Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Wood comes off the bench to lead all scorers with 19 points
A first half hole proved too deep for the Nebraska women’s basketball team to overcome as Washington State handed the Huskers a 73-61 defeat on Friday afternoon at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Nebraska’s backcourt of Emily Wood and Hannah Whitish exploded for 37 points, but it was Washington State’s ability to get hot from deep early on, then score in the paint late, that kept the Huskers from getting back in the game. A trio of 3-pointers helped the Cougars take a 16-point lead at half, and Nebraska would get no closer than 7 points with Washington State able to keep the Huskers out of the paint and out of rhythm.
“There were some plays there where we really had to scratch and claw and fight to get back in the game after digging ourselves a hole,” said NU coach Amy Williams. “Not trying to make any excuses, but I think when you’ve played three games in 8 days… we had a lot of people that were playing fatigued there in the second half.”
Wood hit five 3-pointers over the first three quarters, and added a pair of jump shots in the fourth to finish with a game-high 19 points. Whitish added a pair of 3-pointers as part of her 18 points, and chipped in 6 assists to try and spark a comeback.
After WSU pushed the lead to 20, Whitish scored, plus a foul, assisted on three straight baskets, then hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 47-38 after the 11-0 run. A 3-pointer in the corner from Whitish trimmed the lead to 64-57 with 8:28 to go. Unfortunately for Nebraska, that’s when the comeback attempt ran out of steam as Washington State held NU scoreless for nearly four minutes to kill the momentum.
The Cougars were up 10 at the final media timeout, which came with 3:19 left. A lengthy possession milked the clock, before an offensive rebound and layup by WSU served as the dagger.
Washington State had three players in double figures, including 16 points each from Borislava Hristova and Alexys Swedlund. Louise Brown anchored WSU’s effort inside with 12 points and 12 rebounds and played a huge part in the Cougars outscoring NU 38-24 in the paint. That edge inside came thanks to 17 offensive rebounds, as WSU outrebounded NU by 13.
In addition to winning the paint, WSU used pressure defense to hold Nebraska to just 12 points in the first quarter with the Big Red “unable to find the bottom of the net” according to Williams, despite having a few open looks. The Huskers improved slightly to trim the lead to 43-27 at half, yet it wasn’t until the third quarter that Nebraska’s offense found a footing.
Despite the second-half scoring surge keyed by Wood and Whitish, Nebraska’s legs started to fade in the fourth quarter, and again NU was held to just 12 points to allow WSU to hold on without any sort of real threat.
Now, Nebraska moves to conference play, and an opening night matchup with No. 11 Ohio State next Thursday night. The Buckeyes are 11-2 on the season, have two wins over No. 24 Stanford and beat Florida 103-77 in Gainesville. Ohio State’s losses game on the road to No. 15 Duke and at home against No. 4 Louisville.
While Washington State is not quite on par with a team of Ohio State’s quality, Williams said Friday’s loss will give her young team something to think about over the next week.
“We really think today’s game can help us for (Big Ten play),” Williams said. “It had that feel, just a competitive game that felt almost like a conference game. I think that’s going to be an eye opener for some of our players to get us ready and prepared for what’s coming.