Second half comeback not enough.
Las Vegas — Freshman Jordan Hooper scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half to rally the Nebraska women's basketball team back from a 13-point halftime deficit, but the Husker comeback fell short in a 65-51 loss to Louisville at the Duel in the Desert Classic on Monday night at the Cox Pavilion.
Nebraska slipped to 8-4 on the season with its third straight loss at the three-game tournament, while Louisville improved to 9-5 with its first victory of the four-team tournament.
Hooper produced her third career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, posting her third straight double-figure rebound game. Hooper hit all three of her three-pointers in the second half to fuel a furious second-half rally.
Sophomore Katya Leick, who made her first career start, nearly notched a double-double of her own with nine points and 10 rebounds to go along with two assists. She also hit a pair of three-pointers. Lindsey Moore pitched in seven points and four assists, while Catheryn Redmon and Kaitlyn Burke each pitched in six points.
Nebraska played its first game in four seasons without senior Dominique Kelley. The 5-7 guard from Lincoln had her streak of 109 consecutive starts snapped after being forced to the sideline with injury.
Louisville took full advantage of Kelley's absence, forcing 19 first-half turnovers with full-court pressure. The Cardinals turned those turnovers into 23 points. Louisville shot just 34.3 percent (12-35) from the field, but added 14 offensive rebounds, and produced 13 second-chance points.
The big turnover numbers and offensive rebounding advantage allowed Louisville to carry a 35-22 halftime lead. The Huskers hung around by hitting 4-of-8 three-point attempts, including a pair from Katya Leick, who scored eight first-half points in her first career start in place of Kelley.
Louisville attempted 12 more shots from the field than NU in the first half and nine more free throws, after outrebounding NU 22-17 and carrying a 19-11 turnover margin in the first half.
Despite the first-half challenges, Nebraska came out on the attack in the second half. Hooper fueled a 16-6 surge with 14 points in the first 6:30 of the second half to trim Louisville's lead to 41-38 with 13:30 left.
Louisville was able to answer Nebraska's rally and extend the lead back to 51-40 before the Huskers rallied again. Hooper and Moore combined on a 6-0 run to trim the Cardinal margin to 51-46 with five minutes left. But NU could not get closer than seven the rest of the way and Louisville scored the game's final six points in the last 1:12 to make the 14-point margin.
Nebraska finished the game shooting just 32.8 percent (19-58) from the field, including 8-of-26 three-pointers, while connecting on 5-of-9 free throws. The Huskers battled back to win the battle of the boards, 41-40, including 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. NU only committed seven second-half turnovers, while forcing six by Louisville.
The Cardinals hit 24-of-60 shots (40 percent) including 6-of-16 threes, while hitting 11-of-15 free throws. Shoni Shimmel led Louisville with 22 points, while Monique Reid contributed 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Tia Gibbs added 12 points and seven boards.
Kelley and the Huskers will get a much-needed nine days rest from competition before returning to home action against South Florida on Thursday, Dec. 30. The Huskers, who will be playing their second and final home game in December, will face a 9-5 Bulls squad that also finished up competition in Las Vegas with a loss to Texas on Monday night.
Source: University of Nebraska Athletic Dept.