Rachel Theriot came to Nebraska to maybe play in the NCAA Tournament.
“I liked their chances of making the tournament and I liked everything about Nebraska’s team,” the Husker freshman guard said. “But to go this far, this fast, and to keep going, by far is an amazing experience and opportunity for any freshman.”
Theriot has made her mark on a team that has gone as far as any NU basketball team in history — including the 2009-10 team that won 30 games in a row.
“The Sweet 16? I didn’t think that was in the books for us right away,” Theriot said.
Now, the Huskers (25-8) will play Duke (32-2) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Norfolk, Va., in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles, started out pretty rough in the conference (2-3) and had injuries and stuff like that,” said Theriot, a native of Middleburg Heights, Ohio. “People here just pushed through it and just came together at the end no matter how overwhelming all this stuff is.”
Though Theriot has long, dark pigtails, as opposed to Lindsey Moore’s blond ponytail, she eventually will take over for the senior Nebraska point guard.
Moore has started all 131 games in her career (a school record) and has helped NU to 94 wins in that span, the most in school history. She has a 4-2 record in NCAA Tournament games and the only Sweet 16 berths in school history.
She is the consummate point guard, according to NU coach Connie Yori, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair and Penn State coach Coquese Washington, among others.
Moore, who scored 20 points and handed out 10 assists in Nebraska’s upset of the Aggies in the second round of the tournament Monday, needs three assists to tie the school record held by Meggan Yedsena, and is ninth in school history in scoring.
Despite all those accolades, she said it shouldn’t be hard for Theriot to step in next year.
“She can,” Moore said. “I think Rachel is going to come into her own. You’ll see a lot more from her. I don’t think she’s been put in the position to do it this year with me being here.
“Definitely she has the capabilities to do it.”
Theriot got off to a fast start despite battling severe foot injuries that will require surgery once the season ends. She was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team, and played a valuable role in the Huskers' two NCAA Tournament victories.
“Rachel’s abilities take some pressure off the rest of us because you can’t ignore her,” Moore said.
Texas A&M found that out when Theriot dribbled at the top of the key as time was running out at halftime Monday.
“I saw two seconds on the clock. I couldn’t go to my left, so I spun and threw it up and it went in,” Theriot said of her shot at the buzzer. “I had to smile, because I saw so many smiles on the bench. You think you’re lucky. I call it ‘My time.’”
The basket extended NU’s lead to 11 points at the break, something only Connecticut had managed this year against A&M.
Theriot said that might not have happened earlier in the season.
“I’m a lot tougher than I was out of high school,” she said. “This game is a lot faster, a lot more physical and everything is upbeat, there are no slow moments.
“Lindsey has helped so much,” Theriot said. “Her physicalness, her knowledge, just her competitiveness and everything about her says basketball. She is amazing and I think it would be something just to follow her as a role model.”