UK Women's Basketball

Cats, Huskers are two of a kind

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The NCAA Tournament clash between Nebraska and Kentucky on Sunday could make a good Twilight Zone episode.

The plot would be as follows: Two teams that play similar styles and have similar personnel have eerily similar seasons.

Now the twin teams will face off in the Sweet 16 of the tournament, hoping to make a trip to the elite eight.

"It's kind of like playing yourself in a way," Huskers senior Cory Montgomery said Sunday in a pre-game media session at the Sprint Center.

Both teams finished last season hovering around .500.

Both have had the most wins in school history this season and are making their way through uncharted NCAA Tournament waters.

Both have their respective conference's coach of the year. Both have their conference's player of the year.

Both of those players — Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin and UK's Victoria Dunlap — are versatile 6-foot-2 post players who lead their teams in scoring and rebounding.

"There's no question a lot of parallels there," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said.

Both teams have their breakthrough seasons on the line Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament.

The similarities don't end on paper, either.

"The scoring seems pretty close, the points allowed are pretty close," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It ought to be a heck of a game."

Nebraska's players have noted the similarities in style of play, too.

"They're a very versatile team," said Montgomery, one of four Nebraska players averaging in double figures at 12.6 points a game. "They love to push the ball, play tough defense and those are the qualities we use in our game."

Both Nebraska and Kentucky have a post player that may make the difference in an otherwise equal game.

"You're talking about two players that run the floor very well, get easy baskets in transition in both cases," Yori said. "You're talking about two very good rebounders."

Both Dunlap, who averages 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, and Griffin, who averages 20.3 points and 10.4 rebounds, know they have quite a challenge on Sunday night.

"We're both drivers going to the basket," Dunlap said. "We just have the versatility of being able to go off the dribble or shoot a pull-up jumper in the paint. ... The team relies on both of us to score to play well."

Griffin noted the challenges of guarding Dunlap, who also averages 3.2 steals and two blocks.

"She's going to pose a lot of problems," Griffin said of Dunlap. "She's very quick off the dribble, a versatile player."

No surprise that — similarly — both coaches were careful to compliment the opposing post player as well.

"Dunlap is as athletic a player as there is in the country," Yori said. "She is a phenomenal athlete and scores in a variety of ways. They definitely provide a lot of problems for us on both ends."

Mitchell called Griffin, who has made 75 percent of her foul shots, "amazing."

"It would be hard for me to be more impressed with someone than I am Kelsey Griffin," he said. "She has a variety of ways to score. She's very mobile at the post with her size."

But Mitchell was quick to point out that Nebraska is more than Griffin.

Like UK, the Huskers have several scoring options and score a lot of easy points in transition.

"They have a little bit of everything," Mitchell said. "It's going to be a tough, tough game for us."

No matter how tough, the Cats are hoping to end this potential made-for-TV thriller with a victory.