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Nebraska WBB: Huskers Fall to Drake in Season Opener

The Husker women’s basketball got off to a great start but couldn’t quite hang on for the win.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Maryland vs Nebraska Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Husker women have 11 players on the active roster. Five of them are newcomers to the team - four freshman and one graduate transfer. Nebraska returned their top five scorers from last season and if last night was any indication, the newcomers will contribute plenty in that area as well.

Drake is a veteran team that also qualified for the 2018 NCAA Tournament and are the two-time defending Missouri Valley Conference champions. The past few contests between the Huskers and Bulldogs have been close, hard-fought games and this was no exception.

However, it didn’t start that way. The Huskers used a 14-0 run to start the game to build a 16-point first-quarter lead, before Drake responded with a 16-0 second-quarter run on its way to building a 13-point edge two minutes into the second half.

The Huskers completely wiped out Drake’s double-digit lead with five minutes left in the game, as freshman Sam Haiby scored four straight points to give Nebraska a 67-65 lead. But that margin was short-lived and the experienced Bulldogs, who feature 11 combined seniors and juniors on their roster, made enough plays down the stretch to open their season with a road win.

Haiby, a 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., led Nebraska with 13 points off the bench, while juniors Hannah Whitish and Nicea Eliely each added double figures with 10 points. Sophomore Taylor Kissinger and freshman Ashtyn Veerbeek both pitched in eight points, while graduate transfer Kristian Hudson contributed seven points and three assists off the bench. Freshmen Leigha Brown and Kayla Mershon each managed six points off the bench, as Nebraska’s five newcomers combined for 40 of NU’s 77 points on the night.

As a team, Nebraska hit 40.9 percent (27-66) of its shots from the field, including 10-of-28 three-pointers (.357). The Huskers also knocked down 13-of-17 free throws (.765). But the Big Red was out-rebounded 44-40 by the Bulldogs, who also won the turnover battle, 20-17. Drake converted Nebraska’s turnovers to 24 points, while the Huskers managed just 14 points off Drake’s 17 miscues. The Bulldogs also outscored the Huskers 15-8 in second-chance points.

Drake’s Maddy Dean completed a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists for the Bulldogs. Sara Rhine, who did not play in last year’s game with Nebraska, added a double-double of her own with 11 points and 10 boards, including five of Drake’s 19 offensive rebounds on the night.

Reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player-of-the-Year Becca Hittner finished with a game-high 19 points, while Bachrodt pitched in 15 points. Miller gave the Bulldogs five players in double figures with 11 points.

Drake finished the night at 40 percent (26-65) from the field, including 39.3 percent (11-28) from three-point range, while connecting on 20-of-29 free throws (.690).

Nebraska returns to home action on Sunday by taking on USC Upstate at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tip-off between the Huskers and the Trojans out of the Big South Conference is set for 11 a.m.