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BYU basketball: Frontcourt matchup key vs. Nebraska

Published March 24, 2014 10:33 am

NCAA women's tournament • Huskers have players to contend with Cougars' Hamson.
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Los Angeles • It's pretty much at the forefront of every scouting report on BYU at this point.

Watch out for Jennifer Hamson.

A day after the senior center helped dominate the paint for the 12-seeded Cougars in their 72-57 win over North Carolina State, BYU's next opponent was fielding lots of questions about how to handle the 6-foot-7 shot-blocker. The Big Ten has no shortage of size, although the conference doesn't have a player quite with Hamson's length.

"There are things you can do to try to take advantage of it," coach Connie Yori said. "But if we try to challenge her off the dribble, we're probably going to get our shot blocked."

Of course, Nebraska is no slouch in the frontcourt itself. The Cornhuskers are led by Big Ten Player of the Year Jordan Hooper, a forward averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Along with Emily Cady, Hooper has helped the Cornhuskers outrebound their opponents in 25 of their 32 games.

The Huskers' three starting forwards will start their 100th game together on Saturday. It's tough to combat that kind of experience and the versatility that lineup has.

"They really execute their plays so well, and that's the part I'm most impressed with for them," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. "And they run so many different things at different positions. So Jen might be outside on the wing, or Jen might be at the high post guarding them. And that's probably going to be the hardest adjustment for us."

Backcourt length could be key

While BYU players hadn't seen much film on Nebraska before addressing the media early Sunday afternoon, they had gotten to see the Huskers' length in action. They bullied Fresno State's guards on Saturday in the first round on the way to a 74-55 victory, one in which they pulled away much further at the end.

One question for BYU will be if Lexi Eaton can get an encore performance. Her 25-point, 8-rebound game helped power the Cougars in their first round win, but NC State didn't have length like 6-foot Rachel Theriot provides in the backcourt, or 6-foot-1 Hailie Sample — an all-conference defensive honoree — provides on the wing.

Still, the sophomore was characteristically confident she would find openings, or else help her teammates find some.

"I find that I can usually get around players and create things to the basket," she said. "That is the kind of player I am. I try to create for myself and for the team. That opens everyone else up and that is kind of my role."

No Sunday practice for BYU

It's not a surprise for Cougar fans, but BYU took a break on Sunday, going without practice. The program doesn't compete or practice on Sundays in accordance with the LDS Church roots of the school.

Even though BYU plays its biggest game of the year on Monday, Judkins said not practicing the day before is nothing new for his players, and it fits with the team's overall routine.

"We feel that we're used to this and we just rest," he said.


Twitter: @kylegoon