The Nebraska women’s basketball team defeated Illinois 77-67 behind a strong performance from freshman forward Ashtyn Veerbeek on Thursday. The loss snaps a three-game losing streak for the Huskers, who improved to 8-9 (3-3 Big Ten) with the win.
Veerbeek led the Huskers with 19 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Junior guard Hannah Whitish finished with 12 points. Sophomore guard Taylor Kissinger converted three three-pointers en route to a 10-point performance. Sophomore center Kate Cain also scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Illinois was led by freshman guard Arieal Scott who scored 23 points off the bench. Junior guard Cierra Rice and senior forward Alex Wittinger also finished in double digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Nebraska got off to a hot start against Illinois. The Huskers made three of their first four shots, including two three-pointers from Kissinger to take an 8-0 lead. The Illini got their first pair of points from a Wittinger layup. Nebraska then went on a 7-0 lead to expand its advantage to 15-2, and Illinois called a timeout.
Before the timeout, Illinois had made just one of its 11 shots. The Huskers had converted six of their 10 shot attempts.
After the stoppage, Scott hit a three to bring Illinois back within 10 with 4:00 left in the first quarter. Over the next minute of play, Nebraska expanded its lead to 19-5 before Scott converted a three-point play to cut the Huskers’ edge to 11.
From there, Nebraska converted its next two shots while the Illini made three in a row. The offensive spark ended with a three by Illinois’ Rice that brought the score to 23-13.
The teams traded buckets before Rice made a jumper at the buzzer to bring the first quarter to an end at 25-17.
Senior forward Maddie Simon made a basket for the Huskers to bring the lead back to double-digits at 27-17. That 10-point advantage would hold true halfway through the second as both teams struggled to get into a rhythm offensively.
After Simon’s bucket to open the quarter, each team only scored five points over the next six-and-a-half minutes of play. WIth three minutes to go in the half, Nebraska held a 32-22 advantage.
Illinois got baskets from Scott, Wittinger and Rice to close out the half while Nebraska got four more points from Veerbeek. The Huskers took a 36-29 lead into halftime.
Cain got the scoring started in the first half with four straight points to increase Nebraska’s lead to 40-29, and Illinois took a quick timeout just one minute into the third quarter. After the timeout, Nebraska’s offense went scoreless for the next three minutes.
Illinois took advantage of this by going on a 5-0 run to climb to within six points of the Huskers at 40-34. After each team made one more field goal, Nebraska’s lead was just five at 42-37 with 4:30 left in the third quarter. That was as close as Illinois would get, however.
Veerbeek and freshman guard Sam Haiby each scored three points over the next two minutes of play to help Nebraska expand its advantage back to 48-39. A steal and layup from Simon then pushed the lead to 50-39.
The Huskers scored seven more points over the final two minutes of the third quarter and all of them came from the free throw line. Nebraska ended the third quarter up by 13 at 57-44.
Wittinger scored eight and Scott added six in the final quarter for the Illini, but it was too little, too late. Six different Huskers scored in the fourth quarter, including six points from Whitish to seal the victory. Nebraska’s advantage never fell below seven and the Huskers won the contest by 10, 77-67.
Nebraska returns home for its next matchup with No. 23 Minnesota on Sunday. First tip is set for 5:00 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN2.