After a long break and a slow start, the Nebraska women's basketball team turned to its defense Saturday to get things going.
Sam Haiby scored 20 points, Kate Cain and Leigha Brown each chipped in 15, and the Huskers used a 13-0 second-quarter run to down Oral Roberts 77-67 on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Trailing 17-15 after one quarter, NU slapped on full-court pressure that disrupted the Golden Eagles' offense and got the Huskers running in transition.
Add another injury to the frustrating list of setbacks that have plagued Taylor Kissinger's basketball career.
Oral Roberts finished with 19 turnovers, and Nebraska had 11 steals.
"We wanted to be more aggressive, and we’ve noticed a little bit with our team that if we find a different way to do that with some different defensive play calls and stuff, then it can pick up our intensity and energy," NU coach Amy Williams said. "We felt like in game preparation this could really be a game where we take advantage of that."
Haiby was the main beneficiary of Nebraska's increased defensive intensity. Her 20 points were her second-highest total of the season, behind a 28-point outburst against Missouri in Nebraska's second game of the season back in November. The sophomore had scored zero, four and five points in her previous three games.
Haiby finished 8-of-14 from the floor.
"I thought everyone contributed a lot of deflections and steals, so obviously that led to a lot of breakout layups," Haiby said. "So props to my teammates for getting those steals. I just happened to be the one running out there getting those points."
Playing for the first time since scoring 83 points to beat Duke 10 days ago in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, Nebraska missed five of its final six shots of the first quarter as Oral Roberts pulled in front.
But the press led to easy layups in the second quarter. Oral Roberts had five turnovers and six field goals in the period as Nebraska seized control. NU's advantage didn't dip below eight points for the rest of the game.
NU made 10-of-14 shots in the second period, and converted on nearly 70% of its two-point attempts before cooling off in the fourth quarter.
Cain hit her first seven shots and finished 7-of-9 from the field, adding eight rebounds and four blocked shots, while Brown was 7-for-7 at the free-throw line. NU finished 16-for-19 as a team in free throws.
But there was still a sour taste that NU started so slowly with 10 days to prepare for its Summit League opponent.
"We definitely have some stuff — we need to be more intense and just more on top of everything, because we know we could have played a whole lot better this game," Cain said. "But, a win’s a win, so we’re happy about that."
Nebraska led by as many as 15 midway through the fourth quarter.
Keni Jo Lippe, who came into the country as the national leader in free-throw attempts, led Oral Roberts (4-7) with 21 points but was just 2-for-2 at the free-throw line. The Golden Eagles put four players in double figures and hit nine three-pointers to Nebraska's three.
Nebraska played without Taylor Kissinger and Grace Mitchell, who both sat out with injuries. Williams said after the game that Kissinger, a junior, will miss the rest of the season with a hip injury that will require surgery. Mitchell tweaked a shoulder during a midweek practice and is day-to-day.
"I thought Oral Roberts came in here and they were ready to play, they made hard cuts, they were disruptive, they did a lot of good things," Williams said. "I don’t like giving excuses — rusty, whatever. We’ve had a long week to be able to practice and prep, so you hate to see that, but I think give credit to Oral Roberts. They came in with great intensity, and we understand that we have to have more of that if we want to keep moving forward."
The Huskers are off until Dec. 22, when they host Manhattan.