Husker Rally Falls Short at Indiana
Bloomington, Ind. - The Nebraska women's basketball team trailed by 17 midway through the third quarter at No. 6 Indiana before cutting the lead to 68-65 with 24 seconds left, but the Hoosiers sank four free throws down the stretch to secure a 72-65 win over the Huskers on Thursday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The loss dropped Nebraska to 13-3 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten, while Indiana improved to 13-2 and 5-0 in the conference with its 14th consecutive Big Ten regular-season win and eighth consecutive win over this season.
With Nebraska trailing 63-54 with four minutes left, USBWA National Freshman of the Week Alexis Markowski scored nine straight points for the Huskers, trimming the IU margin to 68-63. Then fellow freshman Allison Weidner hit a pair of free throws with 24.3 seconds left to cut the margin to one possession for the only time in the second half.
Markowski, a 6-3 forward from Lincoln, led Nebraska with 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals, while Weidner (Humphrey, Neb.) added seven points and five rebounds for the Big Red. Jaz Shelley added 15 points, a game-high nine rebounds and a team-best three assists to go with two steals, while Sam Haiby pitched in 10 points. Haiby scored Nebraska's first basket of the fourth quarter to start a 6-0 Husker run after NU trailed 57-43 entering the final period.
However, Haiby exited the game early in the fourth with an apparent arm injury, but the Huskers continued to chip away without the All-Big Ten guard on the floor.
The Hoosiers were also limited, as All-Big Ten forward Mackenzie Holmes missed her first game of the season with a leg injury, before starting forward Aleksa Gulbe fouled out of the game with four minutes left, leaving IU with both of its starting post players on the bench. The Huskers also were missing starting forward/center Bella Cravens for the third straight game because of a lower leg injury.
National Player of the Year candidate Grace Berger led Indiana with 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, while Gulbe finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four steals. Nicole Cardano-Hillary scored all 13 of her points in the first half to help the Hoosiers to a 44-31 halftime lead, while Ali Patberg put four Hoosiers in double figures with 10 points, including the final two points at the line with four seconds left to close out the win.
The biggest shots of the second half though came from Indiana's Chloe Moore-McNeil, who hit a pair of fourth-quarter three-pointers and knocked down a pair of pressure free throws with 23.4 seconds left with IU clinging to the 68-65 lead. Moore-McNeil's fourth-quarter field goals were two of just three in the period by the Hoosiers, who also just got one made field goal in the final six-plus minutes of the third quarter. Moore-McNeil finished with all eight of Indiana's points off the bench on the night, as just six Hoosiers saw action in the contest.
For the game, Nebraska hit 40 percent (24-60) of its shots from the field, including 6-of-20 (.300 three-pointers, while going 11-for-18 (.611) at the free throw line. The Huskers outworked the Hoosiers on the glass, 41-35, and won the the battle for second-chance points, 16-2.
Indiana answered with 42.4 percent (25-59) shooting, including 6-of-18 (.333) three-pointers, while hitting 64 percent (16-25) of its free throws. But Nebraska held Indiana to just 7-of-26 (.269) in the second half. The Hoosiers won the turnover battle 19-13, and outscored NU 12-8 in points off turnovers in the game.
The Huskers got off to a solid start in the first four-plus minutes, scoring six of their first 10 points on second-chance opportunities to take a 10-7 lead. But the Hoosiers responded by forcing turnovers on four straight Nebraska possessions to spark an 8-0 run and take a 15-10 lead.
Nebraska was able to cut the IU margin to 17-15 on an Annika Stewart three-pointer with 1:49 left in the quarter, but Cardano-Hillary closed out the period for the Hoosiers with five straight points to give Indiana a 22-16 lead at the end of the first. Stewart finished the night with six points on a pair of threes.
The Huskers cut the margin back to four at 31-27 with five minutes left in the second after an Ashley Scoggin three-pointer, before the Hoosiers came out of the media timeout on a 9-0 run that included five straight points by Patberg to give the Hoosiers their biggest lead at 40-27. Scoggin also finished the night with six points on two threes.
Nebraska got back-to-back buckets from Markowski and Shelley to briefly cut the IU lead back to single digits at 40-31, before the Hoosiers scored the final four points of the half to send Indiana to the locker room with a 44-31 halftime lead.
Shelley led Nebraska with 10 first-half points, while Markowski added six, but the Huskers hit just 39.4 percent (13-33) of their shots including just 3-of-12 threes. Indiana countered with 54.5 percent (18-33), including 3-of-8 three-pointers. The Huskers matched the Hoosiers on the glass with 19 rebounds, but Indiana won the first-half turnover battle 10-6, and outscored the Huskers 11-2 in points off turnovers.
Cardano-Hillary led Indiana with 13 first-half points, while Berger and Gulbe each contributed 12 in the half. Patberg added seven points, as the Hoosiers' experienced quartet accounted for all 44 of Indiana's first-half points.
Nebraska is scheduled to return to Big Ten road action on Sunday when the Big Red travel to Iowa on Sunday. Tip-off between the Huskers and Hawkeyes is set for 5 p.m. (CT) with live television coverage by the Big Ten Network. Free live audio will be provided by the Huskers Radio Network on Huskers.com.