Nebraska women’s basketball closed out the regular season on a positive note, holding on to beat Penn State 79-74 on the road.
Freshman guard Sam Haiby was key down the stretch, scoring 12 of her team-leading 16 points in the fourth quarter. Haiby went a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line, while also adding five rebounds and three assists.
Sophomore guard Taylor Kissinger also had a good performance, scoring 14 points on 5-7 shooting, including 4-5 from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Teniya Page stood out for Penn State, scoring 22 points to go along with four assists. Page also did most of her work late, scoring 17 points in the second half.
Nebraska came out hot against the Lady Lions, going on a 9-2 run in the first three minutes.
Freshman forward Kayla Mershon sparked the run, scoring Nebraska’s first five points.
With the score at 15-10 late in the first quarter, Penn State responded with a 7-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 17-15 with 45 seconds to go in the period. Nebraska junior guard Nicea Eliely’s layup with 15 seconds left knotted the game up at 17 heading into the second quarter.
After Penn State hit the first shot of the second period, the Huskers struck again, this time going on a 10-0 run capped by a three-pointer from Kissinger. Sophomore center Kate Cain was a force on the defensive end during the run, blocking four shots.
Penn State freshman forward Lauren Ebo put an end to the Lady Lions’ nearly four-minute scoring drought with 4:40 to go, but Nebraska wasn’t done scoring yet. The Huskers answered Ebo’s bucket with a 7-0 run, giving Nebraska a 13-point cushion.
Penn State continued to fight back, but Nebraska went into the half with a 43-32 lead after a Haiby layup with four seconds to go.
Nebraska outscored Penn State 26-15 in the quarter, shooting 10-16 from the field. In the first half, the Huskers shot 52.9 percent from the field, including 55.6 percent from three. Kissinger led the team in scoring at the break, with all nine of her points coming in the second quarter on 3-3 three-point shooting.
Penn State struggled offensively in the first twenty minutes, shooting 37.8 percent from the field, including 25 percent from beyond the arc. Ebo played an impressive half, putting up eight points and five rebounds.
In the third quarter, Penn State began to mount a comeback. With 7:21 to go in the third, Mershon hit a layup that gave Nebraska a 14-point lead, its biggest of the game. Penn State then went on a 9-0 run, cutting the deficit to 50-45.
Senior forward Maddie Simon stopped the run, hitting one of two free throws to give the Huskers a six-point lead. The Huskers held onto their lead for the remainder of the quarter, taking a 57-52 advantage into the final period.
Penn State started off the fourth quarter quickly, scoring the first five points, including a three-pointer from Page that tied the game at 57. Haiby answered with four straight points of her own, and Nebraska took a 63-57 lead after a bucket from Cain.
Down the stretch, Nebraska responded to every push Penn State made.
With 5:15 to go, the Huskers led 65-63 after Page hit a layup for Penn State. Neither team scored for the next two minutes, but Kissinger hit her fourth three-pointer of the game with 3:11 left to keep the Lady Lions at bay.
Page hit one of two free throws on the next possession, which was answered by Haiby hitting two free throws. After Ebo and Simon traded turnovers, Page went to the line again. This time she hit both, making it a four-point game.
On the very next possession, junior guard Siyeh Frazier poked the ball out of Nebraska junior guard Hannah Whitish’s hands, leading to a fastbreak layup from Frazier that cut the lead to two with 1:41 to go.
Penn State fouled Haiby again on the next possession, and she hit both free throws to give Nebraska a 72-68 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Penn State needed a basket to stay in the game. Freshman guard Karisma Ortiz got two chances, but missed both shots. The second miss resulted in a scramble for the loose ball, which Haiby ended up throwing out of bounds. Despite getting another chance, the Lady Lions still could not convert, as Page missed a jumper that landed in the hands of Haiby.
Haiby hit another two free throws, but Penn State continued to fight. Page hit a layup with 43.9 seconds to go, keeping the Lady Lions in range. Whitish gave Penn State somewhat of a break as she went to the line and missed one of two free throws. This led to Ortiz hitting a layup to make it a one-possession game at 75-72.
Whitish went to the line again, but this time hit both, giving Nebraska a 77-72 lead with 31 seconds left.
Penn State desperately needed a three-pointer on the next possession, but Eliely came up with a huge block on Page’s attempt from deep. This led to Haiby going to the free-throw line one last time, and she sealed the game by making both.
Ebo hit one more shot with less than 10 seconds to go, but it was too little, too late, as Penn State let Nebraska run the clock out and come away with its 14th win.
Nebraska controlled the game on both sides of the ball, shooting 48.3 percent while holding Penn State to 40.9 percent. The Huskers also out-rebounded the Lady Lions, ending the game with a 39-33 advantage on the glass.
Nebraska now ranks eighth in the Big Ten standings with a 9-9 conference record. However, there is a possibility the Huskers rise to seventh or sixth if Northwestern (9-8 Big Ten) or Michigan State (9-8) lose tomorrow on the last day of the regular season.
The Huskers are in good shape heading into the Big Ten Tournament as they have beaten all four of their possible first round opponents at least once this season (Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue).
The Big Ten Tournament will begin March 6 in Indianapolis. Nebraska’s opponent and time of the game are still to be determined.