Photo Credit: John Peterson

Husker Basketball Teams Showcase Talent at Opening Night Event

September 30, 2022

While basketball season is still over a month away, the Huskers men’s and women’s teams took the floor Friday night to give fans their first look at what’s to come.

The women’s team participated in a 24-minute scrimmage against its male scout team, while the men’s squad opted for a half-hour segment of various drills rather than any game action. Much of the crowd at PBA — the lower bowl being at least 60% full during the basketball portions — then stayed for the Waka Flocka Flame concert which ended the night.

The women’s basketball team started off the night with player introductions, a staple of this event for the past few years. While she may be out for the season with a leg injury, guard Sam Haiby still participated, coming on stage donning a cape.

The only women’s basketball player not in attendance was Maggie Mendelson, who apparently had better things to attend to — like playing for the Nebraska volleyball team. The dual-sport athlete did leave a message about how excited she was to join the team on the court.

Head coach Amy Williams and a couple players addressed the crowd prior to the scrimmage.

“I could not be any more excited,” the head coach said about the upcoming season.

She said that anyone who hadn’t yet purchased season tickets would be missing out, as the team’s goal of selling out Pinnacle Bank Arena for a game this year was reiterated.

Then, the scrimmage started. The Huskers defeated their scout team with relative ease, leading 20-13 at halftime then pulling away 43-22 in the final 12 minutes. The team’s active returning starters did most of the scoring damage. Guard Jaz Shelley scored 10 points, while guard Allison Weidner, forward Isabelle Bourne and center Alexis Markowski each contributed seven. A

Following the men’s basketball intros, head coach Fred Hoiberg took on a somewhat more serious tone while addressing the crowd. While the women’s team could tout its strong 16-2 record at PBA from last season, the men’s 7-12 mark in a 10-22 year didn’t exactly measure up.

“We need to be better in this building,” Hoiberg said. “I have no doubt about that, we’re going to be.”

The team did a variety of drills, including a closeout drill and multiple focusing on ball movement. Due to the nature of the segment, there weren’t many highlights, but SMU transfer Emmanuel Bandoumel got the crowd excited with a few made dunks and some ambitious missed ones.

Blaise Keita and Ramel Lloyd Jr. both sat out as a precaution, as they weren’t feeling well.

The final basketball-related event was a 3-point contest which featured three players from each team, going up against each other in pairs. Shelley hit 14 in the opening round to beat out Bandoumel’s 11. Annika Stewart and Wilhelm Breidenbach tied with 13 made shots from beyond the arc, but Breidenbach won the impromptu tiebreaker by making a half-court shot before Stewart did. Freshman Callin Hake’s 10 threes were overshadowed by 18 from the sharpshooter Keisei Tominaga.

Fans then rushed down to an area of the floor in preparation for the concert portion. Some had to be led back to the stands as the designated floor area filled up quickly. Waka Flocka Flame came out and delivered an electric performance, even spending some time in the crowd. Just like previous years, members of both basketball teams came on stage with the rapper. Flocka singled out Tominaga during his performance, throwing his arm around him for a time to bring more energy.

Even as a relatively late replacement for EST Gee this week, Waka Flocka had no trouble winning over those in attendance. Both basketball teams will look to do the same this seaso through winning games.

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