Sooners Set To Open Big 12 Play At Nebraska

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
JANUARY 09, 2003

Jan. 9, 2003

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Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003
12 p.m.
Devaney Center (Lincoln, Neb.)
Fox Sports Net
KOMA (1520 AM)
Oklahoma is 9-4 overall and 0-0 in Big 12.
Nebraska is 7-4 overall and 0-0 in Big 12.
Series: Nebraska leads the all-time series, 21-19.

Oklahoma Opens Big 12 Play at Nebraska
Oklahoma (9-4) and Nebraska (7-4) kick off their 2003 Big 12 Conference schedule Saturday in Lincoln at Noon. OU currently ranks fifth in the league followed by Nebraska at eighth. The Devaney Center (13,500) will host the first game of the 2003 Big 12 Conference television package with Fox Sports Net.

Oklahoma and Nebraska enters the game after losing its first outing of the New Year. The Sooners fell to No. 6/7 Stanford (58-38) in California, while the Cornhuskers lost to Texas Pan-American (61-58) in Lincoln.

Saturday's game will be broadcast by Fox Sports Net at 12 p.m. Bill Land will be handling play-by-play duties while Debbie Antonelli will serve as the color analyst.

The game will be broadcast live on KOMA (1520-AM) and on the Internet at Brian Brinkley and Tara DeGiusti will call the action for the Sooners.

Oklahoma is ranked 25th in the AP and 22nd in the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Coaches polls. Nebraska is not ranked.

Series Records:
Nebraska has a 21-19 all-time series advantage over the Sooners. However, OU has won the last three meeting between the two teams. When playing in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers are 15-4 against OU.

Sherri Coale (Oklahoma Christian, 1987) is in her seventh season at the helm of the OU women's basketball program. The Healdton, Okla., native directed the Sooners to their first Final Four and national championship game appearance a year ago. Coale also has three Big 12 regular season titles under her belt and owns an overall record of 122-77.

Connie Yori (Creighton, 1986) is in her first season as the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. She came to NU after spending 10 years (1992-2002) as the head coach at Creighton. In that time span, she earned an overall record of 170-115 and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year last season. She also coached last year's team to the MVC Championship and NCAA Tournament.

Upcoming Home Opponent:
Oklahoma opens its Big 12 Conference home schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 15, against No. 7 Texas Tech at 7 p.m. inside the Lloyd Noble Center. The Lady Raiders currently stand at 12-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. TTU picked up a 77-56 win over Texas A&M Wednesday.

A look At Nebraska
Nebraska comes into conference action after winning six of its last eight games, including an upset victory over then 25th-ranked Cincinnati (65-55) on Dec. 15 in Lincoln. NU concluded its non-conference schedule with a 7-4 mark. The Cornhuskers, along with the Sooners, have had a full week to prepare for their conference opener.

Junior forward Alexa Johnson is Nebraska's top player as she leads the team in scoring with 16.0 points per game, ranking her 10th best in the Big 12. She also chips in 7.8 rebounds per outing. The 6-1 forward has produced a team-best four double doubles on the season and scored 20 or more points on four occasions. Assisting Johnson has been Amanda Cleveland, Margaret Richards, Jina Johansen and Shahidrah Roberts. Cleveland, a 6-2 senior, ranks among the Big 12 top rebounders with an average of 8.0 per contest. Richards is considered the Cornhuskers top all-around player, averaging 12.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Johansen is NU's top playermaker as she tops the team with 5.8 assists. She also averages 6.5 ppg and 3.2 rpg.

Like Oklahoma, Nebraska has lost a player to a torn ACL. The Cornhuskers lost junior center Katie Morse in NU's win over Cincinnati. Roberts replaced Morse in the starting lineup. She's currently contributing 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest.

As a team, Nebraska is shooting 40.8 percent from the field, 30.1 percent from the arc and 72.9 percent from the foul line. The Cornhuskers are scoring 63.6 points per game while allowing only 58.5 a contest.

A look At Oklahoma
Head Coach Sherri Coale had to shuffle up her lineup again against SMU (Dec. 21) as senior Stephanie Simon was sidelined with minor knee swelling. Since then Simon has been lost for the season. Coale's third different lineup of the season had sophomore Dionnah Jackson at point, freshman Chelsi Welch and junior Maria Villarroel on the wings, senior Theresa Schuknecht power forward and freshman Laura Andrews at small forward. Three of the five average double-digits in scoring, four grabs four-or-more rebounds a game and four average over 25 minutes an outing.

Villarroel has filled the scoring void for the Sooners, as she's netted 10-plus points in 10 of 13 games and scored better than 25 points in four (31 vs. Sam Houston, 30 vs. Fordham, 27 vs. UConn, 27 vs. Stephen F. Austin) games since OU's ACL injuries. The Margarita, Venezuela, native is also shooting an eye-popping 63.9 percent from the field, but has only been able to connect on 60.8 percent of her free throw attempts.

Schuknecht is becoming a consistent threat for the Sooners in the paint despite seeing double teams on defense since her 27-point and 12-rebound performance against Tennessee. She has been responsible for 10-plus points seven times and 10-or-more rebounds five times this season. Schuknecht, 6-3, is the team's top rebounder (7.9 rpg) and free throw shooter (.897), of players attempting more than 10 times at the charity stripe.

