Huskers crush cats, advance at Big Ten tourney
Indianapolis — The No. 24 Nebraska women's basketball team went on the attack and overpowered Northwestern in an 88-56 victory in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday afternoon.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 22-7 overall, including a 10-6 regular-season Big Ten mark. The sixth-seeded Huskers advance to take on third-seeded Iowa in the second round on Friday at approximately 1 p.m. Northwestern, which defeated the Huskers 63-51 just two weeks ago, slipped to 14-16 overall, including a 4-12 Big Ten regular-season mark.
Nebraska's scoring barrage against the Wildcats included a Big Ten Tournament-record 54 first-half points, while the 88 points for the game marked the most by a Husker team in a conference tournament game since scoring 90 in the Big Eight Tournament in 1986. It was the second-highest point total ever by the Huskers in a conference tournament.
"It was nice to hit some shots, but I thought more than that it was a mindset," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. "We did not settle for any shots, no matter who was on the floor. We wasted very few possessions, if any, and we just kept attacking for 40 minutes. It was great to see the starters over there with me on the bench sitting down and resting for a change. It was also great to see five freshmen out on the floor together for such an extended period in the second half. They played good basketball and hopefully the rest will help us tomorrow against Iowa."
First-team All-Big Ten forward Jordan Hooper set the tone for a dominant first half for Nebraska by scoring the game's first eight points. Hooper shot NU to an 8-7 lead and then the rest of the Huskers caught fire, erupting on a 32-3 surge over the next 11 minutes to build a 41-10 lead with 6:48 left in the half. Nebraska's eruption included a 24-0 run to close the surge.
Hooper finished the first half with 16 points, including a three-point play with 9:08 left to become the first sophomore in school history to reach the 1,000-career point plateau at Nebraska. Hooper, a Wade and Naismith Trophy National Player-of-the-Year candidate, helped the Huskers build a 54-25 halftime lead.
Hooper added NU's second basket of the second half to finish with 18 points in a career-low 16 minutes. She also added six rebounds and an assist.
Junior point guard Lindsey Moore added 12 first-half points on her way to 14 points for the game. while freshmen Hailie Sample and Rebecca Woodberry each pitched in six first-half points on their way to double-figure scoring performances for the game. Woodberry finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists, and Sample matched her career high with 10 points.
As a team, Nebraska shot 58.6 percent (17-29) in the first half, including 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) from three-point range. The Huskers were also 12-of-16 at the free throw line and outrebounded the Wildcats, 21-11. NU also won the turnover battle, 15-8.
In Nebraska's first meeting with Northwestern, a 63-51 loss in Lincoln on Feb. 16, the Huskers scored just 51 points in the game and forced just 15 turnovers by the Wildcats for the game. NU also hit just 5-of-28 three-pointers in the first meeting with Northwestern.
For the game, Nebraska hit 50.9 percent (28-55) from the field, marking just the third time this season the Huskers have hit 50 percent of their shots from the floor. The Huskers hit 47.4 percent (9-19) of their threes and 71.9 percent (23-32) of their free throws. Nebraska also dominated the glass, 41-25, and controlled the turnover battle, 24-15.
Northwestern finished at 42.2 percent (19-45) for the game, including 5-for-12 from three-point range. The Wildcats hit just 13-of-24 free throws.
In the second half, Nebraska played five freshmen on the floor at the same time for more than 10 minutes to end the game, and the Husker youngsters continued to produce. For the second game in a row, NU's freshmen combined for 49 points. The rookies added 25 rebounds.
Freshman forward Katie Simon joined Hooper, Moore, Woodberry and Sample as one of five Huskers in double figures with a Big Ten-best 10 points. She also grabbed five boards, snagged two steals and dished out an assist in a career-high 19 minutes. It was the second double-figure effort of Simon's career, joining the 11 points she scored in the first game of her career against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 12. Simon, a 6-2 native of Roseville, Calif., had scored just nine total points in Big Ten regular-season play.
Freshman guard Tear'a Laudermill added nine points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 19 minutes, while Brandi Jeffery contributed five points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals in 24 minutes.
The amazing production by the Husker freshmen came despite just three points, seven rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in 21 minutes from All-Big Ten Freshmen Emily Cady. The honorable-mention All-Big Ten performer played just four minutes in the second half while letting her classmates work on the floor together.
Nebraska returns to action Friday afternoon in Indianapolis, when the sixth-seeded Huskers take on third-seeded Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament second round. Tip-off between the Huskers and Hawkeyes in the second game of the day is set for approximately 1 p.m.
Source: University of Nebraska Athletic Dept.