The driveway basketball games at Maddie Simon’s house during the holidays must be fun. The Husker senior comes from a basketball family. This weekend, her uncle Jim Turgeon brought his University of Denver Pioneers to Lincoln. (Another uncle, Mark, is the men’s coach at Maryland.)
Denver came in with a 7-3 record and one of the nation’s hottest three-point shooters in Lauren Loven. The Husker defense held her to two total points (free throws). Nebraska evened up their record to 5-5 with the 96-71 win over the Pioneers.
The Husker offense came up big, led by Taylor Kissinger, a 6-1 sophomore who knocked down four three-pointers as part of her 18 point performance. Freshman Leigha Brown came off the bench to add 18 points and a career-high five assists.
Fellow freshman Ashtyn Veerbeek added 14 big points off the bench along with five rebounds. Sophomore center Kate Cain also contributed 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting while pitching in five rebounds and a pair of blocks. Junior wing and Colorado native Nicea Eliely scored a season-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Nebraska also got a solid all-around effort from freshman guard Sam Haiby, who scored seven points along with career highs of six rebounds and eight assists. Haiby’s eight assists came without a turnover. As a team, the Huskers put together their best passing game of the season with 27 assists on 34 made baskets while committing just 11 turnovers against the Pioneers.
The impressive team effort by the Big Red offset one of the top individual performances by an opponent in Husker history. Denver point guard Samantha Romanowski tallied a career-high 33 points on a Pinnacle Bank Arena building record 8-for-8 three-point shooting. Overall, Romanowski went 12-for-18 from the field while playing more than 39 minutes in the game.
Nebraska hit 50.7 percent (34-67) of its shots for the game on the way to outscoring Denver in each of the four quarters. The Huskers hit just 28 percent (7-25) of their threes but knocked down 77.8 percent (21-27) of their free throws. Nebraska won the rebound battle 39-36 and the turnover war 16-11. Most importantly, the Huskers outscored the Pioneers 23-0 in points off turnovers, and dominated Denver 52-14 in the paint. The Big Red bench also outscored the Denver reserves 40-3.
The Huskers held Denver to 39 percent (23-59) shooting, and the Pioneers hit just 57.7 percent (15-26) of their free throws in a tightly but consistently called game that featured 43 combined fouls.
The Husker roster got a little thinner as senior transfer guard Kristian Hudson was ruled out for the rest of the season after foot surgery. Nebraska now has 10 players on the active roster - six of them freshman or sophomores. With Hudson’s injury, that leaves Sam Haiby as the primary backup point guard for Hannah Whitish, who has struggled a bit on offense after an early season knee injury. Amy Williams indicated that Nebraska would apply for a medical redshirt for Hudson.
Nebraska’s next game is Tuesday, December 18, at Arkansas. Tipoff will be at 7 pm (CT).