Rachel Theriot, Emily Cady and Hailie Sample produced huge plays on both ends of the court down the stretch to lead No. 12 Nebraska to a 60-54 women’s basketball victory over No. 9 Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Wednesday night.
Playing in front of a raucous Husker crowd of 7,571, Nebraska improved to 7-0 on the season for the first time since the 2009-10 Huskers reeled off 30 straight wins to open the year. The Big Red also notched their first win over a ranked non-conference opponent in the regular season since that same Husker bunch rolled to a 77-63 win over No. 5 LSU on Dec. 20, 2009, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Duke, which played its second straight game without All-America center Elizabeth Williams, slipped to 5-2 on the season, following a road loss Sunday at current No. 5 Texas A&M. The Blue Devils face No. 1 South Carolina in Durham, N.C., later this week.
Theriot, Nebraska’s All-America point guard, led the Huskers with a game-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot. Theriot hit three of NU’s six three-pointers on the night, including a huge three with 7:12 left to push NU’s lead to 51-46. Theriot sealed the win with a pair of free throws with four seconds left for the game’s final points.
Sample, a 6-1 senior from Flower Mound, Texas, matched her season high with 16 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting night against the Blue Devils. Sample also went 4-of-6 at the free throw line, including 3-of-4 in the final 3:19 to help secure Nebraska’s first win in four tries in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Cady, a 6-2 senior forward from Seward, Neb., added her third double-double of the season with 13 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and four assists without a turnover against Duke’s zone defense. Cady added a pair of huge steals and may have made the game’s biggest play with her offensive rebound and putback to give NU a 57-52 lead with 50 seconds left. It was Nebraska’s only putback of the second half, as Duke outscored NU, 21-6 on second-chance points for the game.
Senior guards Tear’a Laudermill and Brandi Jeffery also played major roles in the win. Laudermill finished with seven points, including a pair of threes, while adding a career-high seven rebounds. Jeffery added seven points, four rebounds and a game-high five assists. Both played outstanding perimeter defense as well.
Nebraska won despite hitting just 38.2 percent (21-55) of its shots from the field, including just 6-of-29 threes against the extreme length of the Duke lineup. Nebraska also went 12-of-17 from the free throw line. The Huskers were outrebounded, 47-34, including minus-nine on the glass in the second half. But Nebraska won the turnover battle, 13-10.
The Big Red defense held Duke to just 31.7 percent (20-63) shooting, including a dismal 18.2 percent (2-11) from long range. Duke hit 12-of-14 free throws.
Azura Stevens led Duke with 16 points and nine rebounds, while going 8-of-15 from the field. Oderah Chidom added eight points and seven rebounds while hitting 3-of-5 shots. The rest of the Blue Devil starters combined to go just 6-for-34 from the floor.
The Huskers opened the game red hot, hitting 9-of-13 shots from the field to build a 22-9 lead on a Theriot three-pointer with 11:36 left in the first half. Theriot finished with seven first-half points, while Sample finished 4-for-4 from the field to finish with eight points at the half. Cady added eight points on 2-of-3 shooting and 4-of-4 shooting at the line in the opening period.
However, the Huskers went just 2-for-16 the rest of the way, including 0-for-9 from three-point range, to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Duke hit just 8-of-27 first-half shots and just 1-of-7 threes, but outscored the Huskers 10-4 at the line in the first half to keep it close. Duke outrebounded Nebraska, 21-17, in the first half, but the Huskers won the first-half turnover battle, 7-6.
The Blue Devils came out strong in the second half, tying the game at 34 on a Stevens jumper, before Rebecca Greenwell gave Duke its first lead of the night at 36-34 with 16:33 left. The two teams then exchanged leads until a Theriot three-pointer turned a 42-41 NU deficit into a 44-42 lead with 11:27 remaining. The Huskers would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way, as Duke could get no closer than two points down the stretch.
The Huskers return to non-conference road action on Sunday, when Nebraska travels to Alabama. Tip-off between the Huskers and Crimson Tide is set for 2 p.m.