Nebraska vs. Alabama A&M

Nebraska's Ashtyn Veerbeek (13) pulls a rebound from Alabama A&M's Dariauna Lewis (21) in the first half of the Huskers' 68-46 win Wednesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Walking away disappointed about some aspects of the game after a season-opening victory is better than losing.

Last year, the Nebraska women’s basketball team squandered an early lead to fall to Drake in the first game of the year.

The Husker women celebrated a win this time around after beating Alabama A&M 68-46 on Wednesday before an afternoon matinee crowd of 5,250 — many of them students from area schools — at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Sure, the Huskers know they won't get away with playing 25 minutes of good defense in most games this season, as Nebraska coach Amy Williams said after the game.

And Alabama A&M's 25 offensive rebounds? Well, you will lose most games that happens.

But, in simple terms, a win is always better than a loss.

“I walk away feeling good,” Williams said.

Senior guard Hannah Whitish scored 12 points — all on three-pointers — to lead the Huskers. Kate Cain, Ashtyn Veerbeek and Leigha Brown added 10 points apiece. Cain also had eight blocked shots and seven rebounds.

Nebraska went to its bench early, with 10 players playing in the first quarter. All 12 of the uniformed Huskers played by the end of the first half. Freshman Trinity Brady is in the concussion protocol and wasn’t in uniform.

“I feel good about this team,” Williams said. “I feel good about the balance. I feel good about the unselfishness, I feel good about the fact that we have a lot of different weapons, and it’s tough to prepare for that. I think this is a really good group and we’re very cautiously optimistic at this point.”

The Huskers cruised to comfortable leads of 20-9 after the first quarter and 35-14 at the intermission.

Nebraska made its first three three-pointers of the game — two by Whitish and one by Veerbeek — to lead 11-2 about three minutes into the game. Then Nebraska missed its next 10 three-point attempts until Whitish made two more from long distance in the fourth.

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Nebraska made 5 of 16 three-pointers, and went 17-for-24 on free throws.

Nebraska had a letdown in the third quarter, when the Bulldogs outscored Nebraska 17-14, including scoring runs of 8-0 and 7-0.

“We took our foot off the gas a little bit,” Veerbeek said.

With one game played, Cain said there is a lot to look forward to.

“We did get a little sloppy there at the end, but we have so much potential,” Cain said. “We’re really deep. I’m really excited for what we can do because we show streaks right now of so much potential and so much possibility for the season going forward.”

Alabama A&M had two players from Nebraska and is coached by former Husker Margaret Richards. Lincoln Northeast graduate Nigeria Jones led Alabama A&M with 16 points, and Omaha North graduate Dariauna Lewis added eight points.

When players go a long way from home to play at Alabama A&M, Richards tries to play a game close to their home during their career, and she’s glad she could do that for Jones.

“When I was walking in, it was like deja vu because I played state basketball here," Jones said. "I played my last high school game here. It just brought back a lot of memories, and I’m happy that my family got to see me play.”

The game had a special noon start time because it came in conjunction with a sportsmanship pep rally, and was attended by about 2,000 schoolchildren from 27 school districts.

“They were definitely really into it,” said Cain of the students. “Even the first couple of shots (in warmups) they were screamming, and yelling for people to dunk it.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.


Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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