Nebraska women's basketball won The Dana on Mission Day Holiday Tournament as they got two wins, beating Drexel as well as capping off the tournament with a 64-56 victory over San Diego.
The Huskers beat Drexel and San Diego in back-to-back days to rise to perfect 7-0 on the season, their best start to a season since their undefeated season in 2010, when they won the Big 12.
Nebraska’s scoring was led by sophomore guard Jaz Shelley with 16 points. Shelley went 5-of-12 from the field and 1-of-2 from the free throw line, as well as 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point line. The Oregon transfer also added two rebounds, three assists and four steals in 34 minutes of play.
Behind Shelley, the Huskers had two other double-digit point scorers in junior guard Sam Haiby and sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin with 15 and 12 points respectively.
The Huskers had strong point totals but the most important stat of the night came from junior forward Bella Cravens with 15 rebounds on Saturday as well as 29 rebounds in the tournament.
“She has been really having a nose for the ball and just being strong,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “I thought today was a very physical game inside so not only did you have to be in position and come away you just had to be really strong and protect the basketball and I feel like she did a great job of that.”
Cravens also added two assists, three blocks, one steal and seven points in her 31 minutes played.
Nebraska as a whole shot 20-of-51 from the field and a rocky 14-of-24 from the free throw line, but was efficient from behind the arc as it shot 10-of-19 from 3-point range. San Diego had only allowed 10 3-pointers coming into the matchup, which was a key part of the Huskers win as well as out-rebounding the Toreros 46 to 34.
“I did not let them know that San Diego in their first four games had given up six made 3-pointers and were holding their opponents to 12% 3-point shooting,” Williams said. “Yesterday Fresno hit four more so total on the year they had given ten and we were able to hit ten here tonight so it was a pretty good effort.”
The Huskers started off the game fast with a quick 7-2 run that involved a layup by Cravens, a jumper from Haiby and was capped off by a 3-pointer from Scoggin. Scoggin would finish the game 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
The Toreros would stop the run there, as they would fight back on a five-point run of their own. The run involved senior guard Sydney Hunter with two free throws and a 3-pointer of their own by senior guard Steph Gorman, making it 7 a-piece with 6:09 to go in the first quarter.
Breaking the seven point tie was a layup by Toreros senior forward Kendall Bird, which loomed larger for the Huskers as San Diego went on a 7-to-6 run to close out the first quarter of play. The Huskers got the last basket of the quarter with a Shelley 3-pointer to keep it to a one point game.
Just over a minute and half into the second quarter, sophomore forward Izzy Bourne got her layup to fall after an assist from Haiby, who led the team with five assists in the game, which brought the game to 15-14 Huskers.
In the second quarter, the Huskers started to separate themselves from the opposition with Shelley having two 3-pointers in the quarter. Cravens capped off the first half with two free throws to bring the Huskers up 27-20 heading into halftime.
Toreros junior guard Ayanna Khalfani got the second half of play started with a layup but Scoggin answered with two 3-pointers on the ensuing three Husker possessions to bring the lead up to nine.
Even with the Huskers up nine, the fight in the Toreros did not fade, as they would quickly answer back with a 3-pointer from senior guard Erica Martinsen and a layup from Hunter to bring the game to five points, 33-29 Huskers.
After a layup and free throw from Toreros sophomore center Laura Erikstrup brought them to within two points, Scoggin added another 3-pointer to cap off her 12-point performance and bring the Huskers back up by five.
As the clock kept ticking down in the third quarter, the Huskers leaned on Haiby to use her veteran experience to keep the Huskers in the lead. Haiby ended the game 7-of-10 on free throws, going 5-of-8 in the third quarter.
“It was great to see Sam be aggressive minded offensively,” Williams said. “She found herself some matchups that she liked and was able to attack and get herself to the free throw line.”
36 seconds before the end of the third quarter, Shelley added a free throw of her own to bring the Huskers up by one, 47-46.
Entering the final 10 minutes of play in the game, Khalfani and junior Kasey Neubert sandwiched Haiby’s layup with one from each, giving San Diego its first lead since the first quarter at 50-49. Nebraska led 78.2% of the game compared to the Toreros 14.5%.
Freshman center Alexis Markowski captured back the lead for the Huskers with a layup of her own with 7:03 left in the game. Shelley added onto the lead around three minutes later with a 3-pointer to bring the Huskers up 56-52.
“I think that is another part of this group of girls that we have here, every game we are believing that we are going to win,” Haiby said postgame. “Trying to stay calm was the main key today, staying poised. We know they like to push the pace and pressure us so I don't think there was a doubt in anyone's mind.”
In a bang-bang play, Cravens found the ball in her hands after a scramble and found a wide-open Shelley right in front of the Huskers bench. Shelley drilled what seemed to be a dagger 3-pointer as the Huskers took a commanding 60-54 lead.
“I looked to reverse the ball to Sam and it wasn’t there,” Cravens said postgame. “I started to drive and I found her.”
After Haiby knocked down her last two free throws of the game, Neubert added one more for San Diego, but with time running out the Huskers captured the 64-56 victory and tournament title.
The Huskers stay on the road as they will travel to Wake Forest for a 6:00 p.m. tipoff on Dec. 1 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The game will be streamed live on Big Ten Plus.