Lincoln – Leigha Brown scored a game-high 18 points while adding a career-high six rebounds, but the Nebraska women’s basketball team could not fully overcome a slow start in a 62-56 loss to Rutgers on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Brown notched her fourth double-figure scoring performance in the last five games, but Nebraska slipped to 7-9 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten. Rutgers, which is poised to join the top 25 this week, remained the only Big Ten unbeaten in conference play by improving to 5-0 in the league and 13-3 overall.
Rutgers used scalding-hot shooting in the first half to build an eight-point halftime lead and eventually pushed the margin to 13 points at 33-20 late in the second quarter before the Huskers charged back to tie the score at 52 in the fourth quarter.
Taylor Kissinger, who scored eight of her 11 points in the game in the opening 3:30 of the fourth quarter, drained her second three of the period and third of the game to tie the score with 6:30 left.
However, Nebraska went without a field goal for the next 6:25 until Brown’s third three-pointer of the game came with five seconds left.
Rutgers, who also went well over five minutes without scoring early in the fourth quarter, got a layup from senior Stasha Carey with 3:08 left to regain the lead for good. Arella Guirantes, who scored the first five points of the game before being shut out for the next 36 minutes, then hit a challenged three from the deep right wing as the shot clock expired with 1:42 left to put Rutgers up 57-52.
Nebraska continued to come up empty at the offensive end and was forced to foul, sending Carey to the line where she hit a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left to push the Rutgers lead to 59-52.
For the game, Nebraska hit just 35.6 percent (16-45) of its shots from the field against a Rutgers team that is leading the Big Ten in both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. The Huskers hit 7-of-12 threes (.583) while hitting 17-of-28 free throws (.607) but missed six of their last eight free throw attempts in the game, including three in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska won the battle of the boards with Rutgers, 38-28, but committed 19 turnovers compared to just 14 for the Scarlet Knights.
Ciani Cryor led Rutgers with 13 points and hit 3-of-5 threes, while Charise Wilson added 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc. Carey, Guirantes and Caitlin Jenkins all added eight points for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers hit 22-of-54 shots from the field (.407), including 9-of-16 threes (.563) for the game. The Scarlet Knights also went 9-for-12 at the free throw line, including 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
The Huskers trailed 36-28 after Rutgers hit 7-of-11 threes in the first half. In the previous six meetings in history between the two teams, Rutgers was just 17-for-59 (.288) from beyond the arc.
Cryor did the most first-half damage for Rutgers with 11 points including 3-of-4 threes, while Wilson also went 3-for-4 from long range to finish the half with nine points. Guirantes scored the first five points of the game for Rutgers, including a three.
Nebraska stayed in the game thanks to seven first-half points from Brown and five points from Kayla Mershon, who finished with seven points in the game. Sam Haiby pitched in four of her five points for the game in the first 20 minutes. In the half, Nebraska hit 9-of-23 shots (.391), including 2-of-4 threes. The Big Red also went 8-for-12 at the free throw line. NU won the first-half rebounding battle 20-13, but lost the turnover war 9-4 in the half.
Nebraska came out of the break with some fire and went on a 9-0 scoring run – including six free throws – in the middle of the third quarter to cut Rutgers’ lead to 41-38. However Rutgers finished the period with a 50-42 lead.
The Huskers return to Big Ten road action on Thursday when they travel to Champaign to battle Illinois. Tip-off between Nebraska and the Fighting Illini at the State Farm Center is set for 7 p.m.