It was a split this week as the Husker women went 1-1, dropping a road game to Rutgers and dominating Penn State in Lincoln. Despite the loss, the Huskers maintained their 4th place spot in the Big Ten at 7-4 (16-6 overall).
They continue to slide (slightly) down the RPI scale and are at #67 (#62 last week). They will soon face a challenging part of their B1G schedule as their next opponents are Indiana and Minnesota (both are one game behind the Huskers in Big Ten standings), followed by Michigan State (2 games ahead of Nebraska) and then Ohio State (conference leader- 3 games ahead of Nebraska). The Big Red ends their conference slate with Purdue (one game behind), Indiana, and Northwestern (who beat the Huskers by 23 on Jan 3).
Also of note: In the past week, Natalie Romeo took over the national lead for most 3-pointers made (78). This list only counts how many have gone in, not how many are attempted. Natalie rose to the top on only 176 attempts. All but one other in the top 10 has needed more (some MANY more) attempted shots to make this group.
When you look at the 3PT% (accuracy instead of quantity), she ranks #11 in the country at 44.3%. When looking at the 10 ahead of her, she has way (WAY) more attempts than anyone else. In other words, to make more 3 pointers than Natalie Romeo, you have to shoot WAY, WAY more of them than her. If you want to make a higher % of your 3-pointers than her, you have to shoot way less. My guess is that the more accurate shooters are waiting for called plays for them to get a clean look or inbounds plays to let loose.
My analysis: No player in the country has as much "green light" from her coaches to take the long ball in the flow of the offense, or at any point of the shot clock, as Romeo. She has rewarded their trust.
February 2 Penn State 69 Nebraska 87
The blizzard conditions could not deter these teams from their appointed game, although Penn State had a few challenges during their stay in Lincoln.
Once again, Rachel Blackburn was not available. The 6'3" freshman post has been a regular in the frontcourt rotation for the Huskers this season (even starting most of the non-conference schedule until a knee injury/illness began to cause problems). Her absence should be keenly missed as the 4th post player, Anya Kalenta, is serviceable, but not someone you can count on for a double-double or anything (spoiler alert: Anya played her best game as a Husker!)
In the first half, Nebraska assisted 13 of their 14 field goals. That is almost unheard of. Romeo had 8 of those assists. Anya Kalenta scored 6 points and 5 rebounds to play the best half of her Husker career. Her hustle could not be overstated. In a game where Penn State either game planned to run (not sure why they would do that) or it just evolved that way, Nebraska had the edge if some of their bench players stepped up. Anya answered the call big time. If this tells you how much running was involved, Rachel Theriot was even sat down for a couple minutes when she is a regular on the "40 minutes" list on the participation report.
The first half went back and forth as the first quarter ended with a 2 point PSU lead (17-15) and the half ended with a one-point Husker lead (28-27). Penn State hit just 32.4 percent (11-34) of its first-half shots, including 3-of-7 threes. The Lady Lions were 2-of-3 at the free throw line.
Romeo led all first-half scorers with 13 points, while Shepard added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Theriot contributed five points and eight assists.
Nebraska continued to surge at the start of the second half, and went on a 12-0 run to get the lead out to 40-27.
Allie Havers picked up her 3rd foul early in the quarter and had to sit down, but Rachel Theriot went on a tear midway through the third as she scored, stole the ball, and put up a solo layup to force a PSU timeout.
Kyndal Clark showed up to extend the run to 19-2 when she buried a three. PSU responded with a field goal to bring it to 49-33.
On the power of 10 Theriot assists, the Huskers took a 20 point lead into the second half of the 3rd quarter (51-31). This was Rachel's 10th career double-digit assist game.
She had help down low as the Husker posts blocked two straight shots on a single PSU possession and got a foul call to get a possession back. PSU had only scored 4 points in the quarter (with only 2 minutes left in the 3rd). PSU made two free throws to get the game to 25 (58-33).
Theriot exited the game for Maddie Simon at that point and the Huskers did not let up on the pressure at all as the Husker reserves + Shepard kept running and scoring.
After two PSU three-pointers and free throws (by both teams) Penn State regained some momentum to end the quarter 64-43.
