Blacksburg, Va. – Jessica Shepard tied her season high with 25 points and added her third double-double of the season with 14 rebounds, but the Nebraska women’s basketball team faded down the stretch in a 76-67 road loss to unbeaten Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Cassell Coliseum on Thursday night.
The Huskers slipped to 3-4 on the season, while the Hokies improved to 7-0.
Shepard, who hit-12-of-17 shots from the field, scored 15 of Nebraska’s 28 points in the second half, as the Hokies outscored Nebraska 47-28 after halftime. Regan Magarity did the most damage head-to-head against Shepard, scoring 25 points of her own on 9-of-13 shooting. Magarity also hit 4-of-5 three-pointers, while adding eight rebounds and three steals.
Sidney Cook added 14 points and 13 rebounds inside for the Hokies, who were able to overcome a 16-point first-half deficit to rally to victory.
Senior guard Vanessa Panousis also played a huge role in the Virginia Tech win by scoring 12 of her 17 points in the second half. Panousis hit a trio of three-pointers in the second half, as did Magarity. In the first half, the Hokies went just 2-for-14 from three-point range, before going 8-for-15 in the second half.
Nebraska trailed 10-6 after the first 6:30 in the game before erupting on a 23-4 surge over the next eight minutes of the game. Nicea Eliely, Emily Wood and Shepard accounted for all the Husker points during the surge, which turned a 10-6 deficit into a 29-14 NU edge with 5:30 left in the first half. Eliely had a career-high-tying nine points during the outburst, while Wood added a career-high eight points, including a career-high-matching two three-pointers. Shepard added six points.
For the half, Shepard led the Huskers with 10 points and seven rebounds, as eight different Huskers found the scoring column.
Nebraska’s lead grew as large as 16 points late in the second half, before the Hokies started to chip away, narrowing the margin to 10 points at 39-29 at halftime.
At the break, the Huskers were shooting a scaulding 59.3 percent (16-27) from the floor, including 50 percent (7-14) at the three-point line. The Huskers were also 3-of-4 at the free throw line. Nebraska won the first-half rebounding battle, 24-20, despite allowing 11 first-half offensive rebounds to the Hokies. Virginia Tech was able to stay in the game thanks to 14 second-chance points and nine points off of turnovers. The Hokies only had six other points in the half, going just 12-for-41 (.293) from the field.
However, after winning the first quarter 18-14 and the second quarter 21-15, the Huskers watched the Hokies own the third quarter 26-17. Nebraska still carried a 56-55 lead into the fourth quarter. Magarity gave the Hokies the lead at 57-56, before NU senior guard Esther Ramacieri answered with a long jumper. Magarity scored again to put the Hokies back up 59-58, before Shepard answered to give the Huskers their final lead of the night at 60-59 with 7:31 remaining.
A Magarity free throw tied it at 60 with 7:09 left, before back-to-back threes by Samantha Hill and Kendyl Brooks gave the Hokies a 66-60 edge with 5:20 left. The Huskers were never able to recover.
Ramacieri finished with five points and a career-high eight assists. Eliely and Wood both were unable to score in the second half but still finished with career highs. Jasmine Cincore added nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in a strong effort for the Big Red.
For the game, Nebraska hit 52.9 percent (27-51) of its shots from the field, including 8-of-17 three-pointers. The Huskers hit 5-of-8 free throws, and won the rebounding battle 41-35. However, Virginia Tech owned the offensive glass, 17-7, to produce 21 second-chance points, compared to just four for the Big Red. The Hokies also won the turnover battle 25-9, including 16-4 in the second half. Virginia Tech converted the Husker turnovers into 24 points, including 15 in the second half, outscoring the Huskers in that category 15-2 in the final 20 minutes.
As a team, Virginia Tech hit 39.2 percent (29-74) of its shots from the floor, but attempted 23 more shots than the Huskers. The Hokies went 10-for-29 from three-point range and 8-of-17 at the line.
The Huskers return home after a three-game road trip this Sunday to take on unbeaten California at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tip-off between the Big Red and the 6-0 Golden Bears is set for 3 p.m.