Leigha Brown

Nebraska’s Leigha Brown (32) runs with the ball during the game against Illinois at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The final regular season game is always a tough pill to swallow as three months go by fast. For Nebraska, the last game came against Indiana and it needed to end the season on a high note.

Sophomore forward Leigha Brown also wanted to end the season strong as it was a homecoming of sorts. An Indiana native, Brown had one of her finest performances of the season in the regular season finale while Indiana legend Bob Knight watched from the stands.

Brown did not start, but Nebraska quickly needed her as Indiana led 6-0 before she entered the game. After Brown came in, the Huskers offense gained a pulse and got points on the board.

Though Nebraska was constantly down against Indiana, the first quarter was nowhere near as disastrous as the first game when Nebraska went down 26-6. Brown had nine of the team’s 13 points in the first quarter for the Huskers and continued to carry the offensive load.

Brown finished the first half with 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting and five made free throws. One of her best first halves, Brown’s performance kept Nebraska hanging around against No. 22 Indiana as the Huskers were down 33-27 at the break.

The rest of the Husker offense struggled mightily as it scored 13 points on five made field goals from the rest of the team in the first half. On defense, Nebraska had its ups and downs, but held the Hoosiers in check as they went 1-for-7 from the perimeter.

In the interior, junior center Kate Cain had a tough matchup against freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes and sophomore forward Aleksa Glube. Cain had no blocks while Holmes and Glube combined for 19 first-half points.

Nebraska’s first half was not ideal but it had proven that the comeback in the first game between the two schools was no fluke.

The third quarter started slow as both teams struggled scoring in the first half of the third quarter. A little back-and-forth scoring saw the Hoosiers take a 44-33 lead but then one play changed the complexion of the quarter.

Indiana junior guard Ali Patberg drove and was fouled by Brown while going up for a lay-up. A replay showed that although Brown committed a defensive foul, Patberg’s elbow hit Brown’s face while going up for the shot and the referees called an intentional foul on Patberg.

Patberg made the lay-up but missed the free throw afterward. Senior guard Hannah Whitish made both free throws and since it was an intentional foul, Nebraska got the ball back. Sophomore forward Ashtyn Veerbeek made her first basket of the second half on that possession.

Another Whitish basket cut the lead to 44-39 and for the first time, the Husker offense was running well without Brown. When Brown came back in, she cut the lead to 47-41 leaving Indiana with one final third quarter possession.

Patberg, the one who helped kick-start Nebraska’s run, also ended the run with her second consecutive 3-pointer. Patberg hit the shot with seconds left on the clock and Indiana took a 50-41 lead into the final quarter.

Once again, Nebraska was down in the 4th quarter but the single digit deficit exploded quickly. Indiana started the quarter with a 13-0 run, led by Patberg as she had eight points during that run.

Patberg only had seven points in the first half, yet turned around with 19 second-half points. It was the Hoosier response needed from their top scorer, but Indiana’s offense clicked due to the rest of the team.

On the other side of the ball, Nebraska’s offense struggled mightily without Brown. Brown had 20 points through three quarters and her performance would go to waste. The three guards: Whitish, sophomore guard Sam Haiby and senior guard Nicea Eliely combined for only 23 points.

The three main Husker offensive facilitators had struggled and effectively shut down. Indiana led 63-41 before Nebraska’s first points of the quarter from Haiby.

Indiana continued to dominate, scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter including four 3-pointers. That was as many as the first three quarters combined and the Huskers had no answers.

Brown scored only two points in the fourth quarter and her homecoming saw an impressive 22-point performance fade to nothing. Nebraska lost 81-53 and now has the Big Ten Tournament left where it could potentially be playing on the first day.