East Lansing, Mich. – Nicea Eliely played one of the top games of her career with 17 points, while fellow sophomore Hannah Whitish added 17 of her own to lead the Nebraska women’s basketball team to a 79-69 victory over Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Wednesday night.
Eliely’s season-high 17 points came on 5-of-6 shooting from the field including 3-of-3 from three-point range to help the Huskers improve to 19-7 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten to remain in a tie for second place in the conference standings with Ohio State. The Spartans, who welcomed the return of Shay Colley from injury after a seven-game absence, slipped to 15-12 overall and 5-9 in the conference.
Nebraska’s road warriors improved to a perfect 6-0 on the road in Big Ten play. It was NU’s ninth consecutive true road win overall as the Huskers notched their 10th straight win away from Pinnacle Bank Arena.
In addition to Eliely’s 3-for-3 effort from long range, Whitish buried 5-of-7 three-pointers to help Nebraska match its season high with 12 threes on the night. The Huskers hit 57.1 percent (12-of-21) of their threes for the game, outscoring Michigan State by 21 points from beyond the arc.
Overall, Nebraska hit 51.8 percent (29-of-56) of its shots from the floor, while adding 9-of-14 free throws.
In addition to the scorching hot three-point shooting, the Huskers also dominated the glass, dominating the boards 40-25 against one of the Big Ten’s best rebounding units.
Freshman center Kate Cain led the Big Red with 10 rebounds, while adding seven points, three blocks and three assists. Fellow freshman Taylor Kissinger added a strong effort off the bench with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting including 2-of-3 threes, while adding three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Senior guard Janay Morton added eight points off the bench with a pair of first-half threes, as Nebraska’s bench produced 29 points on the night.
Michigan State also got huge production off the bench, bolstered by the return of Colley, who scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while adding five assists and four rebounds in 24 minutes.
Forward Jenna Allen led the Spartans with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting off the bench, but it wasn’t enough for the Spartans. Sophomore point guard Taryn McCutcheon led the MSU starters with 12 points, nine assists and four steals, while Victoria Gaines added 12 points.
The Huskers limited Michigan State to just 12-of-36 (.333) shooting in the second half, including 1-of-10 shooting from long range, after the Spartans hit 4-of-9 first-half threes and 15-of-29 field goals. MSU won the turnover battle, 19-10, but Nebraska outscored the Spartans 11-10 in points off turnovers.
Nebraska was tied with the Spartans at 44 with 4:59 left when Michigan State Coach Suzy Merchant was assessed a technical foul for arguing a call while standing out on the court during play in front of the MSU bench.
The Huskers fully capitalized, as Whitish hit two free throws and Kissinger buried a three to put the Big Red up 49-44. The five-point possession helped fuel an 18-6 surge to end the quarter that included a 7-0 run in the final minute. The Huskers took a 62-50 lead to the fourth quarter and pushed the margin to 14 points on the opening possession of the fourth period on a layup by Darrien Washington. The Spartans could never get closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Nebraska trailed 40-38 at the half despite hitting 9-of-15 three-pointers (.667) in the first 20 minutes. Whitish led the Big Red with 4-of-5 shooting from long range to put up 12 points in the first half, while Eliely added 2-for-2 three-point shooting in the second quarter, and Morton buried a pair of first-half threes.
The Huskers, who led by as many as eight points briefly in the first period, took a 19-15 edge to the second quarter, before Michigan State rallied for a 38-33 lead late in the second quarter.
In the half, Nebraska hit 14-of-27 shots (.519) overall from the field and 1-of-2 free throws, and outrebounded MSU, 15-13. But the Spartans answered with 15-of-29 shooting (.517), including 4-of-9 threes (.444). The Spartans won the turnover battle 9-6 in the first half.
Allen provided the biggest boost for Michigan State with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench to help the Spartan bench match the Huskers with 15 bench points in the half. Allen’s two free throws in the closing seconds of the half gave MSU the halftime lead.
Nebraska returns to Big Ten road action on Saturday when the Huskers travel to Bloomington to battle Indiana. Tip-off between the Huskers and the Hoosiers is set for 11 a.m. (CT)