Opponents closing gap against unbeaten Huskers
Unbeaten Nebraska is still winning - just not quite as easily as before.
The third-ranked Cornhuskers have won their past five games by an average of 9.6 points. That's impressive, but not nearly as convincing as the 24-point average margin between themselves and their first 20 opponents.
``Teams are going to be out to get us,'' senior guard Yvonne Turner said Tuesday. ``It makes it that much more fun to play when you know you have teams giving you their best shot vs. coming into a gym and knowing you're going to blow a team out.''
Nebraska (25-0, 12-0 Big 12) expects nothing less than No. 11 Oklahoma's best shot Wednesday night when the teams meet in Norman, Okla. The Cornhuskers can lock up their first conference championship since 1988 against the defending champion Sooners.
Nebraska has lost 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Sooners and hasn't won in Norman since 1998. Second-place Oklahoma (19-7, 9-3) has won six of the last 10 Big 12 regular-season titles.
``They're not going to want us to win the conference championship on their court,'' Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. ``They're still in the hunt for the conference championship. It means a lot to them. It also means a lot to us.''
The Huskers were at their peak over a four-game stretch when they clobbered Kansas State by 15 points, Texas Tech by 42, Colorado by 16 and then-No. 10 Oklahoma State by 21.
The last five games have been much tougher for the Huskers.
They led Texas A&M by five points in the last 3:06 before winning 71-60. They trailed Kansas by five points with eight minutes left before winning 67-60. At Missouri, they won 82-78 after being down six points with three minutes left.
Nebraska beat Iowa State 60-50, but the Cyclones were without star guard Alison Lacey, who had a concussion, and committed 24 turnovers. The Huskers defeated Colorado 89-73 in a game that seemed much closer as the Buffaloes made an opponent-record 15 3-pointers.
Opponents have shot 43.8 percent the past five games after hitting just 36.5 percent the first 20. The last five opponents have shot 41.9 percent on 3-pointers; the first 20 shot 24.1 percent.
``At this time of the year, you have a tendency to play a little sharper on offense just because of continuity,'' Yori said. ``I feel like we've played pretty well offensively the past couple games. We just need to get back to being a little bit better defensively. But, again, that is in part because of the time of the year. Teams have a tendency to score a little bit more later in the year.''
Besides the physical strain that comes late in the season, the Huskers also have had to deal with the mental toll that goes along with being a marked team and trying to maintain a perfect record.
``It's a long season and you're trying to balance athletics and getting into the seventh week of your semester academically and approaching how much school you're going to miss come Big 12 and NCAA tournament time,'' junior guard Dominique Kelley said. ``I'd be lying if I said we weren't feeling it a little bit.''