Nebraska continued through the Big Ten gauntlet with a trip up to New Jersey and squared off against Rutgers (14-2, 4-1 Big Ten). The game was a fight for second place in the Big Ten and the Scarlet Knights used the home court to their advantage, winning 69-65.
The Huskers started the game fast, going up 11-2 by making three 3-pointers right away with two from sophomore forward Ashtyn Veerbeek and one from senior guard Hannah Whitish. After that, Rutgers controlled the rest of the first quarter.
Rutgers came back on a 11-0 run of its own to take a 13-12 lead. The scoring runs ended as the game became back-and-forth between the two schools, and the first quarter ended tied 18-18
Both teams shot over 40 percent from the field and the offenses continued to play efficient in the second quarter. The Huskers hit three more 3-pointers in the second quarter and shot right below 50 percent from the perimeter.
Rutgers kept up with the Huskers’ shooting through its paint play and jumpers. Junior guard Tekia Mack scored eight of Rutgers’ 17 second quarter points with all coming from either layups or mid-range shots.
Rutgers’ offense only hit two shots beyond the perimeter in the first half but hit over 50 percent of two-point shots. Nebraska led for the majority of the first half but Rutgers went on a 8-0 run to finish the first half, helped along by six points from Mack.
Nebraska trailed 35-32 going into the second half but the Husker offense failed to stay at its first-half pace. Nebraska only scored 10 points in the third quarter due to struggles within the perimeter.
Down 59-44 with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game, Nebraska’s chances to complete a comeback were slim. Rutgers had shut down the Husker offense, giving up only four points since the five-minute mark of the third quarter.
The Huskers needed points fast and sophomore forward Leigha Brown answered the call. Brown hit Nebraska’s first 3-pointer of the fourth quarter, which was also her first 3-pointer of the game.
Brown’s three began an 11-0 run as Veerbeek forced a steal and hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game. Veerbeek led the Huskers in scoring with 14 points and shot over 50 percent from the field.
Like every scoring run, the defense also had to pick up some of the slack. The Scarlet Knights went scoreless during the four-minute run and shot just over 30 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.
Despite the Rutgers offense going blank, the Husker offense also sputtered after the two threes. The Huskers scored just five points in the three minutes following Veerbeek’s three with 5:47 left.
Nebraska trailed 59-55 and with momentum on its side, looked poised to win another game with its fourth quarter performance. Rutgers senior guard Khadaizha Sanders hit her second 3-pointer of the game to extend the lead back to 62-55 and the shot took the wind out of the Husker comeback.
It was Rutgers’ first points in over four minutes and momentum shifted back to the Scarlet Knights. Nebraska’s comeback attempt fell short due to a rarity, the Husker defense coming up short.
The comeback came just a little too late and Rutgers closed out the game with finally making its free throws, going just 50 percent from the charity stripe.
The Huskers lost their first game of the new year and will look to bounce back with a big road game against Maryland on Jan. 16.