Another game, another big fourth quarter. This time however, the Husker rally wasn’t enough as the Nebraska fell to Iowa 77-71 in Iowa City.
Freshman Leigha Brown scored a career-high 20 points, including six in the final 3:30, to help Nebraska rally from a 12-point deficit to cut the margin to two with 26.8 seconds left. Junior point guard Hannah Whitish pitched in 14 points, including five points in Nebraska’s furious rally. Freshman Sam Haiby added three of her nine points in a three-minute stretch where the Huskers scored 14 points.
Nebraska slipped to 7-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, while Iowa improved to 10-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
Nebraska hung with the Hawkeyes despite shooting just 38.7 percent (24-62) on the night. The Huskers did hit 42.9 percent (9-21) of its threes and 14-of-17 free throws (.824). The two teams both committed 17 turnovers, but Nebraska won the battle of the boards, 41-36. However, Nebraska outscored Iowa 16-5 on second-chance points in the game, even though both teams had 11 offensive boards.
Iowa, one of the nation’s top scoring offenses, hit 49.2 percent (30-61) of its shots from the field, including 4-of-12 threes. One of the nation’s top free throw shooting teams, hit just 65 percent (13-20) of its free throws.
The missed free throws (and a couple of big forced turnovers, including one by Sam Haiby) are a big reason Nebraska had a chance late in the game when the Huskers started to foul. However, the Hawkeyes were able to secure some critical offensive rebounds on missed free throws to retain possession of the ball.
Nebraska jumped to a 6-0 lead in the game with back-to-back three-pointers from Whitish and Taylor Kissinger, before Iowa answered with a 13-2 surge to give the Hawkeyes a 13-8 lead at the first media timeout. Nebraska responded with 12 points off the bench from freshmen Ashtyn Veerbeek, Haiby, Kayla Mershon and Leigha Brown, who hit a pair of threes, to trim the Iowa margin to 22-20 at the end of the first quarter. Veerbeek, an Iowa native, finished with six points and a team-high nine rebounds in the game.
The Hawkeyes stretched the edge back to 25-20 to open the second quarter before the Big Red answered with an 8-0 run over the next 4:30. Maddie Simon started the run with a three-pointer, before Kate Cain added a traditional three-point play. Brown capped the run to give Nebraska 28-25 lead at the media break in the quarter. Whitish closed with seven points to help the Big Red. In a back-and-forth first half, Nebraska trailed 37-34 at halftime.
Nebraska regained the lead to start the third quarter and took a 43-39 lead with 8:12 left in the period on Nicea Eliely’s three-pointer. But the Hawkeyes got 10 straight points from Gustafson in the final 2:48 of the quarter to outscore Nebraska 10-3 down the stretch and take a 59-49 lead to the fourth.
Cain and Brown both fouled out of the game, with Cain doing so early in the fourth quarter. Freshman Ashtyn Verbeek stepped in and played some aggressive defense against All-American Megan Gustafson, even drawing the ire of the Hawkeye crowd at times. Brown’s fifth foul came at the end when the Huskers had to foul in the final minute to try and get the ball back.
Another positive for Nebraska is that Hannah Whitish is starting to look like Hannah Whitish again. She’s had a slow start to the season (compared to expectations anyway) but is finding her long range shot again as well as the confidence to make some aggressive defensive plays. She will be needed with a big test coming up for Nebraska in a few days.
Nebraska returns home next week, when the Huskers take on No. 4 Maryland on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Tip-off between the Big Red and the Terrapins is set for 7 p.m.