For the third straight game, Nebraska was without forward Bella Cravens. It missed her.
In a game Nebraska couldn’t really afford to give away if it wanted to hang on to its NCAA Tournament hopes, Nebraska was beaten inside time and again, and turned away in the final four minutes.
“The one that really sticks out like a sore thumb for me are points in the paint and second-chance points,” head coach Amy Williams said after the game. “We knew rebounding was going to be critical in this ball game.”
Minnesota held a 32-18 advantage when it came to points in the paint. It had a 39-30 advantage on the glass, and an 11-6 edge in offensive rebounding. Those extra opportunities turned into 12 second-chance points. Nebraska got none of those.
And, in the end, the Huskers came up on the short side of the scoreboard, 73-63.
Minnesota won the first quarter, Nebraska won the second. At the halftime break, it was a one-point game. At the end of the third, the game was tied at 51-all. Minnesota would get up by six or seven points, Nebraska would battle back to within a point or two—or level—and then Minnesota would race back out to a seven-point lead.
Nebraska couldn’t get over the hump.
Williams didn’t see offensive stagnation early in the game, but she did watch her team telegraph actions, watch those actions taken away, and then watch her group “not working as hard as we need to” in order to counter Minnesota’s ball-denials.
Nebraska shot 39% from the field. It hit nine of its 19 3-pointers, but going inside proved adventurous. Too many times a Husker would get in close and look rushed on the shot.
Issie Bourne, named the Big Ten Player of the Week earlier this week, was cold from the field. She had just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. After an 18-point performance her coach thought was her best yet the last time out, Ashley Scoggin was just 2-for-6 from the floor and 1-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Ruby Porter was 0-for-4.
Kate Cain was just 2-for-5 and struggled to really leave an imprint on the game from the inside.
Sam Haiby, Nebraska’s leading scorer, had 22 points. She was 6-for-16 from the floor while serving as Nebraska’s only source of offense in the fourth—she had nine of NU’s 12 fourth-quarter points.
But that was where Nebraska’s issues manifested. NU missed all three of its triples in the quarter, and shot 4-for-13 on everything else. Over the game’s final 3:43, Nebraska was held without a made basket.
A Haiby layup through contact was the Huskers’ final bucket from the floor, and when Haiby converted the and-one foul shot, it tied the game at 62-all.
From that point, Minnesota closed the game on an 11-1 run.
It’s a tough loss for Nebraska to take. The Gophers entered the game 7-11 on the year, 6-10 in conference play, 143rd in the NET ranking, losers of back-to-back games, and missing their best player in guard Jasmine Powell.
Nebraska was a “Next Four Out” team in ESPN’s latest Bracketology, and had a chance to move ahead of Iowa and into seventh place on the Big Ten table with a win.
Instead, Nebraska drops to 11-10 on the year and 9-9 in the Big Ten, tied with Michigan State for eighth place on the league table. The Spartans (12-7, 7-7 Big Ten) visit Lincoln on Saturday for a 1 p.m. CT tip-off. That game will be Nebraska’s final home game of the year and next-to-last regular season game. The Huskers travel to Iowa on March 6.