The Nebraska women’s basketball team broke out of its slump as it returned from a five-game road trip and beat the previously undefeated Kansas Jayhawks 58-52 Wednesday night.
Although Nebraska came out with the win, the game was anything but pretty. The first quarter ended tied 11-11, but Nebraska appeared on the verge of extending its losing streak early. Nebraska had nine turnovers in the first quarter, including a three-minute stretch where the Huskers turned the ball over seven times in nine possessions.
Nebraska kept the game close in the first period by limiting Kansas to 4-18 shooting and forcing three turnovers. In the last four minutes of the quarter, Kansas only scored one point and went 0-4 from the field. However, Nebraska only scored two points during that span and shot 1-5.
In the second quarter, Nebraska improved and took a 28-21 lead into halftime. The turnover struggles continued, as six more turnovers in the second quarter put Nebraska at 15 in the first half. The Huskers also shot worse, going 4-13 in the second quarter.
Nebraska was able to take the lead by getting to the foul line. Nebraska did not have a single trip to the free throw line in the first quarter, but made six of eight attempts in the second.
With just under three minutes left in the half, Kansas made a layup to tie the game at 21. After that basket, Nebraska closed out the quarter on a 7-0 run, which included a pair of three-pointers from junior guard Hannah Whitish and sophomore forward Taylor Kissinger.
Nebraska continued to suffocate Kansas on the defensive end, holding the Jayhawks to 4-19 shooting, including 1-6 from three in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, it seemed that Nebraska would pull away. Nebraska scored 10 of the first 13 points of the quarter to extend its lead to 14 with 4:58 left in the third quarter. Kansas then went on a 10-3 run of its own in the latter half of the period to cut the lead to 41-34 going into the final period.
With seven minutes left in the game, Kansas narrowed Nebraska’s lead to three at 44-41. The Huskers kept the Jayhawks at bay by scoring the next six points, extending the lead back up to nine with just over five minutes to go.
Kansas kept fighting back and were down four with 27 seconds left with the ball. Kansas missed a three-pointer on that possession and then sent Nebraska to the free-throw line. Senior forward Maddie Simon made one of two free throws to push the lead to 57-52, leaving the door open for Kansas. Kansas again missed its opportunity and Nebraska held on for the win.
The last 30 seconds of the game were indicative of Kansas’ shooting woes, as the Jayhawks went 8-37 from the three-point line in the game. Kansas also went 19-75 from the field, good for 25.3 percent.
Nebraska’s offense put together a horrid performance as well, shooting 32.8 percent as it set a new season-low in points and field goal percentage for a second consecutive game.
The Huskers didn’t mind these shooting struggles as long as they were able to add another win to their record.
“We’re just glad to come away with a win,” head coach Amy Williams said. “Even if we win ugly, we’ll take it. The turnovers are a bigger concern for me than field goal percentage.”
Defensively, Nebraska shined in multiple categories, forcing 11 turnovers and blocking 10 shots. Those 10 blocks came from just three players, as junior guard Nicea Eliely had four, while freshman forward Ashtyn Veerbeek and sophomore center Kate Cain added three each.
“We were being aggressive,” Veerbeek said of the team’s defense. “On offense, we were kind of being frantic, turning it over, so we knew to win this game we’d have to get the defensive stops, and that’s what we came up with and that’s why we got the win in the end.”
Kissinger led the way offensively in the game, putting up 11 points on 4-7 shooting, while adding 11 rebounds and two assists.
Nebraska had struggled recently, losing four of five games on its recent road trip. The home court advantage was refreshing for the Huskers, as they were able to get back on track with the win.
“We’re excited to be back at home,” Williams said. “Playing in front of our incredible fans here, this is a really good win against a very strong upperclassmen, seven seniors, three juniors, [a] team that came in here undefeated.”
The Huskers are now 3-5, but Kansas coach Brandon Schneider said Nebraska should not be taken lightly.
“They are so much better than their record indicates,” Schneider said. “I’m sure that they felt like this is a game where they could get healthy from a mental standpoint and maybe start playing the basketball they expect out of themselves.”
Next up for the Huskers will be another home game against San Jose State on Saturday at 12:00 p.m.