With just seconds left in the first half, Nebraska inbounded the ball to senior guard Lindsey Moore. Moore drove down the court, found an off-balanced Rachel Theriot who spun around a Texas A&M Aggie and tossed up a 3-pointer prayer at the buzzer. The shot landed, putting the No. 24 Huskers on top of No. 6 Texas A&M 43-32 at halftime.
That’s the way Monday night’s second-round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament game went for Nebraska, as the Huskers advanced to the Sweet 16 in Norfolk, Va., with a 74-63 win.
Junior Jordan Hooper led Nebraska to the win with 21 points, while Moore tossed in 20 points and 10 assists and sophomore Hailie Sample added her first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The trip to the Sweet Sixteen is only the second time Nebraska has done so in program history — the last time coming in 2010.
“The one thing we’ve been talking about as a staff is just how hungry, healthy and happy this team is,” associate coach Sunny Smallwood said. “This is where your true character shows up. The type of people (Nebraska coach) Connie Yori surrounds herself with, whether its players or staff and this is the time of year where you love to see it shine through. And credit to Texas A&M absolutely, that’s a great, great ball club we just played.”
After battling back and forth early in the game, Texas A&M ran the court with the score tied at six. Aggie senior guard Adrienne Pratcher lined up a 3-pointer, launched up a shot and missed, but teammate center Kelsey Bone saved the ball underneath from falling out of bounds. Bone secured the ball from behind the 3-point arc and as the shot clock buzzer sounded, banked in a 3 to put Texas A&M up 9-6.
A missed shot by Nebraska allowed the Aggies to find junior Courtney Williams deep for another 3. A third consecutive A&M bucket put the Aggies up eight points.
Then Nebraska took over.
The Huskers pounded out a 19-2 run, with the help of second-chance looks, the long ball and rebounding, which was what coach Yori said would be the difference.
“One-A is rebounding,” Yori said on the keys to the game. “(They’re) a really physical rebounding team from all positions, but particularly from their inside kids.”
Nebraska’s run built a Husker lead to 25-16. While Texas A&M would eventually break NU’s lead to only two, Moore and Theriot finished the half on a 12-2 run, including the freshman guard’s buzzer beater to give the Huskers wiggle room again.
“(Moore) pretty much did it all tonight,” Smallwood said. “I can’t say enough either on how much the team followed her.”
Midway through the second half, Texas A&M began to build momentum, as Aggie freshman guard Courtney Walker knocked down consecutive lay-ups to slash the Husker lead to 12. For the next two minutes, neither team scored, as the rounds of offensive fouls, missed shots and turnovers ensued.
Finally, with around six minutes left in the game, Moore hit a pair of free throws followed by a bucket by Sample to force Texas A&M coach Gary Blair to call a timeout.
Just as Aggie fans began walking out of the arena, A&M guard Jordan Jones produced a 9-0 run on her own to put the No. 9 squad back within seven.
The Aggie’s pressure defense and building momentum kept A&M within 10 for several more possessions, but a late-game effort by Moore and Sample helped Nebraska hold onto the win.
“I give so much credit first of all to our team for being very focused,” Smallwood said. “They believe in what the coaching staff talks to them about and sets them up for. They commit to it as a group, which is everything.”