Eliely 2.9.20

Nebraska's Nicea Eliely (5) reacts to a call during the match against Indiana on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The inability to string together four solid quarters has been a common theme for Nebraska women’s basketball recently, and that was the case once again as the Huskers took on the No. 18 Indiana Hoosiers Sunday afternoon. 

Nebraska desperately needed a statement win in order to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and was hoping to accomplish this against a tough Indiana team. All six of Indiana’s losses have come from current top-25 teams.

There were ups and downs for both teams, ending in a 57-53 Indiana win, that extended the Huskers’ losing streak to four games. Although falling short by four points, Nebraska (15-9, 5-8 Big Ten) faced a 25-point deficit in the second quarter.

The Hoosiers (19-6, 9-4) started out hot, with Indiana junior guard Jaelynn Penn draining a 3-pointer to open up the scoring. Penn had a team-high 14 points and helped Indiana hold onto the lead throughout the entire game.

Nebraska struggled to make a single shot during the first quarter, allowing Indiana to go on a 12-point run to open the game. The Huskers started the game 0-7, failing to score until junior center Kate Cain hit a jumper with 5:36 left in the first quarter. Cain led the team in points and blocks, contributing 12 and five, respectively.

Indiana senior forward Brenna Wise answered back with a 3-pointer to give the Hoosiers a 13-point lead. With just under five minutes left in the quarter, sophomore guard Sam Haiby hit a shot behind the arc right before the shot clock expired, making it 15-5.

Although Haiby only recorded five points throughout the game, she tied for the team high with seven rebounds along with freshman forward Isabelle Bourne.

“I was just really proud of the fact that [Haiby] tied [Bourne] with leading us in rebounds,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said. “We’ve been talking to [Haiby] about finding ways to contribute even if maybe shots are not falling.”

Tonight, Haiby’s greatest contribution was her rebounding, according to Williams.

The Husker offense settled into another scoring drought after Haiby’s 3-pointer. The only other point of the quarter came from a made free throw from Bourne.

Indiana’s offense didn’t slow down and it ended the quarter with a 20-point lead, 26-6. The Huskers shot 12% from the field and allowed the Hoosiers to shoot at 56%.

Nebraska outscored Indiana in each of the final three quarters, but it wasn’t enough. 

The first minute of the second quarter mirrored the first quarter, with Indiana increasing its lead to 30-6. However, sophomore forward Leigha Brown sparked the offense by contributing five points within a minute via a 3-pointer and two free throws, making it 30-11. 

After the free throws, Penn made another 3-pointer to give Indiana a 22-point lead. An Indiana free throw followed by a layup, gave the Hoosiers their biggest lead of the game, at 36-11.

Freshmen guards Makenzie Helms and Trinity Brady entered the game during the second half of the second quarter and brought energy to the Husker offense.

Brady made a 3-pointer and a jump-shot within 30 seconds of each other and brought the score to 36-18.

Helms contributed three points, a career-high, scoring an and-one with under three minutes left in the half.

At halftime, Nebraska trailed 23-41. Although still behind by 18, Nebraska improved its field-goal percentage and shot at 40% in the second quarter. 

Nebraska has struggled during its third quarters this season, but this time around it managed to use the period to get back in the game. 

Cain put in the first four points of the third quarter within the first minute-and-a-half. Indiana took advantage of bad Nebraska passes, recording three steals in the third quarter.

Brown, Bourne and senior guard Nicea Eliely each contributed baskets on a 6-0 Husker run to bring them within 15 points.

Bourne added four more points with under three minutes left in the quarter, making it a 10-point game. After a made free throw from the Hoosiers, the third quarter ended with a score of 51-40.

The Huskers’ offense lit up during the fourth quarter, with jump shots from Haiby and Cain, a 3-pointer from senior guard Hannah Whitish and an additional two points from Brown, with no answers from the Hoosiers. Throughout the first six-and-a-half minutes of the quarter, the Huskers went on an 11-0 run to tie the game up at 51-51.

Indiana sophomore guard Grace Berger made two free throws and Eliely responded with a layup to tie it up again at 53-53.

The last 30 seconds consisted of a made shot by Berger and two made free throws by Penn, giving Indiana the win. 

Nebraska’s bench was a big part of the comeback, as it outscored Indiana’s bench 24-7. 

“We had some great contributions and a little punch from our bench,” Williams said.

Cain noted how proud she was of her team for “scratching and clawing” their way back into the game.

Williams’ biggest messages were building on every game and continuing to train with consistency. 

“I think that our seniors just really desperately want to go out on a good note and want to play hard for their teammates,” Williams said. 

Williams added that it’s natural for the seniors and the entire team to be feeling a sense of urgency right now to perform well.

The Huskers return home Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. in hopes of snapping their longest losing streak of the season.