Rachel Theriot had 9 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds. Anya Kalenta was one rebound away from a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Theriot quickly picked up her 7th rebound in the 4th quarter and was tantalizingly close to the second triple-double in Husker women's history. Shortly thereafter, Kalenta picked up an offensive rebound and field goal to notch her first career double-double.
Havers picked up her 4th foul with 7 minutes left but on the missed free throw, she pulled down the rebound, outletted to Theriot, who found Shepard down the floor for her 14th assist (74-53).
With 5 minutes left, PSU buried a three to cut the lead to 20 (the lead had been as much as 27). 76-56 and the Husker lead remained 18 the rest of the way.
Jessica Shepard scored 20 points, Natalie Romeo added 19 and Anya Kalenta pitched in her first career double-double. Unfortunately, Rachel Theriot was called to the bench before she could notch that triple-double, but given her injury status (foot) it was a wise choice to sit her down in a game that was already won.
January 30 - Nebraska 56 Rutgers 66
The Huskers were again shorthanded as Rachel Blackburn was unavailable (injury, I believe) and Esther Ramacieri did not travel with the team ( likely an illness). The New Jersey area was still digging out from the east coast blizzard but the Rutgers women have been nothing but hot on their home court.
While the Scarlet Knights were 224th in the nation in scoring offense (61.5 ppg), they were near the top 50 in scoring defense (allowing under 58 points per game). They were also 8-2 at home and 1-7 on the road. Suffice it to say, Rutgers is a VERY different team in their own building compared to the team Nebraska needed a furious 4th quarter rally to beat at home only a couple weeks ago.
The Knights were reeling in a four game losing streak, while Nebraska was riding a six game win streak. Rutgers had their head coach back after missing several games to tend to her ill mother. What does all add up to? Yes, a classic "trap" game for Nebraska. (Note: Coach Stringer's mother passed away on February 3, 2016 - our sincerest sympathies to her and her family).
"The team that plays with the most energy is probably going to win today" ~ Coach Yori pregame (Spoiler alert: It was not Nebraska).
Despite the lack of energy, the game actually went back and forth almost the whole way but Rutgers outscored the Huskers 17-7 in the final six minutes to hand NU a 66-56 road loss.
Nebraska jumped out to as much as a 20-8 first-quarter lead but used cruise control to go into the half with a 27-26 lead. Shepard led the Huskers in the first half with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting while adding three rebounds. Romeo pitched in eight points, including a pair of threes, while Theriot pitched in five points and two assists.
The Huskers hit 11-of-22 first-half shots, including 3-of-5 threes, while knocking down both of their free throws. The Big Red hit 9-of-13 shots, including 2-of-3 threes, in the first quarter.
I was personally astounded when the BTN Plus announcers (Rutgers) made a comment about Rutgers dominating if the game became fast-paced. The Scarlet Knights cannot score points, but they are devastating at preventing the other team from doing so. A fast paced game only benefits the opponent (and I am pretty sure I can say that regardless of who is the opponent). Unfortunately for the Huskers, they did not have the energy level to keep this game fast-paced for more than a few spurts.
The third quarter was largely a back-and-forth contest and the two teams went to the final period tied at 40. Nebraska responded with a layup from Romeo before a traditional three-point play from Shepard tied the game at 49 with 6:50 left.
The Huskers then got a defensive stop but turned the ball over to give Rutgers a 51-49 lead. Nebraska then threw ahead successfully to Shepard under the basket, but after a tough catch could not finish at the rim and Rutgers responded with a traditional three-point play from Briyona Canty with 5:20 left to take a 54-49 lead. The Huskers could get no closer than three points the rest of the way, as Rutgers made the plays down the stretch. Nebraska hit just 3-of-11 shots and committed four turnovers in the final five minutes. NU committed just five turnovers in the entire first game with Rutgers on Jan. 16.
For the game, Nebraska hit 46 percent (23-50) of its shots from the field, including 5-of-15 threes and all five of its free throws. But the Huskers were outrebounded 30-27 and grabbed just two offensive boards in the game. NU also lost the turnover battle 20-13.
Jessica Shepard led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting while going 5-for-5 at the free throw line, but managed just four rebounds. Natalie Romeo added 18 points, including 4-of-8 three-point shooting, while adding five boards. Rachel Theriot gave the Huskers three players in double figures with 11 points, five rebounds and six assists.