Efficient offense helped Nebraska to a season-opening win Friday night, but tough defense paved the way for a grind-it-out kind of win Sunday night. No one shot particularly well, but the Huskers (2-0) did enough on the other end to walk away with a 64-51 win over Idaho State.
“This was one of those games that we really had to grind it out on the defensive side of the ball and find ways to continue to make them take the shots we wanted them to take—contested overhands—and then do our best to box out,” head coach Amy Williams said.
The separation came in the third quarter, when Nebraska found some life on offense. A 22-15 frame meant a little defense in the fourth would seal the deal. Idaho State missed 16 of its 19 shots in the final 10 minutes.
For the game, Nebraska forced 18 turnovers. It gave the Bengals nothing easy. They missed eight straight shots to end the second quarter, and then 10 of 11 to close out the third and begin the fourth. And when Idaho State got to the free throw line, it didn’t help itself (8-of-14).
Sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin (16 points) and freshman forward Annika Stewart (15 points) led the way offensively. They were the only two Huskers to reach double figures scoring, but 31 combined on 9-of-16 shooting is something Williams will take every time.
Though Nebraska only shot 35% for the game, it found some adjustments in the third quarter and picked up the offense.
“We got into being a little bit dribble happy (early),” Williams said. “They knew exactly how they were going to take some things away. We made some nice adjustments in the second half to be able to execute and put up 40 points in the second half. I thought our team adjusted well, but a huge credit to Idaho State’s defense and the way they were prepared to guard us.”
Nebraska’s head coach thought the team had some extra jitters to begin. They weren’t without energy, maybe just a little too nerve-y.
In its first game, Nebraska was incredibly selective with the 3-point shot. It took only 15 all game (it averaged 20 a game last season). Nebraska matched that 15 number in the first half alone Sunday night, but made only four.
Williams saw the Bengals dropping under and baiting NU into triples. Scoggin and Stewart each had two, but six other ladies tried and missed.
In the second half, NU was better, trading those uncontested jumpers for shots inside.
“Coaches gave us some good counter plays within our sets,” sophomore forward Issie Bourne said. “They were jumping our screens low and cheating them, so we decided to step back and look for that high-low pass for Kate, which worked really well.”
The next time NU takes the court, it’ll begin Big Ten play. Illinois comes to town next Thursday, Dec. 10, for a 7 p.m. CT tip on BTN.
“At this point, we’d have a closed scrimmage, an exhibition game, 13 nonconference games or so to get yourself prepared before you play a Big Ten opponent. So this is different. It is,” Williams said. “You maybe haven’t seen everything you’re gonna see, haven’t worked out all the kinks, you haven’t played against zones and ran zones and all the things you’d get with just that larger pool of nonconference games.
“But, pretty much everybody (else) is in the same boat. We feel like we’re just as ready as everybody else is to be starting conference play right now, and we’re excited to do it.”
Nebraska will play Creighton in Omaha on Dec. 14 to close out the nonconference schedule before it’s right back to Big Ten play. The Huskers feel likely as good as they can, given the circumstances.
They’ve won a game now with offense, and another game with defense.