HUSKER WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Nebraska Falls in Final Minutes at Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa–(NU Athletics Feb. 4)–Nebraska battled back from a nine-point third-quarter deficit to take a four-point fourth-quarter lead, but Penn State made the plays and the free throws down the stretch to hand the Huskers an 85-74 women’s basketball loss at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night.

Senior center Kate Cain led the Huskers with 21 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots, but it was not enough to prevent Nebraska from slipping to 9-6 overall and 7-5 in the Big Ten. Johnasia Cash answered with a huge 27-point, 19-rebound effort for Penn State, which improved to 7-7 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten.

Ashley Scoggin added 11 points and hit three three-pointers, while Sam Haiby put three Huskers in double figures with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Whitney Brown added a trio of three-pointers to finish with nine points, and Isabelle Bourne returned to the court for the first time in five games with nine points and nine rebounds off the bench.

Nebraska out-shot Penn State on the night, hitting 30-of-72 field goals (.417), including a season-high 10 three-pointers (10-27) despite going without a made three in the first quarter. Penn State hit just 25-of-67 shots (.373), including 9-of-30 threes (.300), but out-rebounded Nebraska 50-41 and won the turnover battle, 12-9.

But the biggest difference in the game came at the free throw line, where the Lady Lions went 26-of-32 (.813), while Nebraska went just 4-of-12 (.333).

Brown’s third three-pointer of the night gave Nebraska a 61-59 lead after the Huskers went to the fourth quarter trailing 59-58. Ruby Porter added a bucket a minute later to give NU its biggest lead of the night at 63-59 with 7:47 left in the game.

But Cash, an athletic post player, knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock winding down to pull Penn State within 63-62.  She then hit a pair of free throws to give Penn State the lead before the Huskers answered with a Bourne free throw and a Cain basket to put NU back up 66-64. Shay Hagans then scored four straight points for the Lady Lions before two from Cain tied it at 68 and a three-pointer from Bourne with 3:35 left gave Nebraska the lead back at 71-68.

The Huskers then hit a wall offensively, and Penn State went on an 11-0 run, primarily at the free throw line to take a 79-71 lead before Scoggin ended the drought with a three-pointer to cut the lead to five. The Lady Lions hit six straight free throws from that point and nine straight to finish the contest and seal the 85-74 win.

Overall, Penn State outscored Nebraska 26-4 at the free throw line, as the Huskers went just 1-of-3 in the fourth quarter, while PSU hit 15-of-19 in the final period. The Lady Lions hit 11-of-12 free throws in the final 2:18 beginning with two from Makenna Marisa to give PSU a 74-71 lead.

In an evenly played first half, Nebraska trailed 44-40 despite putting its highest scoring total in a single quarter of the season with 28 in the second period. The Huskers outscored the Lady Lions 28-24 in the second period after PSU took its biggest lead of the half at 20-12 to end the first quarter. While the Huskers put together their best scoring period of the season, the Lady Lions produced the highest scoring first half against Nebraska this year.

Both teams hit 16-of-35 field goals in the half and both teams hit five three-pointers. Both teams also dished out 10 assists and both teams committed five first-half turnovers. The Lady Lions outscored Nebraska 7-3 at the free throw line in the first half, despite both teams attempting nine shots at the line.

Cain led the Huskers with nine points in the half on 4-of-6 shooting, while Haiby added eight points. Brown pitched in six points on a pair of second-quarter threes, while Bourne and Scoggins each contributed five points. Bourne, who made her return after missing the last four contests with an ankle injury, added a team-high six first-half rebounds.

Cash led PSU with 10 points and six rebounds in just six first-half minutes while Marisa added nine points in the first 20 minutes. Marisa finished the game with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The defenses stepped up in the third quarter, especially the Huskers in the final 7:15 of the period. Trailing 51-42 with 7:16 left in quarter, Nebraska erupted on a 12-0 run to take its biggest lead of the night at the time at 54-51. Cain played a major role at both ends during the run, scoring six of her eight points in the quarter while shutting down the paint defensively. Maddie Burke was able to stop the surge and get the Lady Lions to the fourth quarter with the lead by hitting back-to-back threes and sinking two free throws to account for all of Penn State’s offense in the final 7:15 of the period. Burke finished with 13 points.

Nebraska is scheduled to complete its two-game East Coast road trip by taking on Rutgers on Sunday in Piscataway, N.J. Tip-off for the Huskers and Scarlet Knights is set for 1 p.m. (CT) at the Rutgers Athletic Center. The Scarlet Knights have not played since suffering a 53-50 loss to the Huskers in Lincoln on Jan. 3.