Following Nebraska’s win over No. 5 Indiana last Monday, the Huskers’ second win over a top-10 opponent on their home court this season, head coach Amy Williams wanted to see consistency from her team. She wanted the Huskers to take care of business against a struggling Big Ten team in Penn State, which came into Thursday’s game with just three conference wins and was on an eight-game losing streak.
That did not happen.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Nebraska held a 13-point lead at 68-55. But when the clock hit zeros, Penn State had outscored the Huskers 31-15 in the final 10 minutes and was the one cheering and singing its fight song after an 83-76 come-from-behind win. The loss drops the Huskers to 19-7 overall and 8-7 in Big Ten play.
“What a really tough loss for our team,” head coach Amy Williams told the Huskers Radio Network after the game. “It just feels like, as excited as we were knocking off the No. 5 team in the country a few days ago, we knew it was going to be hard, it’s always hard to go on the road in our conference, but this was a really tough game today and a tough loss.”
It was a stunning loss for Big Red, which was projected as a No. 7 seed of the NCAA tournament in ESPN’s latest bracketology. Following an Alexis Markowski free throw to put Nebraska up 68-55 with 7:37 left in the fourth, the Nittany Lions rattled off a whopping 15-0 run in just 1 minute and 24 seconds to take a 70-68 lead.
“They picked up their defensive intensity, they forced some turnovers, they got some offensive rebounds and really capitalized on it,” Williams said of what went wrong during that Penn State run, “and before we really could even get the attention to try to switch some things up, the momentum was swung their way.”
The 3-point shot was Penn State’s friend in the game. The Nittany Lions averaged 6.5 3-point makes coming into the game, but went 12-of-30 on Thursday night. Kelly Jekot, a 6-foot guard from Pennsylvania, went 4-of-5 from behind the arc. Four others made at least one triple.
Nebraska was moving the ball and rebounding well in the first half against Penn State’s 2-3 zone defense. The Huskers had 13 assists on 16 field-goal makes and out-rebounded the Nittany Lions 23-14. But Penn State toughened up on the glass in the second half and out-rebounded Nebraska 21-19 in the second half while hauling down nine offensive boards.
Turnovers were a problem for the Huskers. They had eight of them in the second half—and 15 for the game—which led to 10 Nittany Lion points.
The Huskers were without a couple players in starting guard Ashley Scoggin, who was unable to play due to health and safety protocols according to the Huskers Radio Network, and Annika Stewart, a knock-down shooter off the bench who was missing her third game due to a lower back injury.
With Scoggin and Stewart unavailable, the Husker depth wasn’t as deep as it usually is. Nebraska was outscored 31-10 in bench points. True freshman Allison Weidner started in place of Scoggin and scored seven points, eight rebounds and six assists. Another true freshman, Alexis Markowski, a candidate to win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, scored 23 points with seven rebounds.
Isabelle Bourne scored 15 points with seven rebounds and went 1-of-3 from 3-point land. With that 3, Bourne has now made at least one triple in the past five games. Veteran guard Sam Haiby added 11 points, six assists and five boards. Bella Cravens added 10 points and four rebounds. Shelley poured in 10 points with five assists and five rebounds.
Up next for Nebraska is a home game with Minnesota on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Gophers came into their Thursday night game with Rutgers at 12-14 overall and 5-9 in conference play. It will be the second time Nebraska and Minnesota have played—the first was a 70-67 win for the Huskers in Minneapolis on Dec. 6.
“We just have to find a way to understand that this is a tough league, and it’s tough to win on the road,” Williams said. “We need to regroup and get ourselves ready to lock in and get another win at home.”