Last year when Nebraska and Ohio State met at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Huskers led the Buckeyes by 15 points at halftime before losing the game in overtime 80-74.
With Ohio State coming off a comeback victory over Iowa, star junior forward Dorka Juhasz returning for the Buckeyes and sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne out for the Huskers, Nebraska seemed to be at a disadvantage before the game even started. However, none of these factors phased Nebraska as it pulled off a 63-55 upset over previously undefeated No. 15 Ohio State.
“Team defense,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “Ohio State is really fast paced and for us to slow them down and control the game was amazing.”
Leading up to the game, Ohio State was averaging nearly 90 points per outing. But tonight, the Huskers held the Buckeyes to 55 points on an impressively low 27.2% shooting from the field.
Senior center Kate Cain led the game in scoring, tying her career-high with 22 points. She also came close to a triple-double, with 12 rebounds and nine blocks.
“Before the game, we talked about how every great game starts with great opportunity,” Williams said. “Kate [Cain] had that opportunity and she came out, played loose and did what she can do. She did a great job at demanding the ball and establishing herself early.”
Behind Cain in scoring was freshman guard Whitney Brown, with a career-high 14 points on the night. It was Brown’s first career start as a Husker as she filled in for the injured Bourne. Junior guard Sam Haiby was third in scoring for Nebraska with 11. She was also one of the Huskers’ main playmaking presences, ending with 10 assists.
Another notable performance was junior forward Bella Cravens who tweaked her ankle early on in the game but stayed in nevertheless. She eventually led the Huskers in rebounds with 14.
“Bella [Cravens] is a tough, gritty kid,” Williams said. “She tweaked her ankle and hurt her back as well, but she came back and fought through it and came up with big rebounds for our team.”
Nebraska has trailed in the first half regularly through its games this season. The Huskers made sure that wouldn’t happen tonight as, not only did they lead for most of the first half, but they led for over 36 minutes in the game in total. Ohio State’s only time with the lead came in the first three minutes, a near total shutout by Nebraska.
After the Buckeyes jumped out to a 4-0 lead, Nebraska responded by going on a 14-8 run to end the quarter up 14-12. This was the first time all season that Ohio State was held to under 15 points in a quarter. The Huskers continued to build on their lead in the second quarter with Cain dropping eight of her 22 points during Nebraska’s 16-9 run to go into the half up 30-21.
However, Ohio State responded, coming out in the second half and cutting the lead to 30-27 three minutes in. Nebraska didn’t flinch at the sudden surge as it held off the Buckeyes and went into the fourth leading 45-36.
Ohio State’s comeback attempt grew closer in the fourth as the spread once again came down to three with under two minutes left, threatening to invalidate Nebraska’s many minutes ahead. Haiby came through, then, in the last minute of the game, dropping five of her 11 points to help the Huskers pull away with the upset, 63-55.
“I wasn’t thinking about last year,” Williams said. “We knew that when Ohio State heats things up they can cause some problems. But we got through it and took control of the tempo and that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t pose any composure.”
The Huskers are now 7-4 on the season and 5-3 in conference play. Nebraska now has three wins against ranked teams on the year, including two against teams ranked No. 15. The next game is at home against conference opponent Minnesota on Jan. 19. Tipoff is 3 p.m. and it can be seen on BTN.