Hooper and the Huskers in the finals
Indianapolis - Rachel Theriot and Tear'a Laudermill ignited a 23-6 surge over a six-minute span in the first half without All-American Jordan Hooper on the floor, as No. 16 Nebraska raced to an 86-58 victory over No. 19 Michigan State in the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament semifinals on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 24-6 overall and 2-0 in the tournament while advancing to their second Big Ten Championship Game in three seasons. The third-seeded Huskers will square off with fifth-seeded Iowa. The Hawkeyes outlasted eighth-seeded Ohio State, 77-73, in Saturday's first semifinal game. Iowa improved to 26-7 overall and 3-0 in the tournament.
The game between Nebraska and Iowa will tip-off on Sunday at Noon (CT) with live national television coverage on ESPN.
The Huskers led by 23 at the half and pushed the lead to 32 points late in the game with their reserves on the floor against the Spartan starters before settling for the 28-point win. Nebraska hit 52.4 percent (33-63) of its shots in the game, including 6-of-17 three-pointers, while connecting on 14-of-17 free throws. The Huskers forced 23 Spartan turnovers, finishing with a plus-13 turnover margin on the night. MSU, which went just 22-of-60 (.367) from the floor, including 4-of-15 from long range, did hit 10-of-12 free throws and outrebounded the Huskers, 37-33.
Laudermill led four Huskers in double figures with 20 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists and three steals in a tremendous all-around effort. She pumped in 11 points, including all three of her three-pointers in the game, during a decisive six-minute stretch in the first half when Nebraska turned a three-point lead into a 20-point advantage.
Theriot continued her bid for all-tournament honors with 18 points and eight assists while committing just two turnovers. Theriot hit 8-of-12 shots, including 2-of-3 threes. She also had eight points during NU's game-defining first-half surge. In two tournament games, Theriot has averaged 16.0 points and 13.0 assists, including a Big Ten Tournament-record 18 assists in Friday's quarterfinal win over Minnesota.
Michigan native Allie Havers added a career-high 17 points off the bench for the Big Red. The 6-5 center from Paw Paw, Mich., hit 6-of-7 shots from the floor and all five of her free throws, while adding career bests with three assists and three blocked shots in 19 points. She scored six of her points and had all three of her assists in the first half as Hooper's replacement.
Havers and All-American Jordan Hooper combined for 32 points, as Hooper scored 15 points in a Big Ten season-low 23 minutes.
Junior forwards Emily Cady and Hailie Sample continued to do all the little things for the Big Red. Sample played tremendous defense while scoring six points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out three assists. Cady added six points, nine boards, four assists and two steals against the gigantic Spartan front line.
Nebraska led 16-13 with 10:52 left in first half when Hooper was whistled for her second foul as Michigan State's Jasmine Hines converted a three-point play.
At that point, Theriot and Laudermill took over. Theriot hit a jumper before Laudermill buried back-to-back threes to give NU its biggest lead in the game at that point at 24-15 with 9:27 left in the half. Theriot then knocked down back-to-back jumpers to give the Big Red its first double-digit lead at 28-17 with 8:15 left.
The Huskers kept collecting defensive stops before a layup by Cady preceded five straight points from Laudermill to extend NU's margin to 33-17. Theriot scored again before a pair of Cady free throws gave NU its first 20-point lead at 39-19 with 4:29 left in the half.
The lead stayed at 20 until Hooper came off the bench for the first time in 10:30 for one final offensive possession. The Huskers found Hooper on the left wing with four seconds left and she bured a three to finish the half with 11 points in just nine first-half minutes.
Hooper's shot sent the Big Red to the locker room with a 50-27 lead. The Huskers hit 19-of-30 first-half shots (.633), including 75 percent of their threes (6-8). NU also hit 6-of-6 free throws. Since the Big Red didn't miss many shots, they got outrebounded, 18-12, by a Spartan team that went just 12-of-31 (.387) from the floor. MSU did not hit a three and went 3-for-3 at the line. Nebraska won the first-half turnover battle 11-3.
Michigan State came out aggressive in the second half, overplaying at every turn but the Huskers continued to pour it on the Spartans, despite sweeping the bench with nearly four minutes left in the game. Nebraska's reserves pushed the lead to 32 points in the final minute against the Spartan starters.
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