Nebraska's women's hoops team split this week's contests falling to the ranked Cal Bears and absolutely dominating the Evansville Purple Aces. The Huskers are now 7-2 on the season. They take on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks this Saturday December 19 at 4 p.m. Listen on Huskers.com or watch on BTN Plus.
December 12 - #21/22 Cal 87 Nebraska 80 (OT)
The Huskers’ second road game of the year was out to the west coast to take on the #21/22 (depending on poll) University of California Golden Bears. The usual starting five took the floor - Theriot, Clark, Romeo, Blackburn, and Shepard.
I have wondered why the Husker women were not ranked and playing a ranked team on their home floor was a good test of my homer-ism. Does this Nebraska team deserve more votes? This game told me a lot - mostly that I need to be more patient in waiting for this young team to really reach their potential.
Theriot showed her veteran presence early as she drew fouls, made smart passes and played good defense. The only part of her game missing was the points. Against the tall guards of Cal, it was imperative to have the 6’0" Theriot playing well as Nebraska had no other guards with that height to match up. It was really unfortunate that Nebraska was without 6'2" freshman guard Maddie Simon as she is out for a few weeks with a broken arm.
Havers came in early for Shepard (as usual since Jessica still seems to have a few conditioning issues from a long-term rehab on her ACL). Blackburn showed no such issues as she ran the floor to beat everyone for a transition basket and the Husker guards were burying three-pointers early. When your posts can outrun the other team’s guards and the perimeter shooting is going well, well, it is safe to say that is a good sign.
Natalie Romeo hit three 3-pointers in the first ten minutes of the game. Wow. #YouBetcha (if you listen to the huskers.com radio broadcasts you understand that one).The Husker posts were racking up fouls (1 on Shepard, Blackburn, and Havers and 2 on Kalenta very early in the first quarter).
Cal proceeded to put on a 11-0 run and cut the lead to two (20-18).Blackburn racked up her second foul shortly thereafter and Havers had to take her place. Nebraska could not afford more fouls down low and were turning over the ball late in the first quarter to give the Bears some hope.Jessica Shepard finally scored her first basket in the last few seconds of the first quarter to five the Huskers a four point lead. The score was 22-18 at the end of the first quarter. With Theriot not scoring and Shepard largely being shut down, it was impressive that the Huskers were hanging in this game as well as they were.
Early in the second quarter, Theriot was having trouble throwing the ball into Shepard and turned it over two possessions in a row. Cal took their first lead 25-24 early in the quarter. Nebraska was running out of bodies to put in and gave up more points to go down by four with 8 minutes left in the second quarter. Cal extended the run to 13-0 which was finally broken by Allie Havers to close within 31-26. Jasmine Cincore quickly brought it within three points.
Kyndal Clark was playing some aggressive defense and even as the shortest player on the floor, was disrupting the tall Cal perimeter.The Cal lead fluctuated between 4 and 7 for a few minutes with the Huskers still adjusting to the Cal press. Nebraska depends on their transition game for quite a few points and Cal’s game plan seemed to be predicated on eliminating those (and were effective at it). The Cal lead continued to grow and reached double digits as the Bears continued to keep Nebraska from getting the paint points they were used to. At the half…
The Huskers opened the second half with four quick points to pull within two but then Shepard picked up her third foul almost immediately and was lifted for Kalenta. I could hear Yori yelling in the background of the broadcast "that was an offensive foul".
The fouls continued to mount for the Huskers. This was incredibly odd as Nebraska for several years now has been among national leaders in fewest fouls. Basketball can be a weird game and Cal was getting some especially good "home-cooking" on this night.
The Huskers pulled out to lead by one, but quickly gave up the lead on a play where the Golden Bear player was in the lane for about 10 seconds. Theriot had 10 assists already and was showing her All-American chops as she was single-handedly keeping the Huskers in the game with her defensive presence and passing into the best scoring chances (the shots were just not falling).
One of the Cal players pushed off on Shepard and was not called for the foul but appeared to injure her knee seriously. She was obviously injured for almost a minute before the officials stopped the game. I am basing this on the radio call, but at this point the home-cooking for Cal was reaching absurd levels with travels, double-dribbles, and push-offs not being called. Romeo even got called for a foul when the Cal player travelled and stumbled without ANY contact. (I really love listening to Coatney and Griesch but they do seem to call out reffing more than I think they should; however I have never heard them as mad as during this game).
