The Nebraska women’s basketball team defeated Big Ten co-leader Purdue 62-61 on Wednesday in West Lafayette, Indiana, for the Huskers’ most significant conference win of the season.
Purdue had won seven straight home games and had a nice home-court advantage Wednesday with 6,041 fans at Mackey Arena.
Nebraska (13-5, 4-3) has now won four straight conference games following an 0-3 start to league play. Purdue was in the top 25 in the RPI, so NU will now make a considerable jump after being No. 82 in the RPI.
Nebraska freshman post Jessica Shepard faced double teams and triple teams and still scored 22 points. She had 10 of the Huskers’ 14 points in the fourth quarter, including making 8 of 9 free throws. Shepard has scored at least 20 points in four straight games.
Purdue had a furious fourth-quarter rally but came up one play short.
After trailing by 13 points in the third quarter, Purdue's Dominique McBryde made a layup with 40 seconds left to cut the deficit to 62-61, and NU had a turnover on its next possession.
Purdue had the ball and a chance to win in the final 10 seconds but couldn't get a shot off at the buzzer after a deflection by the Huskers’ Allie Havers.
Earlier, Purdue got the deficit to one point with 2:53 to play, but Natalie Romeo and Shepard each made free throws to help NU keep the lead.
The Huskers only made two field goals in the fourth quarter and were outscored 25-14.
Nebraska's balance was key. Romeo scored 14 points. She made two three-pointers, and is shooting 45 percent on three-pointers over the past three games.
Havers had eight points. Rachel Theriot had eight points and 12 assists. Rachel Blackburn added five points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Kyndal Clark had five points and five rebounds.
Theriot returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench the previous two games.
The Huskers took control with a 10-0 run over the opening four minutes of the second quarter for a 25-12 lead. Nebraska was able to get a lot of layups to start the game, and made 10 of its first 14 shots.
The Huskers won despite having a season-high 27 turnovers and allowing 17 offensive rebounds.
For Nebraska coach Connie Yori, the win shows how much better the Huskers could have been, and can be going forward.
“They’re all big,” said Yori in her postgame radio show. “But I think this game, I look at it and I say, ‘How good could we be?’ … We tried to give the game away. We really did. And there are areas that we can clean up and we can fix, and that’s exciting.
“I like our improvement defensively. As we’ve gotten into the conference season, we’ve become a better defensive team. Any time you can keep teams around the 60 (point) mark or in the 50s, you've got a really good chance to win.”
Nebraska had 17 assists on 23 field goals, in part thanks to the steady play of its senior point guard.
“Just being patient and being smart with the ball I think is the biggest key,” Theriot said. “That’s the point of (Purdue’s) whole defense, is to hurry you, and that’s the last thing you want to do in that situation.”
Senior guard April Wilson led Purdue (14-4, 5-2) with 24 points.
Nebraska plays at Michigan (11-6, 3-3) on Sunday.
— Brent C. Wagner