Kate Cain

Kate Cain (31) defends against Morgan State University at the Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It’s hard to judge a team in the Big Ten Conference solely off its record. Nebraska women’s basketball head coach Amy Williams said herself last week that in their league, “every single game is a dogfight.”

That can be said about tonight's game between Nebraska and Penn State, a battle from start to finish. Unfortunately for the Huskers, the dogfight ended with their sixth loss of the season 85-74. 

“It was tough,” Williams said postgame. “I mean, when we score 74 points, that should be enough to win games. Our defensive effort tonight wasn’t enough and in this conference that can’t happen.”

Leading the Huskers on the night in scoring was senior center Kate Cain with 21, her second game of the season with 20-plus points. Behind Cain was sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin with 11 points and junior guard Sam Haiby with 10. 

As a team, Nebraska shot 30-of-72 from the field and hit double-digit 3-pointers for the first time this season, going 10-of-27. However, Penn State held a key advantage at the free throw line, going 26-of-32 from the line while the Huskers were just 4-of-12. 

From the tipoff, the tensions were high. After Nebraska scored the first basket, Penn State responded with a 8-0 run just four minutes into the game. This was quickly followed by a six-point jolt from the Huskers to tie things up. However, in the last four minutes of the quarter, Penn State went on a 12-4 run to head into the second quarter with a 20-12 lead. 

The pace was cranked up in the second quarter as there was a combined 52 points by both teams. Despite the Huskers slowly cutting into the lead, Penn State held off Nebraska for the entire quarter, despite the high-scoring 10 minutes of play. With a combined nine 3-pointers and 19 field goals, the Huskers went into the locker room down 44-40 after scoring 28 points in the quarter, Nebraska’s highest of the season. 

Penn State entered the third trying to put the game away, as it jumped to a 51-42 lead with seven minutes left in the quarter. However, Nebraska then erupted with a 16-8 run to head into the final 10 minutes down 59-58.

The final quarter at first continued the battle, but after Nebraska took a 71-68 lead, the Nittany Lions unleashed a massive 17-3 run in the final three-and-a-half minutes to take the game 85-74. A large part of Penn State’s fourth quarter surge came from the charity stripe, as 15 of the team’s 26 total free throws came in the final 10 minutes. 

“Penn State makes it tough to contain penetration in the paint,” Williams said. “That’s where they attacked us and it was evidenced by the fact that they made 26 free throws and we made 4.”

Another factor in Penn State’s fourth quarter run was senior forward Johnasia Cash, who scored 13 of her 27 points in the quarter. Cash was coming off a season high 28 points against Purdue on Sunday and added 19 rebounds to complement her massive scoring output.

“Johnasia [Cash] is a good player,” Williams said. “She can drive right handed or left handed, play off the block, on the block, right shoulder, left shoulder, she’s very talented. It’s a challenge when facing a player like her, it’s something we have to respect and we need to do a better job at guarding her.”

With the loss, the Huskers are now 9-6 on the season and 7-5 in the conference. The Huskers’ road record dropped to 2-5, although Nebraska had won two straight games away from home coming into the night. Nebraska’s next game will be on the road at Rutgers on Feb. 7. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.

sports@dailynebraskan.com