CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The No. 16 Nebraska women’s basketball team made sure it wouldn’t be bitten by the “buzz” two years in a row.
NU dissected Illinois’ aggressive, half-court defense in a 75-56 win at State Farm Center. The Huskers had been preparing for the Illini’s trademark trap since October, coach Connie Yori said on her postgame radio show. Illinois held the Huskers to a season-low in points last year by forcing 26 turnovers.
The buzz had its way in the first half, as Nebraska squandered an early 13-point lead and led 26-22 at halftime. But NU blew the game open in the second half, scoring 49 points in the final 20 minutes.
“We struggled for a bit in the first half and then we just settled down in the second half,” Yori said. “We looked for the things that we practiced.”
Senior forward Jordan Hooper — who scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds — said the Huskers (12-3, 2-1 Big Ten) started throwing better cross-court “skip” passes against Illinois (7-9, 0-3) and creating more opportunities for open shots.
“We’ve been talking about it since October, the buzz defense,” Hooper said. “It’s kinda crazy, it’s a lot of people just running around trying to get steals.”
Nebraska got clarity from the chaos, turning the four-point halftime lead into a 43-31 cushion by the 13-minute mark after junior forward Emily Cady completed a three-point play. Illinois never got closer than 10 after that.
Cady scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. She handled the ball in some way on nearly every offensive possession, breaking free for layup tries or drawing a double team so she could pass to teammates on the wing. Hooper was the beneficiary of several Cady passes. Junior guard Tear’a Laudermill scored 13 points, hitting two 3-pointers.
NU had 18 turnovers, but Illinois was rarely able to capitalize, missing 25 of 27 3-point attempts. Its bench took 11 shots and made one. Ivory Crawford led the Illini with 19 points. Senior guard Amber Moore — one of the league’s better 3-point shooters, made 1 of 8 attempts and finished 10 points below her season scoring average.
“We were fortunate,” Yori said. “They go 2 of 27 from the 3-point line. I’ve been on the other side of that — maybe not quite that bad.”
The Huskers host Minnesota at Pinnacle Bank Arena at 8 p.m. Thursday.