NEB WBB: Theriot, Shepard Named to Naismith Trophy Watch List

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Theriot, Shepard Named to Naismith Trophy Watch List
Lincoln – Nebraska’s Rachel Theriot and Jessica Shepard are two of 50 candidates named to the 2016 Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of the Year Early Season Watch List announced today by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Theriot, a 6-0 senior point guard from Middleburg Heights, Ohio, earned a spot on the Naismith Watch List for the second straight season, while Shepard, a 6-4 forward from Fremont, Neb., is the only freshman to earn a spot on the prestigious list. She is also the first freshman in Nebraska women’s basketball history to earn mention on a national player-of-the-year watch list.

Theriot, a 2014 honorable-mention All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection, is averaging 10.5 points and 6.4 assists for the 7-1 Huskers heading into Saturday’s game at No. 22 California. Last week, she produced her sixth career double-double with 20 points and 11 assists in Nebraska’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge victory over NC State.

Theriot averaged 16.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists through 21 games for the Huskers a year ago, before suffering a season-ending ankle injury at the start of February. She has helped the Huskers to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 2013 NCAA Sweet 16. She was also the 2014 Big Ten Tournament MVP after leading the Huskers to their first conference tournament title by averaging 18.7 points and a tournament-record 10.0 assists per game in three victories in Indianapolis. As a sophomore, she averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 assists to finish with a school-record 234 assists on the year.

Shepard has established her presence inside with authority as a freshman for the Huskers, despite continuing her recovery from an ACL injury suffered as a high school senior. Shepard is averaging 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds through eight games for the Huskers, including four 20-point performances in her first four games. She also opened her career with three double-doubles, the first player in Husker history to accomplish both of those feats.

Shepard has claimed three Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Week honors in the first four weeks of the award, and she was named the Preseason Big Ten Freshman of the Year by College Sports Madness.

As a high school senior, Shepard was a candidate for the Naismith Trophy Girls National Player of the Year award and was a Naismith Honorable-Mention High School All-American despite playing just nine games of the 2014-15 season. She averaged 33.0 points and 14.3 rebounds in those nine contests.

Shepard and Theriot are two of 10 Big Ten Conference players on the 50-player Naismith Watch List, joining Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston (Ohio State), Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland), Rachel Banham (Minnesota), Nia Coffey (Northwestern), Aerial Powers (Michigan State) and Kahleah Copper (Rutgers).

UConn senior Breanna Stewart is the two-time defending Naismith Trophy winner and will try to become the first women’s player since Cheryl Miller (1982, 1983, 1984) to capture three awards.

Stewart’s UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck are also on the watch list. South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell, Alaina Coates and A’Ja Wilson give the No. 2 Gamecocks three candidates, while Oregon State is the only other school with three players named to the watch list (Ruth Hamblin, Jamie Weisner, Sydney Wiese).

Nebraska is one of only 11 schools in the nation with multiple players on the list, joining UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Baylor, Maryland, Oregon State, Ohio State, Florida State, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

The Huskers, who are 7-1 with their only loss at No. 1 UConn, are the only team on that list ranked outside of the top 16 nationally in both of the major polls.

The Big Red get their second opportunity for a win over a ranked foe this weekend, when the Huskers travel to AP No. 22 California to face Naismith Trophy Player of the Year candidate Courtney Range and the Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. (CT) with live television coverage from the Pac-12 Networks (Bay Area), with availability in Lincoln on Time Warner Cable sports tier packages.