-range bombing attack repeatedly opened the lane for layups and putbacks as the Aggie defenders ran out too late at their assigned shooters. The Huskers reprised their 18/23 vs 1/1 advantage vs Chattanooga at the charity stripe by going 14/15 on free throws. The Ags were 1/2, with an astonishing zero free throw attempts for any of our front court players. It may be tempting to ascribe this to a combination of President Obama picking the Huskers and the refs being as unsatisfied as Rand Paul about the administration's policy on domestic drone strikes. But in fact much of the disparity came from the D described above denying the entry passes to the posts, combined with the Ags getting anxious and taking shots early in the shot clock. But then again, 3 fta in two days?!

On D, it seemed at times as though the Ags had reverted to the team of inexperienced freshmen we saw at the start of the year. It was the kind of game where everyone in the crowd was screaming "Nooo!" every time an Ag would try to make a heroic double team only to see a wide open Husker making an uncontested shot. You could see these plays developing like a slow motion car crash. Blair talked about how his posts were not supposed to switch out to stop Moore at the top, but they did it anyway... perhaps because this is how he coached them to play all year. Hailee Sample doubled her 4.8 season average in part on lobs for layups. The paint was also open due to the defense being spread thin by Nebraska's 3 point shooters. A&M started with Kristi Bellock guarding NU's prime shooter, Jordan Hooper. Over the course of the game, Blair tried a series of different defenders on Hooper, including Tori Scott, who had a similar assignment against Taber Spani in the SEC tourney, and the seldom-used Senior, Cierra Windham. CeCe played 5 minutes in the second half, did a decent job on D, got some boards, and took a couple of shots she probably shouldn't have taken.

In the battle of the point guards, Pratcher had what would be a good night against most opponents: 17 points, 3 asst, 1 turnover in 38 minutes. But Moore showed why she's a WNBA prospect: 20 pts, 10 assists, 4 turnovers and a steal. Moore played every minute. What doesn't show up in the stats is how well she controlled their offense. The two coaches avoided having their two point guards check each other. Pratcher did spend some time on Moore, but NU mostly used others on AP.

So, congrats to the Huskers on their win, and good luck in the Sweet 16. We should also congratulate the Aggie Women on a successful season. While the loss hurts now, you made us proud and brought another banner to Aggieland from the SEC tourney.

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