Jackson, who will be one of the premier players in college basketball before she leaves OU, is the Sooners' top playmaker dishing out 4.6 assists per game, and has had eight five-assists games already this season. The St. Louis, Mo., native currently ranks among the top three on the team in 14 categories, including team best in assists (4.6 apg), steals (2.4 spg), minutes (31.7 mpg) and three-point percentage (.526). Jackson also ranks among the best in the Big 12 in three categories (assists (9th), steals (6th) and points (19th)). She produced her first double-double of her collegiate career at Wichita State on Dec. 9 (15 points/10 rebounds). The point guard is scoring 12.7 points and grabbing 5.7 caroms an outing.

Welch continues to improve with each game. The past five games, she's been more aggressive on the offensive and defensive ends as she's averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds an outing. She has also hit 92.9 percent of her free throws (13-of-14). Welch ranks second on the team in assists (1.8) and free throw percentage (72.1). The Texan has scored 10-or-more points in three of the last five games. She's averaging 9.6 points and 4.0 rebounds an outing for the year.

In Andrews' first collegiate start (against SMU), she produced a career-high 10 points and matched a personal-best eight boards. In the following game, she repeated her eight rebound performance and netted five points and had a career-high three steals against Southeast Missouri State. Coming out of high school she was considered a three-point specialist, however, she is currently struggling beyond the arc, hitting only 14.3 percent.

Oklahoma is shooting 42.3 percent from the field, 28.7 percent from the arc and 69.3 percent from the foul line. The Sooners average 69.7 points and 40.6 rebounds per game while their opponents account for 62.9 ppg and 36.2 rpg.

Sooners in Big 12 Openers
Oklahoma is 5-1 in Big 12 Conference openers.

Free Throw Battle
Oklahoma and Nebraska enters Saturday's game outscoring its opponents from the free throw line. The Cornhuskers have appeared at the charity stripe 236 times, scoring 172 points, while their opponents have made 110 of 155 free throws (71.0). NU boasts a 72.9 free throw percentage, while OU's accuracy is 69.3 percent. The Sooners have connected on 233 of 336 attempted free throws, and have only allowed their opponents to hit 127 of 190 (66.8%) from the stripe (66.8).

Villarroel and Schuknecht Ranks Among NCAA Best
Oklahoma's Maria Villarroel and Theresa Schuknecht currently rank among the NCAA best in field goal and free throw shooters. The 5-9 guard is currently hitting 63.9 percent from the field, hitting 85 of 133 shots. Schuknecht, a 6-3 center, has connected on 52 of 58 free throws for a 89.7 accuracy at the stripe. The duo also was ranked among the NCAA best in the first national rankings in December.

Simon Falls Victim To Fourth Knee Injury For The Sooners
Oklahoma lost another member of its squad on Tuesday (Jan. 7) when senior Stephanie Simon (Clinton, Okla.) went down with a knee injury. This is OU's fourth knee injury of the season. OU has been trimmed down to 10 players on the roster.

During the summer the Sooners lost incoming freshman Casey Walker (Houston, Texas), followed by senior All-American candidate Caton Hill (Ada, Okla.) and freshman standout Erin Higgins (Oklahoma City, Okla.) to ACL injuries. Hill's and Higgins' injuries occurred on Nov. 26, a day known as "Black Tuesday" within the basketball program. Walkers' injury happened on July 23, during an AAU playoff game.

"This is such a horrible situation for Stephanie," said OU Head Coach Sherri Coale. "Steph is probably our toughest player on the court. She's battled back from two ACL injuries already and to have her career end like this is disappointing. We will miss her on the court but our primary concern is getting her healthy."

Late in practice on Tuesday, Simon torn her medial meniscus in her right knee. Simon's meniscus locked at a 45-degree angle and was surgically repaired at 8:30 p.m. later that night. Simon, a former walk-on, earned a full scholarship in January 2002.

The three-year letterwinner was averaging 2.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game and started six games this season. "I'm disappointed with the injury but what hurts the most is that I will not be able to help my teammates on the court," said Simon. "But, I will be at every practice and game supporting them every minute." Simon will be on crutches for three to six weeks. Full recovery is expected to take 12 weeks.

Sooners Among Big 12 Leaders
Junior Maria Villarroel currently leads the Big 12 Conference in field goal percentage. She has made 85 of her 133 attempted shots for a 63.9 field goal accuracy. The 5-8 guard also ranks sixth in the conference in scoring with 16.9 ppg.

Senior Theresa Schuknecht ranks among the league's best four categories. She's fifth in free throw percentage, hitting 89.7 percent of her shots (52-of-58), and offensive rebounds (3.62), 10th in total rebounds (7.9 rpg) and 21st in scoring (12.3 ppg).

Sophomore Dionnah Jackson also ranks among the top players in three areas. She's sixth in steals (2.38 spg), ninth in assists (4.62 apg), 15th in assists/turnover ratio (1.2) and 19th in scoring (12.7 ppg).



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