LINCOLN — Arkansas-Pine Bluff might have known it would be a long Thursday night when Nebraska All-American Jordan Hooper hit her first seven shots — three of them 3-pointers — as she launched NU like a rocket to a 78-55 win at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Hooper scored the first 12 points of the game and was taking a breather on the bench before the Lady Lions could score to make it 14-2 nearly five minutes into the game.
It just got worse for the Lady Lions in the first half. After scoring 17 points while hitting seven straight shots, Hooper finally missed. By that time, Nebraska, which is ranked No. 10 in one poll and 11th in another, was ahead 38-9 and cruising to its fourth win without a loss.
But Arkansas-Pine Bluff outscored the Huskers 38-36 in the second half, leaving Nebraska coach Connie Yori less than pleased.
“If we had ended the game at the eight-minute mark, I would have felt pretty good about things,” Yori said. “But you have to play 40 minutes.”
The Lady Lions (1-4) had lost three straight games to power conference teams — Marquette, Iowa and Xavier — and failed to score more than 44 points.
Yori said the Huskers are still trying to find their best combination of players.
“When we start subbing,” she said, “there is a big drop-off.”
The Huskers have four returning starters from last season. Thursday, guard Tear'a Laudermill made her first career start.
The four returning players — Hooper (23), Emily Cady (11), Rachel Theriot (9) and Hailie Sample (8) — accounted for 51 of the Huskers' points. Those four hit 20 of 32 (63 percent) shots from the field while the remaining seven players hit 9 of 28 (32 percent).
The second half featured four 3-pointers from sophomore Sadie Murren, giving the former Wahoo High School star a career-high 12 points. Otherwise, the Husker performance turned lackluster and a 31-point lead in the first half dropped as low as 19 at one point.
In the end, Nebraska had 20 turnovers, one more than Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but owned a 42-28 rebounding advantage.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff was picked in preseason polls to finish sixth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. At 2 p.m. Sunday, the Huskers will play Southern University, the team picked to win the Southwestern Athletic title.
“They'll be better on Sunday,” Yori said.
Yori also was complimentary of her new recruiting class that was announced Wednesday and has been tabbed the ninth-best class in the nation by recruiting services.
“We made ourselves better,” she said. “The class is strong on guards.”
And she knows this year's squad can be very good as well.
“This is going to be a good ballhandling and shooting team,” Yori said. “They will have to work hard and get better.”
Ľ NOTES: Nebraska's 2014 recruiting class made the biggest move in ESPN's newest set of rankings released on Thursday. The Huskers vaulted to No. 9, improving seven spots. The five-member class includes three top-100 prospects. ... Nebraska announced that 5-foot-5 guard Emily Wood out of Salina Central High School in Kansas would join the group of 2014 freshmen as a walk-on. Wood passed up several Division I scholarship offers, including a pair of Ivy League schools, to join the Huskers.
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Video: Highlights from Nebraska's win: