Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
All 12 Huskers that played score in a blowout win over a Purdue team that received votes in both polls this week
Purdue women’s basketball coach Sharon Versyp was honest about her team’s lack of a bench when asked about it after Wednesday night’s game.
“We don’t have a bench.”
Nebraska knew that, and used a 12-player rotation to run away from the Boilermakers in a 75-51 win at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
All 12 Huskers scored, and six hit 3-pointers, to allow NU to turn an 11-0 run in the second quarter into a comfortable lead throughout the second half. In a matchup of two teams receiving votes in the polls, Nicea Eliely put up 13 points to lead the Huskers to their best “overall complete win” of the season, at least according to Nebraska coach Amy Williams.
“It feels like this team doesn’t really care who gets credit, and doesn’t really care who is doing the scoring,” she said. “Everybody finds ways to help contribute. That’s what makes a win like this possible.”
A 13-2 run to close the half put Nebraska firmly in control after the first 20 minutes.
Eliely hit two 3-pointers in quick succession, while Janay Morton came off the bench to get a steal off of a Purdue ball handler and take the ball the length of the court for an uncontested layup. The Boilermakers broke up Nebraska’s 11-0 run with a jump shot inside the final minute, but Eliely answered with a driving layup to finish with 8 points in the half.
That layup tied Eliely with Simon for the team lead with 8 points, and kept NU up by double digits at 29-18. Eight different Nebraska players scored in the first half, while Purdue only played six. The Huskers were also 7 of 8 from the free throw line in the first half to make up for shooting just 36 percent in the period.
With two of Purdue’s starters getting into early foul trouble, Williams lauded Nebraska’s ability to exploit the Boilermakers’ lack of depth late in the half.
“I think that is important, to keep pushing on the gas,” she said. “We are able to play deep into our bench, and we’re able to keep kids fresh.”
Nebraska kept the momentum going out of the break, and quickly showed they were only just beginning to pick apart Purdue’s zone. Kate Cain scored the first basket on a short jump shot, then found a wide-open Hannah Whitish on an inside-out pass to get the crowd back into it right out of the break.
Taylor Kissinger came off the bench to hit a ‘3’ as Nebraska started to open things up. Morton assisted Kissinger’s make, one of Morton’s season-high four assists, and then brought the entire Husker bench to its feet with a make of her own.
Bria Stallworth found an open Morton in the corner, who stepped back for a 3-pointer with a defender barrelling down on the senior. Morton got the shot off clean, and drilled it, before getting knocked to the floor for a chance at a four-point play. With Morton sitting on the court just inches in front of the bench, her teammates joined the home fans in wild celebrations as Purdue took a timeout to try and kill the momentum.
Morton made the free throw out of the timeout, and Kissinger added another 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter. From that point, the rout was on.
Simon opened the fourth quarter with a jumper, then got a steal and heaved the ball forward for Whitish, who calmly laid it up uncontested. Eliely added a layup, Jasmine Cincore hit a ‘3’ and Cain converted a corner jump shot as the shot clock expired to put things out of reach. It was the first time Nebraska had run that play all year, and it still didn’t matter.
It was just Nebraska’s night.
“I think it was just a really good game, we played as a team today,” Eliely said. “Not like we don’t play as a team every day, but we just played really well together and moved the ball. That was something we had been working on, sideline out of bounds plays, that was just one we executed really well.”
After back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, and now knocking off a team that received more more votes in the coaches poll this week, Nebraska will have a chance to make a real run toward the rankings with a visit to Iowa City this weekend. The Huskers beat Iowa last week, when the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 20, and will now face an Iowa team that came in at No. 25 in the coaches poll this week.