LINCOLN — If the Nebraska women's basketball team ever needs to bust out of a scoring slump — and help another team bust its own — it could probably get Sam Houston State on retainer.
With coach Connie Yori yelling “go, go, go” as each offensive possession began, the Huskers hustled the Bearkats right out of the game, scoring 53 first-half points. They had a 31-point lead at one juncture, and Yori had already emptied her bench.
So Sam Houston State joined in the fun, cut that lead in half and made No. 23 NU's eventual 85-72 win Tuesday night a lot closer than the 3,023 fans at the Devaney Center expected.
After a 60-55 Sunday loss at South Dakota State, forward Jordan Hooper said the Huskers (4-1) “really wanted to come out with a bang.” They did that, hitting 50 percent of their first-half shots, scoring 32 points in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 31-11.
“But you have to know they're a team, too, and they want to win, too, and they're not just going to lay down because they're down by 30,” Hooper said. “You have to keep rebounding, keep doing the tough stuff we should have kept doing, but we were the ones who laid down.”
After falling behind 45-14, Sam Houston State guards Chanice Smith (21 points) and Britni Martin (16) began to hit a number of deep, off-balance 3-pointers for which there was little useful defense. The Bearkats (1-3) cut the lead to 53-29 by halftime and were within 71-52 when Yori reinserted three starters to join Hooper, who'd entered the game a few minutes earlier.
“We've got to get more contributions out of our bench,” Yori said. “They've got to play better for us. There's no reason in the world why we should have to put our starters back in at the end of a game like that when we have a 30-point lead.”
The starters had little immediate effect. SHSU cut the lead to 81-70 with 2:24 left in the game. But Hooper, who led NU with 19 points and 10 rebounds, got an offensive board and fed guard Hailie Sample for a basket to stop the run.
The Bearkats outscored Nebraska 43-32 in the second half and outrebounded NU 26-19. Sam Houston State had only been averaging 55 points per game this year.
The second half muted the Huskers' best 15 minutes of the season to start the game. Hooper hit two 3-pointers in the first minute, but the rest of Nebraska's offense — moving quickly through SHSU's defense — also purred.
The variety resembled a practice or pickup game. Running scoop shots. Teardrop jumpers. Pull-up 3-pointers from 23 feet. Falling layups. Princeton-style back-door passes. Twice, senior guard Lindsey Moore dribbled unfettered into the lane and calmly made 10-footers.
“We definitely came back with some power,” said forward Emily Cady, who scored a season-high 18 points on 50 percent shooting. “We had to come back and show people Nebraska basketball.”
NU had averaged 66 points through its first four games. It had that total at the 14-minute mark of the second half. SHSU eclipsed its season average six minutes later.
What Cady, Hooper and Yori would like to see now is Nebraska string two halves together for two big nonconference games in the next week at USC and against No. 10 Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“We got a big lead and then we let them come back,” Hooper said. “You can't do that with a good team. You have to keep plucking away, keep getting rebounds, keep staying tough the entire way to put a whole 40- minute game together. We're not tough enough to do that yet.”
Sam Houston State (1-3) ................. 29 43—72
At Nebraska (4-1) ................. 53 32—85
SHSU: Martin 5-14 2-2 16, Thomas 9-18 3-4 21, Beadle 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 2-5 0-0 4, Smith 8-17 1-1 21, Clavelle 0-1 0-0 0, Wiley 1-6 6-10 8, Barnes 0-0 0-0 0, Gonzalez 0-0 0-0 0, Tucker 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-63 12-17 72.
NU: Sample 2-4 0-0 4, Jeffery 2-8 1-3 5, Cady 7-14 4-5 18, Hooper 6-15 2-2 19, Moore 6-9 0-0 13, Laudermill 2-6 2-2 7, Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Simon 3-4 0-0 6, Murren 1-7 0-0 2, Aitken 0-0 0-0 0, Theriot 0-5 0-0 0, Maurer 3-5 1-2 7. Totals 34-80 10-14 85.
3-point goals: SHSU 8-21 (Martin 4-9, Smith 4-9, Clavelle 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Thomas 0-1), NU 7-29 (Hooper 5-12, Moore 1-3, Laudermill 1-3, Theriot 0-2, Cady 0-2, Jeffery 0-3, Murren 0-4). Fouled out: none. Rebounds: SHSU 37 (Thomas 12), NU 50 (Hooper 10). Assists: SHSU 12 (Martin 6), NU 20 (Theriot 7). Total fouls: SHSU 14, NU 14. A: 3,023.
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