Of all the numbers and milestones in No. 15 Nebraska’s 95-75 women's basketball victory against Utah State on Sunday — and there were plenty of each — this one is maybe the most peculiar: Husker senior Jordan Hooper scored 33 points without attempting a single three-point shot.
Hooper, who averages more than seven three-point attempts a game, guessed the last time she didn’t attempt a three-pointer in a game was her freshman or sophomore year at Alliance High School.
On Sunday, Utah State played a trapping, extended-zone defense and then a box-and-one on Hooper. Parts of the strategy worked: The Huskers committed a season-high 25 turnovers (15 in the first half). But Hooper found lots of open looks elsewhere, making 11 of 16 shots from the field and 11 of 15 free throws.
“We had a different game plan,” said Hooper, who also grabbed 14 rebounds. “I was supposed to stay on the block more this game and work the baseline. There weren’t a lot of opportunities on the perimeter. We knew exactly what looks we wanted and the people we were looking for.”
Utah State (5-3) was effective on the defensive end early and took a 15-8 lead on a three-point play by Elise Nelson with 16:09 to play in the first half. But the Aggies' aggressive style turned out to be a two-edged sword: They were causing turnovers but also picking up fouls, 19 in the first half. Jennifer Schlott and Makenlee Williams, who both average more than 20 points per game, each had four fouls before halftime. Utah State coach Jerry Finkbeiner chose to leave them both in the game.
The Huskers took advantage, going 22-of-26 at the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes.
NU used a 15-2 run to take a 24-19 lead. Nebraska led 52-39 at the break, and Hooper had 21 points and nine rebounds.
“Our game plan worked until we got into foul trouble,” Finkbeiner said. “Mike Tyson always says his game plan changes when he gets hit in the nose. We got hit in the nose about 12 to 15 minutes into the first half with foul trouble. We had to change our game plan drastically, and Nebraska’s poise played through some of the havoc we tried to create.”
Finkbeiner said he had to back off his defense in the second half because of the foul trouble. Nebraska kept finding open shots and making them, shooting at a 60 percent clip. Nebraska junior Emily Cady just missed a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, which tied a career high. Cady was a perfect 10-of-10 on free throws.
“For their defense, I’m usually in the middle of the court,” Cady said. “I like being in the middle. If we do get the ball into the middle, things open up, so that’s why I had so many assists. It opened up lanes for my teammates.”
Husker sophomore Rachel Theriot also scored in double figures, with 11 points, and added eight assists. Nebraska, which shot 53 percent (8-of-15) on three-pointers and 84 percent (31-of-37) from the foul line, had assists on 24 of 28 field goals.
“Jordan was really good and I thought Emily just played such a great floor game for us,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We got 21 points from our bench, and that’s critical, because we have to get some bench production.”
Williams scored 14 of her team-high 21 points in the second half for Utah State. Schlott had 13 points and eight assists before fouling out with 15 minutes to play.
* Nebraska announced that Katie Simon, a 6-foot-2 junior post player averaging 2.5 points and 2 rebounds per game, has left the team. The Huskers now have just 10 players on the roster. … Hooper moved into sixth on the school career scoring list. … Hooper notched her fifth double-double of the season and the 31st of her career, while producing her first 30-point scoring effort of the season and the seventh of her career.