Nebraska suffered its first loss of the season and fourth straight against in-state foe Creighton on Sunday afternoon as the Jays lit it up from the perimeter en route to a 79-74 win at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Nebraska out-scored Creighton 46-10 in the paint but the Bluejays shot 14-of-32 from deep to take control and closed out the game at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“Tough loss here at home,” Coach Amy Williams said. “It’s really tough for us to swallow but we got outscored 42-9 from behind the arc and that’s a really tough thing to overcome. Even though we accomplished some of our goals of outscoring them 46-10 in the paint and some things like that, I just think that it’s really, really tough to overcome. They had an incredible night shooting and we didn’t get out to their shooters with the same sense of urgency that we needed to.”
Junior center Kate Cain led Nebraska’s interior attack with 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting and seven rebounds.
“I thought we did a good job of finding our posts and getting some post touches and really taking advantage of that,” Williams said. “… I thought our team did a good job of getting [Cain] some touches and she did a great job of finishing in the paint.”
Sophomore guard Sam Haiby added 17 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from the line with seven boards and four assists. Sophomore Leigha Brown provided a spark off the bench with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting and four rebounds.
The Huskers shot 3-of-16 from 3-point range with two of the makes coming late in the fourth quarter as the Huskers tried to rally from a double-digit deficit. The Huskers outscored the jays 15-5 in points off turnovers and 16-8 in second-chance points, but Creighton was plus-12 at the free-throw line.
Nebraska’s four seniors will leave Lincoln without a win against the Huskers’ in-state rival, and Haiby said the game “definitely” meant a little more to them, even for someone like her who isn’t from Nebraska.
“You want to beat the team that’s in your state, even if you’re [from] out of state,” Haiby said. “We definitely wanted this one for our seniors most. It really hurts us and them, obviously, the they won’t get another shot at it. We really wanted this one bad for them.”
Creighton set the tone from the opening tip by hitting its first three 3-pointers — two by Creighton senior start Jaylyn Agnew — to take a 9-4 lead and draw an early timeout from Williams. After the break, the Huskers tightened up and ripped off a 7-0 run but Agnew responded with another triple. Nicea Eliely got a steal and score to give the Huskers the lead and they held onto it throughout the rest of the quarter, taking an 18-17 advantage into the second period.
The Huskers held Creighton scoreless for the first four-and-a-half minutes of the quarter but only managed to score four points themselves to build a 22-17 lead. Tatum Rembao snapped Creighton out of its cold spell with another 3 but back-to-back buckets by Kain gave the the Huskers their largest lead of the game at 26-20.
Creighton doubled up the Huskers in the final three minutes to even the score at 32-32 heading into halftime.
Creighton opened the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers to take a 38-32 lead and the Huskers played catch-up the rest of the afternoon. The Huskers tied it up at 44-44 after a couple of buckets inside by Haiby and Brown, but Olivia Elger responded with back-to-back 3-pointer for Creighton to give the Jays a six-point lead once again. Nebraska cut it to one in the final minute but Rembao got loose for her second 3-pointer with less than five seconds left to give the jays a 55-51 lead after three.
Creighton opened the fourth with a 3 by Elger and a three-point play by Agnew to push the lead to 10. Sophomore forward Kayla Mershon tried to give the Huskers a spark with a pair of offensive rebounds — one leading to free throws (she hit one of two) and the other resulting in an assist to Cain. Haiby followed that up with a pair of free throws to cut it to five, but Rembao answered with yet another 3. Creighton pushed the lead back to 11 and salted the game away at the free-throw line, shooting 11-of-14 in the final two minutes to withstand a late Husker rally.
Agnew (26), Elger (18), Temi Carda (18) and Rembao (11) accounted for 73 of Creighton’s 79 points and shot a combined 14-of-27 from 3.
“Credit to them on shooting that well,” Haiby said. “Fourteen 3s is going to be hard to come back from, no matter who they are. It was a lot of catch-and-shoot, and we knew that going into the game, so we needed to execute our game plan better — run them off the line, whether it makes them shoot a layup or step-back 3s. But catch-and-shoot, we knew that was coming and that’s what they did well tonight.”
Junior wing Taylor Kissinger returned to the court for the first time since the season-opener but showed some rust, going 0-for-4 from deep with a charge in 13 minutes.
“Taylor is a fantastic 3-point shooter,” Williams said. “Everybody in our program has the utmost confidence in her and she’s just now returning to play. It’ll take care of itself.”
Nebraska honored senior point guard Hannah Whitish prior to the game for surpassing 1,000 career points. She finished with four points and five assists against Creighton.
The Huskers will head to Las Vegas after the holiday for the South Point Shootout. Nebraska faces USC on Friday and Sacred Heart on Saturday.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.