PREVIEW: WSU women’s hoops host No. 15 Nebraska

The Washington State women’s basketball team (2-0) will take on No. 15 Nebraska (2-0) at 8 pm in Beasley Coliseum today. WSU is looking to beat Nebraska for the second time in the last two seasons, and to start the season with a pair of victories over ranked opponents.

Early on in the 2014-15 season, Washington State has excelled at forcing turnovers and scoring points off of turnovers. Against (at the time) No. 22 Dayton, the Cougars forced 30 turnovers — which led to 28-points for the WSU — to take a 15-point lead heading into the half, on the way to a 16-point victory over Dayton. The defensive pressure continued against Idaho State, as the Cougars forced another 30 turnovers and started the game on a 40-0 run (WSU ended up with a 84-34 victory). Shooting guards Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley have played a major role in forcing the turnovers, as booth athletes are aggressive on defense.

Junior guard Lia Galdeira is one of the best guards in the Pac-12, and is a must-watch athlete. (Courtesy of WSUCougars.com)

Junior guard Lia Galdeira is one of the best guards in the Pac-12, and is a must-watch athlete. (Courtesy of WSUCougars.com)

Galdiera and Presley are primarily known for their offensive prowess (the duo have scored 92 of WSU’s 160 points), the two are also key components of the Cougars defensive game plan. Presley has recorded five steals, in two games, this season; while Galdeira has eight steals.

Washington State’s offensive attack thrives when the defense is able to force turnovers and get a one-on-one fast break. Especially when Galdeira and Presley are the ones racing towards the bucket. WSU is going to need to continue to force turnovers, and take advantage of the offensive opportunities those turnovers create, if the Cougars are going beat Nebraska for the second straight year.

Washington State beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Neb. last season 76-72 thanks to 12 three-point shots. The Cougars took advantage of Nebraska’s zone defense in the first half to build a seven-point lead at the half, 45-38. It was a lead that the Cougars never relinquished.

It was the Cougars first upset of a top 25 team last season. Washington State went 4-5 against ranked teams in 2013-14.

Nebraska is returning seven letter winners from last years squad, including junior guard Rachel Theriot. While Theriot was a nonfactor in the Cornhuskers loss to WSU last season, she is still Nebraska’s biggest offensive threat — she currently leads the team with 17 points per game this season. Theriot takes the majority of her shots from inside the arc, and is extremely efficient at hitting those shots (she is hitting 77.8% of her two-point shots). She is going to be a challenge for WSU’s match-up zone defense to stop, as she is quick on her feet and is quick to get shots off.

While stopping Theriot is going to be a crucial part of the Cougars defensive game plan, Nebraska has three other athletes that are averaging more than 10 points per game (small sample size alert). Washington State is going to have to limit the Cornhuskers’ ball movement by getting in the passing lanes, and picking off passes.

So far this season, Galdeira and Presley have excelled at getting into passing lanes, picking off passes, and generating turnovers with aggressive defense. The duo are going to have to be aggressive against Nebraska, for the Cougars to win their third straight game.

I’ll be calling the game on live on KUGR.org radio with Aaron Polevoi, you can tune in by clicking on this link.

This game will also be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

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