This time the Nebraska women’s basketball team was good enough on offense for long enough that a bad stretch didn’t cost the Huskers a chance to win the game.
Nebraska had a good start to the game, and built a 20-point lead during a 71-64 victory against Northwestern on Thursday in Evanston, Illinois. Nebraska (13-14, 8-8 Big Ten) now has three wins in its last four games.
Northwestern (15-12, 8-8) has the best defense in the Big Ten, and had held Nebraska to just 54 points when the Wildcats beat Nebraska last month. This time Nebraska had 54 points by the end of the third quarter.
Nebraska led by 20 points in the third quarter, but then had to survive in the fourth quarter after Northwestern went on a 14-0 run to cut its deficit to 63-60 with five minutes left in the game.
Nebraska went about five minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter, between a three-pointer by Hannah Whitish with 9:27 left in the fourth quarter, and another three by Whitish with 4:40 left.
But Nebraska played good defense at the finish, holding the Wildcats without a field goal for about seven minutes near the end of the game.
Nebraska coach Amy Williams wished Nebraska could have stopped the Wildcats’ big run sooner, but was happy.
“I’m proud that we were able to hold on and kind of overcome some things down the stretch there to get the win,” said Williams in a radio interview.
Whitish had another good game while leading the Huskers in scoring with 19 points, including making 5-of-8 three-pointers. She also had five assists.
“(Whitish) was aggressive-minded offensively, making hard cuts and found herself open against their zone (defense) a couple of times and she shot confidently,” Williams said. “Anytime that I can look and see that she’s got 19 points off of 14 shots attempts, that’s pretty efficient, and we’re happy to see that out of her.”
Senior forward Maddie Simon added 15 points and made all six field goal attempts, including two three-pointers.
Simon scored 10 points in Nebraska’s last game, a win against then-No. 24 Michigan State.
“The past couple of weeks I’ve been getting in the gym a lot more and trying to get in a bunch of extra shots and just making it count with the time that I have left,” said Simon in a radio interview.
Sam Haiby added 11 points.
Nebraska was 10 of 18 on three pointers, and has made 22 threes in the past two games combined.
Northwestern forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had another good game against the Huskers with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Guard Lindsey Pulliam added 14 points on just 5-of-21 shooting from the field.
Nebraska’s 13 turnovers were its fewest in the past five games.
The win was significant for Nebraska in a conference where all of the middle-of-the-pack teams have similar records, and the Wildcats are one of the teams near the Huskers in the standings.
With its 8-8 league record, Nebraska moved up to a four-way tie for sixth place in the standings. Nebraska began the day in 10th place.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Williams of the Big Ten. “It’s really grueling to be a part of, just every night out knowing that you can jump four spots, or drop four spots just from one game. “
Nebraska’s final two regular season Big Ten games are at home against No. 10 Iowa on Monday, and at Penn State.
-- Brent C. Wagner