LINCOLN — Jordan Hooper made history. And then she got a heck of a lot of help from her friends.
The Husker forward surpassed 2,000 career points Thursday night with a 3-pointer in the second half. But the No. 18 Nebraska women’s basketball team rallied from a 14-point deficit for a stirring 88-85 overtime win thanks to Rachel Theriot and Emily Cady, who each scored their jersey numbers in points — 33 and 23.
They turned what could have been a bittersweet night for Hooper — 17 missed shots — into a weary smile and lots of praise for her teammates.
“They were huge,” Hooper said. “Rach with all her points and Em taking it to the basket, each and every time.”
NU (13-3, 3-1 Big Ten) needed each and every point from Theriot and Cady to hold back Minnesota (12-6, 1-3), which got 33 points from All-Big Ten guard Rachel Banham, who hit six of the Gophers’ 11 3-pointers. To start the second half, Minnesota hit five straight 3-pointers against Nebraska’s zone to pad a 32-29 halftime lead to 53-39.
“They ran us ragged,” Husker coach Connie Yori said.
She switched back to man defense and got a key break: Minnesota’s two giant posts — Amanda Zahui B. and Micaella Riche — were both sitting with four fouls with just under 12 minutes left. Nebraska was able to pressure the perimeter shooters better than before.
“You take what you can get,” Theriot said wryly. And the sophomore from Ohio did, repeatedly sweeping around screens for long and mid-range jumpers. The 33 points and nine assists were career highs, and Theriot made it look close to sublime.
She had no turnovers, missed just four shots and went 8 for 8 at the free-throw line. When covered, she tossed it in to Cady — who also had 13 rebounds — or flipped it out to Hooper or Brandi Jeffery, who made three second-half 3-pointers. NU tied the game at 73 with 2:31 left, completing the comeback.
“Number 33 just took over the game,” UM coach Pam Borton said.
Said Yori of Theriot: “She’s a heck of a lot more poised than the coach, I’ll tell you that.”
Banham matched Theriot’s scoring performance — though it took 28 shots to do so. The junior hit a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left to tie the game at 78. Yori said she chose not to foul Banham out of concern that Riche or Zahui B. — by then back in the game — would get an offensive rebound on a missed free throw. Theriot missed a running 12-foot jumper at the end of regulation.
When the Huskers faced the same situation in overtime — up three points, clock winding down — Yori again did not foul. But this time, Yori said, Nebraska played the ball-screen for Banham better. Banham was swamped, so she pitched the ball to Kayla Hirt, who air-balled a 3-pointer with five seconds left.
A charge against Zahui B. — who played 22 minutes because of foul trouble — in overtime with 28 seconds left was another key play for Nebraska, Yori said. NU forward Hailie Sample, giving up five inches, fell emphatically to the floor when Zahui B. turned for a hook shot.
“It was a charge,” Yori said. “That was a good call.”
“You leave the game in the players’ hands,” she said. “I felt like that was a tough call.”
Toughness was a theme of the postgame press conference for Yori, who said her team easily could have folded in front of 4,922 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. She gave the crowd an assist for aiding the comeback. The arena rose to its feet when Hooper broke the 2,000-point mark, and cheered again during a timeout when the feat was announced over the public address system.
“Once I hit it and the fans cheered me on, that was cool,” said Hooper, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. “But I was tired.”
Typical Hooper, Yori said.
“She couldn’t ask for that kind of accolade to go to a better person,” Yori said. “... She’s just so humble. ‘No big deal, 2,000 points.’ That’s 2,000 points!”