Nebraska women’s basketball couldn’t pull off the upset on senior night, losing to No. 12 Iowa 74-58 on Tuesday.
Iowa’s senior All-American forward Megan Gustafson dominated the Huskers, putting up 29 points on 13-19 shooting and pulling down 20 rebounds. Senior forward Hannah Stewart also shined, scoring 15 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
For Nebraska, freshman guard Sam Haiby led the team in scoring with 12 points. Freshman forward Ashtyn Veerbeek also had a solid performance with 10 points and six rebounds.
However, the biggest story of the game wasn’t the final score. The lone senior on Nebraska’s roster, Maddie Simon, played her last home game for the Huskers on senior night. After the game, she was honored with a tribute video and her own framed jersey.
“I couldn’t think of a better role model for the young women in our community,” head coach Amy Williams said.
Nebraska players also had praise for Simon, as she stood out as a leader for the team.
“Maddie was the perfect senior that we could’ve had from the beginning,” Veerbeek said. “She just showed us what it takes to be a great player through her hard work and work ethic.”
In the first quarter, Nebraska seemed primed to pull off an upset. The Huskers stifled the Hawkeyes’ 12th-ranked scoring offense, holding them to 12 points on 5-15 shooting. Nebraska also forced six turnovers and blocked four shots, frustrating the Iowa offense on multiple occasions.
Gustafson had six of Iowa’s 12 first quarter points, including the first four points of the game.
Offensively, Nebraska struggled as well in the period, but played well enough to take a 16-12 lead into the second quarter. The Huskers shot 7-21 and had five turnovers of their own.
In the second quarter, Iowa began to look like the top-25 team it is. The Hawkeyes got off to a hot start, going on a 9-0 run in the first three minutes to take a 21-16 lead, prompting a Nebraska timeout.
Out of the timeout, Nebraska showed a little more fight, but Iowa continued to build its lead. By halftime, the Hawkeyes led 35-26. Gustafson continued to control the game, scoring 11 points in the second quarter. She also secured a double-double in the first half, grabbing 10 rebounds.
The second quarter was a complete turnaround for Iowa. Despite a sloppy first quarter, the Hawkeyes only turned the ball over once in the second quarter and did not have a single shot blocked. Iowa outscored Nebraska 23-10 in the second quarter behind 62.5 percent shooting.
Haiby and Veerbeek had a solid half for the Huskers, scoring nine and eight points, respectively. Otherwise, Nebraska struggled on offense, shooting 29.7 percent.
As the second half began, Iowa returned to it’s first-half struggles. The Hawkeyes were called for a traveling violation on each of their first three possessions of the half. This helped Nebraska climb back into the game, as it scored the first five points of the half to cut the deficit to four.
For the next six minutes, Nebraska and Iowa went back and forth, but neither team seemed able to make a significant push. With just over two-and-a-half minutes to go in the quarter, junior guard Nicea Eliely jumped up to pick off a pass, leading to an and-one layup from Simon that tied the game at 43 and gave Nebraska a chance to take the lead. However, Simon could not convert the free throw.
From there, Iowa went on a 9-2 run and Nebraska never tied the game or took the lead again. Near the end of the quarter, sophomore center Kate Cain hit a layup to cut the deficit to 47-52 at the end of the quarter.
Iowa pulled away in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes started the quarter on a 6-0 run and the score never came closer than five points again.
Iowa shot 52.6 percent in the game, while holding Nebraska to 34.8 percent.
This loss marked the Huskers’ second to Iowa this season, as they also fell to the Hawkeyes 77-71 on Jan 3.
Iowa has one of the top offenses in the country, which proved difficult for Nebraska to defend down the stretch.
“They come at you at a lot of different positions,” Veerbeek said. “Even though Megan Gustafson, a lot is run through her and she’s like the best player in the country, it’s hard to just sag off on the other girls.”
Nebraska, now 13-15, will look to bounce back from this tough loss in its final game of the regular season when they take on Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania. on March 2 at 2:00 p.m.