Can the Huskers pull the upset? Can they put together FOUR quarters of basketball?
The first frame was largely a back and forth affair with the Huskers maintaining an early edge until the Wildcats went to the full court press and stole back the lead. The Huskers dominated in the paint (a very surprising thing given the strong front court for Northwestern) by scoring 12 of their points (6 for Northwestern).
The quarter ended with Northwester at 16 and the Huskers at 15.
Nebraska took control of the quarter early by scoring the first five points (a Verbeek three-pointer and a Sam Haiby fast break layup in which she not only had to elude two Wildcats but also a Husker who was running the same lane). Leigha Brown is leading the Huskers with nine points. Kate Cain has registered three blocks to go with two steals, six rebounds and nine points.
The Huskers are scrapping and finding ways to finish possessions despite excellent defense by the Wildcats. The second quarter ended with the score of Nebraska 33 Northwestern 29.
Kate Cain continues to be a beast on both defense and offense as she came up with a big stop and then scored the first points of the quarter. Another knockaway by Cain led to a transition basket and foul by Nicea Eliely as they went up by nine points (38-29). Another Cain block is a direct result of Northwestern (for some weird reason) thinking they can attack her and maybe draw fouls? (Cain has passed her mom’s collegiate career block total.)
The first points for Northwestern came almost halfway through the quarter as the Wildcats broke out the full-court press again. The pressure did affect the Huskers a bit and Amy Williams opted for a timeout. Northwestern pulled within three points with Kate Cain getting a rest on the bench. The Husker scoring drought reached four minutes until Hannah Whitish hit a long three-pointer. The Wildcats were heating up from three-point land though too and were matching the Huskers and keeping the Nebraska lead at three.
Freshman Makenzie Helms was showing great poise, especially for someone who did not play much early in the season. She did a nice job against the full-court press and was getting the ball to teammates in great position. (As soon as I type that, she was called for a foul - which was not a foul at all.)
Kate Cain registered another monster block but was called for a technical foul when she taunted the Northwestern player afterward (35 seconds left in the quarter). That mistake led to two free throws (both made) and Wildcat ball. The Wildcats could not capitalize on the free possession as the quarter ended.
End of third quarter - Nebraska 44 Northwestern 42
Sam Haiby free throws opened scoring for the quarter. The Husker defense forced a shot clock violation while holding a four point lead. Kate F. Cain (I’ll let you decide what the F stands for, but that is not her real middle initial) hit a turnaround and continued to be a big presence in the defensive paint. Northwestern answered the Huskers and chipped away at the lead.
Northwestern hit a big three-pointer to take a one-point lead (49-48) at 6:07 left in the game. The Northwestern press was slowing the Huskers down enough that they were rushing some shots even when the didn’t need to. An Izzy Bourne free throw and Ashtyn Verbeek basket got the lead back for Nebraska.
The aforementioned Ms. K. F. Cain has a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and is in range of a triple-double with seven blocks.
HAIBY THREE!! Huskers up 54-49.
Verbeek’s fourth foul resulted in two free throws for Northwestern (54-51). 3:28 left in the game. Leigha Brown capitalized on the next Husker possession but Northwestern answered back (56-53). Then a Wildcat three tied the game (56-56) with 1:56 left in the game.
The Huskers got a great look with Kate Cain wide open under the basket, but Cain didn’t realize she was alone and threw it back out and it was stolen. ARGHHHH!! The Wildcats take the 58-56 lead with 30+ seconds. Amy Williams called a timeout (her last) with 24 seconds. An offensive foul on Ashtyn Verbeek (her fifth) with 5 seconds left almost assured a Wildcat win. With both free throws good for NW, it was all over.
This was another heartbreaking game for the Huskers. They have come SOOOOOO close in several games but have had a mistake or two haunt them. This one was as good a showing as Nebraska has had in a while. They played three or three 1⁄2 quarters of very good, competitive basketball. If they continue to round into form, they will be a team that no one will want to meet in the conference tournament.
Final Northwestern 60 Nebraska 56
Leigha Brown (again) led Nebraska with 14 points, followed by Kate Cain with 12 points (11 rebounds, seven blocks, and four steals). No other Husker players were in double figures, although Ashtyn Verbeek scored nine and added a block and two rebounds.
Wednesday, February 19 at Ohio State