LINCOLN — Jordan Hooper scored the first seven points of the game Saturday, establishing a pattern that helped No. 19 Nebraska defeat Idaho State 60-51 at the Devaney Center.
The 6-foot-2 junior also scored the last eight points of the first half to give the Huskers a 31-23 lead. Then late in the second half, Hooper scored six straight points, four of them after offensive rebounds, to put NU up by 15 points with 3:18 remaining.
By the end, Hooper had 29 points and 10 rebounds — her third double-double of the season — and the Husker team had the hard-fought win that it needed following a decisive loss to No. 11 Maryland two days earlier.
“Jordan is doing better ... moving better without the ball and becoming a little more versatile,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said.
But it was an intense, switching defense that Yori credited with holding Idaho State to four points below its season average, fewer than the Bengals scored in a 62-54 loss to Kansas State in their season opener.
“Our goal was to hold them to 50,” Yori said.
To do that, the Huskers employed a defense in which all five players switch to a different offensive player when a screen is set. That means that some shorter players can end up guarding tall players, and vice versa.
It’s a concept that would not have worked against a talent-laden team like Maryland, Yori said. But for a follow-up game to that 90-71 debacle on Thursday, it was the ticket.
“It allows you to be more aggressive,” Yori said. “I thought our aggressiveness was really good.”
Idaho State suffered scoring droughts that stifled its chances to pull an upset. The Bengals did not score in the first 2Ĺ minutes of the game, scored only one point even though the Huskers had gone cold in the middle of the first half and went cold for nearly nine minutes while NU built a lead from 42-39 to 53-39 in the second half.
But even after interrupting Nebraska’s momentum with a three-point play with 4:20 left in the second half, the six-point run by Hooper put the Huskers’ lead out of reach.
The Hooper scoring flurries were complemented by offensive spurts by other players. Senior guard Lindsey Moore penetrated Idaho State’s defense for a driving layup with 9:48 to go in the second half. Moments later, she did it again and the Huskers had a 49-39 lead.
“I was looking to be aggressive,” Moore said. “I noticed that some driving lanes were opening up.”
A minute later, Moore drove again and drew a foul. Her two free throws with 6:29 to go gave NU its largest lead to that point at 53-39.
The Huskers got a 15-point lead when Hooper followed a missed 3-point attempt by knifing between Idaho State defenders for a putback. Free throws by Tear’a Laudermill gave the Huskers their largest lead, 59-42.
The Huskers considered it a quality win over a team that won 24 games and made it to the NCAA tournament last season.
“They are a good team, a very solid mid-major team,” Moore said. “They were not intimidated coming in here.”
Nebraska (6-2) plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday at in-state rival Creighton, the team coached by Yori before she came to the Huskers 11 years ago.
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