About one hour before the rest of the players on the Nebraska women’s basketball team showed up for practice on Sunday morning, freshman guard Leigha Brown was already there for some extra shooting practice.
After several big scoring games in the middle of the season, she hadn’t scored in double-figures in the last six games, including just six points in the last two games combined. At one point she was Nebraska's leading scorer, but she'd dropped to third.
Why was Brown there early on Sunday?
“I guess I’ve just been kind of frustrated with myself, and kind of been in a slump lately, so I just wanted to get things going again,” Brown said.
For at least one game, Brown got things going. She scored a career-high 30 points to lead Nebraska to a 67-61 win against Purdue on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Brown scored 45 percent of Nebraska's points in the game and was the main reason why Nebraska still had a chance to win the game after Purdue led by 10 points in the third quarter.
Brown was the only player who scored in double-figures for the Huskers. Nicea Eliely added nine points, and Taylor Kissinger and Kate Cain had eight points apiece. Hannah Whitish, who scored 28 points against Purdue just two weeks ago, was held scoreless.
Several Nebraska players and the team as a whole have struggled to be consistently good this season, and now the test for Brown will be to have another game when Nebraska plays at Maryland on Thursday. But for one game, she turned the extra work into the highest-scoring game by a Nebraska player this season, and the first 30-point game for a Nebraska player since Jessica Shepard in 2017.
“Obviously whenever you work hard you want to see the results, whether that’s right away, or a lot of times it takes months or weeks,” Brown said. “It was great to see. We just have so many weapons that it opens it up for everyone, and anyone can go off.”
Brown made a career-high four three-pointers, and did so on just six attempts. She also made 10 of 12 free throws.
And she did so against a team from her home state. Brown is from Auburn, Indiana, which is about 2½ hours from the Purdue campus. Brown won’t say if Purdue is a school she wanted to play for, but she wasn’t recruited by many of the top programs, and Nebraska’s coaches always felt like they got a recruiting steal with Brown.
Scoring 30 points a game isn’t realistic, but Nebraska coach Amy Williams thinks Brown is capable of being a good scorer.
“We see her on certain days being very aggressive, and her ability to get to the basket and make plays and get herself to the free throw line,” Williams said. “The fact that she can take tough mid-range jumpers up over the top of people, and then if she’s able to go 4 for 6 from the three-point line, then she can be very, very difficult to defend.”
It was a good win for Nebraska, after the Huskers (11-13, 6-7 Big Ten) had lost four of its previous five games, and its last two home games.
Amy Williams: Great to get season sweep of Purdue. pic.twitter.com/mRRLDdnXEE— Brent Wagner (@LJSSportsWagner) February 10, 2019
Nebraska isn’t having a great season, but did win both games this season against a Purdue team that is currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska also won by 20 points at Purdue.
Nebraska still trailed by eight points early in the fourth quarter, but completed the comeback and took the lead for good with a basket by Cain with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter. Then Brown made a three-pointer with one minute left that put the Huskers up 62-58.
Lincoln High standout Nyagoa Gony, a Purdue freshman, added two rebounds and one blocked shot for the Boilermakers, logging over 12 minutes on the court.
Nebraska was more aggressive than Purdue in the fourth quarter, and outscored the Boilermakers (16-10, 7-6) 25-13 in the quarter. Nebraska shot 11 for 12 on free throws in the fourth quarter.