No. 24 Nebraska played outstanding defense for 40 minutes but could not hit enough shots to get past No. 5 Duke, falling 53-45 in the NCAA Norfolk Regional semifinal on Sunday afternoon at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.
Sixth-seeded Nebraska, which advanced to its second NCAA Sweet Sixteen in the last four years, ended the season with a 25-9 overall record that included a 12-4 Big Ten mark and a conference runner-up finish. Duke, the ACC champions and the No. 2 seed in the Norfolk Regional, advanced to Tuesday’s Elite Eight game with top-seeded Notre Dame. The Blue Devils improved to 33-2 on the year. Notre Dame cruised to a 93-63 win over Kansas in Sunday’s first regional semifinal game.
In her final game as a Husker, senior point guard Lindsey Moore led the Huskers with 11 points, five rebounds, six assists and one steal while playing the full 40 minutes. Her six assists pushed her career total to 699 and her season total to 195. Her career total eclipsed NU’s long-standing record of 696 career assists set by Meggan Yedsena (1991-94). The 5-9 native of Covington, Wash., also matched Yedsena’s single-season school record of 195 in 1991-92.
Moore also finished her career with 1,673 points (11th in school history) and 208 steals (ninth at NU). She started all 132 games in her career, another school record, while her 4,360 minutes played were another NU record. Her 94 career wins are the most by a Husker in history.
Moore was the only Husker to manage double figures against a tough Blue Devil defense. She went just 5-of-18 from the field, including 1-of-8 from three-point range. But Moore was far from alone in her shooting struggles, as NU hit just 30.3 percent (20-66) of its shots, including 3-of-24 three-pointers (.125). After starting the game 2-of-6 from long range, Nebraska missed 16 consecutive three-pointers against Duke, including 0-for-7 from All-American forward Jordan Hooper.
However, Hooper hit three jumpers in the second half and finished with six points and 11 rebounds despite missing the game’s final 7:53 with an ankle injury. On her third jumper of the half at the left elbow against Duke’s zone defense, Hooper landed awkwardly and sprained her left ankle. She returned to the bench after being taken directly to the locker room, but could not return to the court. She finished the game 3-of-7 from the field.
Senior forward Meghin Williams and sophomore forward Katie Simon stepped up in Hooper’s absence against Duke center Elizabeth Williams. Meghin Williams finished with four points, four rebounds and a blocked shot, while Simon scored all four of her points while adding a rebound and a steal in the game’s final eight minutes.
Hooper’s final shot cut Duke’s edge to 40-32. Duke was able to maintain its margin but was unable to pull away with Hooper off the court. Duke’s lead grew as large as 51-40 in the closing minute, but NU was able to cut the Blue Devil lead to 44-38 with 3:49 left.
Elizabeth Williams produced 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks to lead Duke, but went just 5-of-15 from the field against the Huskers. Tricia Liston led Duke with 17 points and eight boards, but hit just 5-of-13 shots. Her 3-of-5 three-pointers and 4-of-4 free throw shooting down the stretch were enough to give the Blue Devils the victory.
Alexis Jones added 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but the Huskers forced the freshman into seven turnovers. Haley Peters (8) and Richa Jackson (4) were the only other Blue Devils to score in the game. Jackson went 2-of-11 from the field and the Duke reserves combined to go 0-for-8 from the floor.
As a team, Duke hit just 21-of-64 shots (.328), including just 4-of-16 (.250). The Blue Devils hit 7-of-9 free throws down the stretch to seal the win, as NU was forced to foul.
Tear’a Laudermill and Rachel Theriot sparked the Huskers to a seven-point lead early in the first half. Both players finished with seven points. Emily Cady added four points, six rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals, but hit just 2-of-7 shots. Brandi Jeffery added two points, as eight of the nine Huskers who played in the game found the scoring column. Hailie Sample went scoreless, but contributed six rebounds and an assist.
Nebraska led the rebounding margin throughout the game, until Duke grabbed NU’s final miss in the closing seconds. Duke finished with a 46-45 edge on the boards and a 12-9 advantage in the turnover department.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, as the two defenses dominated. The Huskers worked their way to an 18-11 lead after a jumper from Laudermill with 5:41 left, capping an 18-6 surge after falling behind 5-0 to open the game.
But Jones fueled a 12-0 run to end the half for the Blue Devils, scoring seven points in a two-minute span over the final three minutes to send Duke to the locker room with an 23-18 lead.
Laudermill led the Huskers with seven first-half points, while Theriot added NU’s first five points of the game. Moore, Cady and Jeffery eached added two points to account for all of NU’s first-half scoring. Hooper went scoreless in the first half, going 0-for-8, including 0-for-5 from three-point range against Williams, the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Hooper did pull down eight rebounds for the Huskers, who outrebounded Duke, 27-20, in the opening half.
Nebraska hit just 8-of-28 shots from the field, while going 0-for-9 from the field to end the first half. NU was just 2-of-13 from long range in the half, missing their final seven three-point attempts after Laudermill’s three gave NU a 10-7 lead with 13:04 left in the half.
Liston led Duke with 10 first-half points including a pair of three-pointers, while Jones added nine points. Williams pitched in four points, six rebounds and three blocks for Duke, who hit 10-of-32 shots in the first, including 3-of-11 threes. Neither team shot a free throw. Duke did win the first-half turnover battle, 8-5.