If there’s one thing the Nebraska women’s basketball team showed coming off of its victory over Northwestern on Thursday night, it’s that once momentum starts, it can be hard to stop.
The Huskers picked up right where they left off in their previous victory, trampling Penn State in an 87-72 win.
“This was our most complete game of the season,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “We’ve had four wins over ranked opponents, but with some of our losses, we knew we had to come in and play a complete game.”
As a team, the Huskers went 28-of-54 from the field, 18-of-26 from the free throw line and went a season-best 13-of-24 on 3-pointers. This tied for fourth-most in a game in school history. The last time Nebraska made 13 3-pointers or more in a game was exactly one year ago against Illinois.
Contributing to the 3-point barrage was sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin and junior guard Sam Haiby, who both landed four 3-pointers on the afternoon. Scoggin and Haiby each finished the game with 18 points. This is Scoggin’s career-high scoring performance, adding onto three 16-point games this season.
“It would feel good for anyone to finally get over that hump,” Scoggin said. “Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates, because they're the ones who give me the ball when I’m open.”
Leading the team in scoring, however, was sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne finishing the game with 22 points. Bourne also concluded the afternoon with her third-straight double-double of the season, grabbing 11 rebounds.
“It’s awesome to see Isabelle [Bourne] so comfortable and confident,” Williams said. “She had that three-week hiatus with injury, so it’s great to see her be so versatile. She finds ways to get the rebounds and finish possessions.”
The game started as a back and forth battle, with both teams in succession taking the lead and losing it. The flurry started after Penn State landed a 3-pointer to make it 5-2. Scoggin, however, quickly erased the deficit with her own three. After Nebraska made the score 10-5, the Nittany Lions dropped a jumper and a three to tie it.
The teams once again traded for the lead before deadlocking at 14 with three minutes to go in the first quarter. It wasn’t until there was 20 seconds left in the period that the tie was broken with a free throw by junior guard Mi’Cole Cayton. This was quickly followed by a Penn State 3-pointer to make the score 17-15 at the end of one.
Penn State opened the second quarter with another 3-pointer to make it 20-15, but Scoggin once again took action with her second 3-pointer of the game. After a Penn State free throw, Bourne landed her own shot from beyond the arc to tie things up at 21.
Back-and-forth action continued as the teams tied at 23 and 25, but Penn State made another attempt at pulling away with the lead. With the score 32-28 in favor of the Lions, freshman forward Annika Stewart stepped in for Haiby and erupted in the last 4 minutes, contributing 10 points in the Huskers’ 12-2 run to head into halftime up 40-34.
“Annika [Stewart’s] stretch really sparked us,” Williams said. “She was very smart to go out there and give us that six point lead at half. It also gave Sam [Haiby] some much needed rest and elbow room to work with for the second half.”
The Lions cut into the lead in the third quarter, narrowing the score to 47-45. But Nebraska proved to be too much to handle, as it went on a 23-9 run in the final four minutes. Cayton and freshman guard Kendall Coley both dropped 3-pointers to head into the fourth quarter with Nebraska up 70-54.
“It was a very critical moment for us,” Williams said. “We had 13 baskets from beyond the arc, but Kendall [Coley’s] and Mi’Cole [Cayton’s] 3-point shots at the end of the quarter were the ones that really made things flourish. When moments like that happen for us, it really helps us continue bringing the momentum.”
Penn State tried one last-ditch effort as it opened the final 10 minutes with a 7-0 run, but the Huskers quickly snuffed out the spark before it caught fire. With Penn State in full desperation mode, Nebraska took advantage of every foul the Lions committed, keeping the game out of reach.
By the time the buzzer sounded with the score 87-72, it had already been over for quite some time. However, Williams knew this game could’ve easily gone the other way. The Huskers lost 85-74 to Penn State just over two weeks ago, on Feb. 4.
“They are very unpredictable,” Williams said. “In our last game against them we let them push the tempo, so this time we tried to take control. They’re a team pushing for a score in the 80s while we want to keep them in the 60s, so 72 points is closer to our end.”
Nebraska is now 11-9 on the season and 9-8 in Big Ten play. The team’s next game is at 6 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Minnesota.