The Huskers sure made a run at things, but a third consecutive fourth-quarter comeback was too tall an order. A cold third quarter and untimely rebounding doomed Nebraska (7-7, 2-1 Big Ten), who fell 77-71 to No. 19 Iowa (10-3, 1-1 Big Ten).
Nebraska trailed by six going into the final frame against Michigan on Dec. 28 and won by 14. It trailed by two against Ohio State on Dec. 31 and won by nine. Against Iowa on the road Thursday night, it trailed 59-49.
Those first two games featured short-fuse fourth quarters. Nebraska opened hot and bludgeoned its way back into the game. That wasn’t the case against the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes. With 4:36 to play, Iowa had extended its lead up to 12 thanks to a bucket from Hannah Stewart. (She finished with 14 points and two crucial offensive rebounds late.)
Then the run came. Nebraska ripped off a 16-4 run punctuated by a long corner jumper from freshman wing Leigha Brown. Things were back to 73-71 with 25 seconds left. The Huskers elected to play the free throw game and put Iowa guard Tania Davis on the free throw line.
She made the first then missed the second, but Stewart wrestled away the board to maintain possession for the Hawkeyes. She kicked it to guard Alexis Sevillian, who Nebraska immediately fouled. Sevillian, like Davis, made the first and missed the second but there was Stewart again to clean things up and get the ball to Hawkeye star Megan Gustafson.
She missed both her free throws but the damage was done. Iowa had bumped its lead into two-possession territory and run 16 seconds off the clock. Nebraska was forced to heave triples, which it missed.
Over the course of the game, rebounding wasn’t an issue. Iowa won the boards 41-36 but offensive rebounding was dead even at 11-all and Nebraska limited all those earlier second possessions to just five Iowa points.
The issue was the third quarter, when Iowa hit nine of its 15 shots and Nebraska hit just five of its 17 and the Hawkeyes outscored the Huskers 22-15. A triple from junior guard Nicea Eliely (five points, five assists) at the 8:20 mark put Nebraska up 43-39.
Iowa scored the next 10 points and closed the frame on a 20-6 run overall. Nebraska missed 11 of its final 13 shots from the field in the third.
Gustafson powered the Hawkeyes with 28 points and 17 rebounds. It was the 10th 20-point game for the senior this season and the fifth straight. In all of them, she has double-doubled. Nebraska simply wasn't going to slow her down. Davis, Stewart and guard Kathleen Doyle each reaching double figures further complicated things.
For the Huskers, Brown led the way offensively with a career-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting (3-for-4 from 3). It was her fifth time in the last six games going over 10 points off the bench.
With her combination of outside shooting and ability to finish around the rim, Brown has quickly established herself as one of the Huskers' top scorers. Twelve of her 20 came after halftime on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from the foul line.
Senior guard Hannah Whitish was the only other Husker in double figures with 14 points, two boards and two steals.
After three of four on the road, Nebraska will come home for four of its next five games. The home stand will begin on Tuesday when the Huskers welcome No. 4 Maryland (12-1, 1-1 Big Ten) to Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Terps were shocked their last game out by a 73-65 loss to Rutgers at home. Tip is set for 7 p.m. CT.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.