ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Last year, the Nebraska women's basketball team soldiered through an awful half in a home loss to Michigan. Thursday, the No. 24 Huskers returned the favor to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
NU blasted Michigan in the second half of its 57-39 win. After trailing Michigan 22-18 at halftime, Nebraska started the final period on a 21-0 run.
The Huskers, now 20-6 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten, stay within striking distance of league leader Penn State and all but assure themselves a first-round bye at the conference tournament.
“We went out and took care of business in the second half,” forward Jordan Hooper said on the Huskers' postgame radio show.
Hooper started the half — and the run — with a jumper to cut Michigan's lead to 22-20. Nebraska guard Lindsey Moore hit a 3-pointer two possessions later to give her team the lead for good. Moore and Hooper combined for 15 of the 21 points in the run.
Meanwhile, Michigan (19-7 and 8-5) missed 14 straight shots to start the half and went 18 of 65 (27 percent) for the game. The Wolverines came into the game as the Big Ten's top shooting team, and senior forward Kate Thompson came in as the nation's No. 1 3-point shooter.
Thompson missed 15 of her 17 shots. She missed 9 of 10 from 3-point range. Nebraska coach Connie Yori used a variety of defenders to guard Thompson, but sophomore Hailie Sample — who generally draws the top defensive assignment — got most of the duty. For a second straight game, NU held an opponent to 39 points.
“I thought our kids were smart,” Yori said on the radio show. “We talked. We communicated well ... defensively our kids did a good job of following the plan.”
When Michigan finally got out of its slump for a brief moment and cut the lead to 44-34 with 5:24 left in the game, Moore, who finished with 15 points and eight assists, shut the door with a 3-pointer. The Wolverines didn't threaten again, and coach Kim Barnes Arico pulled her starters with two minutes left in the game.
“I didn't want them to have any momentum whatsoever,” Moore said.
Hooper finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds — her eighth double-double of the year — while reserve guards Brandi Jeffrey and Tear'a Laudermill scored six points each on 3-pointers.
With three games left in the Big Ten schedule — and Penn State two games ahead in the league race — the Huskers now need Michigan's help. UM travels to the No. 7 Nittany Lions on Sunday as Nebraska hosts Iowa. If Michigan can pull an upset and NU can win its ninth straight game over Iowa, the Huskers can catch Penn State by beating the Nittany Lions March 3.
Beating the Hawkeyes for a fifth straight time won't be easy. Iowa's on the NCAA tournament bubble and a loss could sink its chances in a crowded Big Ten field.
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Video: Highlights from Nebraska's win