A short-handed No. 12 Nebraska women’s basketball team led by 14 points with 7:50 left at Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers erupted on a 13-0 run in the next 3:40 then completed the comeback with a 72-69 win at Williams Arena on Monday night.
The Huskers slipped to 11-2 on the season while dropping their Big Ten opener for the first time in four seasons. Minnesota improved to 12-1 and 1-0 in the conference.
Nebraska, which led by as many as 17 points after a three-point play by Emily Cady with 10:14 left in the game, carried a 61-47 edge after Cady’s seventh straight point with 7:50 left. Cady, a 6-2 forward from Seward, Neb., finished with her sixth double-double of the year with 21 points and 14 rebounds while playing the full 40 minutes.
However, she did not score the rest of the way, and Nebraska managed just eight points in the final 7:49.
“We got great shots down the stretch, we just need to make some of them,” Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. “Obviously, it didn’t help us that we only had seven healthy players tonight, but we have an experienced team and we just needed to make a few more plays to win that game.”
The Huskers lost to the Gophers on the road despite making four more field goals and outrebounding Minnesota, 59-46.
Cady finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, while going 10-of-14 from the floor.
Junior point guard Rachel Theriot added 18 points and 10 assists for her fifth career double-double and first of the season, while playing the full 40 minutes, as Nebraska dressed only six scholarship players and freshman walk-on Emily Wood because of injuries and illness. Theriot went just 9-for-27 from the floor though, including 0-for-3 from three-point range.
Senior Tear’a Laudermill pitched in 14 points, including NU’s only four three-pointers on the night, but Laudermill went just 4-for-15 while the Big Red hit just 4-of-22 threes on the night.
Brandi Jeffery went 0-for-2 from long range and just 1-of-6 from the field overall, but did contribute a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with four assists to help the Huskers build the 17-point lead.
Sophomore Allie Havers added a season-high 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting, while pitching in five rebounds off the bench.
Havers saw a majority of her time because of foul trouble for senior forward Hailie Sample, who fouled out with 3:50 left. It was just the third time in 112 career games that Sample fouled out. Sample finished with four points and nine rebounds in just 22 minutes.
For the game, Nebraska hit just 37 percent (30-81) of its shots from the floor, including just 18.2 percent (4-22) of its three-point attempts. The Huskers still outshot the Gophers overall, as Minnesota hit just 34.2 percent (26-76) of its field goal attempts, including 6-of-25 (24 percent) of its threes. However, Minnesota hit 14-of-17 free throws to outscore the Big Red 14-5 at the line.
Amanda Zahui B. led Minnesota with 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals, while light-scoring point guard Shayne Mullaney pitched in a season-high 18 points. Mullaney carried the Gophers with 12 points in the first half.
Kayla Hirt added 11 points, while Carlie Wagner contributed 10 points, including six of the first nine points in Minnesota’s 13-0 second-half surge.
Shae Kelley, who was held to just seven points on 1-of-11 shooting for the game by the Huskers, scored four points in the final 1:12 to complete the comeback for Minnesota. Her two with 1:12 left cut NU’s lead to 67-66, before Mullaney gave the Gophers their first lead of the night at 68-67 with 32 seconds left. Kelley then added two free throws with 17.2 seconds left to push the lead to 70-67.
Havers got a putback for the Huskers to make it 70-64 with 8.4 seconds left, before Zahui B. sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds remaining. Nebraska did not get a clean look at the basket in the closing seconds.
Nebraska used a 10-0 run early in the game to take a 12-2 lead, then closed the half on a 10-2 surge to take its biggest lead of the period at 39-26 at halftime.
Cady and Theriot controlled the first half for the Big Red, with Cady nearly producing a double-double with 12 points, eight boards and two assists in the half. Theriot added 12 points of her own to go along with five assists and a pair of rebounds.
Jeffery also contributed huge first-half minutes, as the 5-7 senior guard ripped down nine rebounds to go along with two points and three assists. Jeffery and Sample, who pitched in four points and six rebounds in the half, helped the Big Red outrebound the Gophers, 32-20, in the opening period. That margin grew to plus-17 rebounds midway through the second half, before the Gophers narrowed it down the stretch.
Laudermill pumped in seven first-half points, including a pair of three-pointers, to help the Huskers hit 43.6 percent (17-39) from the floor, including 2-of-7 threes. NU also went 3-for-4 from the free throw line, while holding Minnesota without a trip to line by committing just two personal fouls.
Nebraska held Minnesota to just 27.5 percent (11-40) shooting, including 4-of-17 threes. Mullaney led the Gophers with a season-high 12 points in the first half alone, going 5-of-7 from the floor. But the rest of the Gophers went just 6-for-33.
Mullaney was the only Gopher to manage double figures in the half, while Hirt five points on 2-of-5 shooting off the bench. Zahui B. had just four points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half, before bouncing back with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting after the break.
Nebraska returns to Lincoln for its Big Ten home opener when the Huskers take on No. 14 Maryland on Jan. 3 Tip-lff between the Big Red and the No. 15 Terrapins is set for 3 p.m., with tickets available now at Huskers.com.
Maryland, which advanced to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four, opened Big Ten play with an 87-78 win over Ohio State on Monday night to improve to 10-2 overall while winning its first-ever Big Ten Conference game.
Nebraska’s game with Maryland will be televised live nationally by CBS and available on radio from the Husker Sports Network, including free live audio on Huskers.com.