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NU basketball Opening Night, 9.27

Nebraska women's basketball coach Amy Williams talks to the crowd during Opening Night with Husker Hoops on Sept. 27 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The Nebraska women’s basketball team is about five weeks into official practice and is showing that it's a team with a good amount of experience at the college level, and also a group that benefited from playing more this summer.

The Huskers returned each of its top seven scorers from last season: Hannah Whitish, Sam Haiby, Leigha Brown, Taylor Kissinger, Nicea Eliely, Kate Cain and Ashtyn Veerbeek.

Nebraska also benefited in the offseason from taking an international trip, which are on the schedule every four years. As a result, Nebraska got 10 practices before the trip that it wouldn’t have had during a normal summer. NU then turned in a 3-0 record in games played in Italy and Spain.

Nebraska’s first regular-season game is about two weeks away, and head coach Amy Williams feels like the summer trip has the Huskers ahead of schedule in some ways. Coaches, for example, have already taught some of what they want players to practice.

“We’ve tried to spend quite a bit of time this preseason on some more motion offense and working on playing basketball,” said Williams on Monday. “I think the summer tour allows us to do that because we were able to put some of our other staples in and we weren’t so worried about mixing in too many sets and things like that this preseason. It’s allowed us to really focus on just getting better at making reads and playing basketball.”

Nebraska will play a closed scrimmage at Arizona State this week. Nebraska’s only exhibition game is against Rogers State on Nov. 2.

Nebraska finished with a 14-16 record last season and had a team good enough to have a chance to win more games, but kept coming up short. Nebraska had a 4-10 record in games decided by two possessions.

Williams said this has been a fun group to coach.

“There’s so much talent there, there’s so much versatility there,” Williams said. “We never really know every practice who is really going to shine."

Williams said the themes for the season are investment and togetherness.

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Whitish injured: Whitish has missed a few weeks of practice with an injury, but Williams expects her to be ready for the start of the season.

NCAA Tournament is the goal: The main expectation for the season that Williams is focused on is for the team to improve each day.

But there was disappointment after the Huskers couldn’t get back to the NCAA Tournament last season, after making it in 2018, and the Huskers are focused on trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

“Ultimately for us that is something that our team and our players feels is an ultimate goal, and it’s something that we’re going to constantly strive for and we will feel always disheartened when we don’t end up at the NCAA Tournament,” Williams said.

Freshman watch: Nebraska’s three freshmen include one from Australia in forward Isabelle Bourne.

Williams said Bourne has adjusted well to basketball in the United States, and has stood out on defense.

“I think she’s strong enough to really hold her own defensively,” Williams said.

Big Ten watch: The conference released a preseason poll of the top five teams according to the coaches. Maryland is No. 1, followed by Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan and Purdue.

Former Huskers stay in the game: A number of recent Huskers are staying in the game as coaches. Maddie Simon, who played her final season for the Huskers last season, is now a graduate assistant at Memphis.

Jasmine Cincore is an assistant coach at Rogers State, and Janay Morton is an assistant coach at Jamestown (North Dakota). Emily (Wood) Wacker is an assistant at Missouri Western.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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