Natalie Romeo decided to take things into her own hands and got hot from the three-point line. But then Jessica Shepard got fouled but was somehow instead called for her third foul.At this point, the fouls were 16-7 against the Huskers. It stinks to call out officials, but this game was definitely not right. The third quarter ended….
The fourth quarter found Shepard picking up her fourth foul very quickly on a play where SHE WAS THE ONE PUSHED TO THE FLOOR. The Huskers pulled within two on some hot shooting from Romeo and Clark. The freethrows were 10-4 in favor of Cal. The Huskers have not shot a free throw in the second half - which is unreal.
Theriot’s first points of the game tied up the game at 66-66 with 6 minutes to go. Both teams continued to trade baskets for a few possessions. Cal looked tired and the Huskers sent Shepard back in the game. When the game was tied at 70...and Theriot’s money free throw shooting (the only ones of the second half) gave the Huskers the lead but Cal tied it back up immediately.Theriot was absolutely clutch and nailed the next shot to pull the Huskers back up by two. Cal tied it with 56 seconds to go. The Husker ran the shot clock all the way down and Yori finally got the timeout with 3 seconds. The inbounds play was critical but it was picked off immediately. There were 23 seconds to go and Cal had possession. The Husker defense held but the Huskers had the length of the floor to go with only a 3.2 seconds left.
Yori’s last timeout was spent discussing strategy. The placement of the inbounds play was really squirrely as at 3.2 seconds, the Huskers had not made a pass and should have had the ball on the sideline rather than under the basket. As a result, they did not get down the floor and we went to overtime with the game tied 74-74.
The Huskers battled valiantly but never had the lead in overtime. Both Shepard and Blackburn fouled out, severely hamstringing Nebraska's preferred game. While the foul calls were B.S., a Husker team that was a good as I thought would have overcome that. The Cal game plan was absolutely nails and took out the Nebraska strengths early (paint points). If there is another game where both Shepard and Blackburn foul out this entire season, I will buy the first round of drinks at the next Corn Nation get together.
The Huskers, who were whistled for 23 fouls compared to just 12 for the Golden Bears, were outscored at the free throw line 16-8 in the game. Fortunately for Nebraska big games from Romeo, Theriot, Allie Havers off the bench (18 points). Havers, who added four rebounds and a block, played a career-high 37 minutes in support of starting freshman post players Jessica Shepard and Blackburn. The freshmen both played just 23 minutes before fouling out. Shepard finished with a season-low six points, while Blackburn managed eight points. Shepard had been called for just 13 fouls in the first eight games combined entering the contest. The final score was 87-80 in favor of the Bears.
December 8 - Evansville 40 Nebraska 85
The Purple Aces did not look like a team that should challenge the Huskers, having a 1-7 record on the season thus far. However, after a poorly played game against Creighton, Nebraska needed to bounce back in a big way and could not afford to overlook anyone. At least one Husker player saw plenty of Evansville while she played at Drake.
Game day fact: today will be my 8th time to play Evansville. Once again, this will be the 4th location. Getting closer to tip off!— Kyndal Clark (@4kclark) December 8, 2015
The Husker posts were incredibly hot as a combined group (Shepard, Blackburn, Havers, Kalenta) made 9 of their first 10 shots.It was also a very clean game as there were only five fouls called between both teams. The record for a Husker game was 15 combined fouls. That record looked to be in jeopardy.
Huskers have 16 assists on 18 first-half baskets. Four forwards combine for 33 first-half points. #huskers— Nebraska WBB (@HuskersWBB) December 9, 2015
HALFTIME: #Huskers up 41-18 after giving up just nine points in each quarter; Shepard leads the way with 15/6, Theriot has 7 assists.— huskers W (@huskers_w) December 9, 2015
Rachel Blackburn is also known for her aggressive play which shows on her face. It has become a regular posting for the WBB twitter account.
Midway through the third quarter Romeo hit her first three and was closely followed by a basket by Blackburn which put her into double digits for the first time in her career. Kyndal Clark was on fire in this quarter as she buried 3 three-pointers to go with the one she had earlier in the game.At this point, Rachel Theriot had zero points but nine assists, 3 rebounds and a couple of steals and blocked shots.
Allie Havers registered a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.The 16th foul of the game came about halfway through the fourth quarter so "fewest combined fouls" record was safe for now. It was still an incredibly fast game. Tipoff was 7:06 and the game ended at 8:36.
#Nebrasketball women win 85-40 in a game that took 90 minutes to play.— Brian Rosenthal (@HuskerExtraBR) December 9, 2015