Minneapolis – Maddie Simon scored a team-high 18 points, including four straight in the final 25 seconds, to lead a total team effort as the Nebraska women’s basketball team rallied on the road to defeat Minnesota, 79-74, on Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 10-5 and 1-1 in the Big Ten, while Minnesota slipped to 12-3 and 1-1 in the conference, as the Huskers handed the Golden Gophers their first home loss of the season. The Big Red notched its fifth consecutive win away from home to earn its first Big Ten road win under second-year coach Amy Williams. It also snapped a 12-game Big Ten road losing streak for the Huskers overall.
The Huskers, who trailed by six points at 64-58 with eight minutes left in the game, erupted on a 13-2 surge that included five points from Nicea Eliely and capped by a pair of free throws from Taylor Kissinger to give the Big Red a 71-66 lead with four minutes left.
But the Golden Gophers answered with an 8-2 spurt to take a 74-73 lead after a steal and layup from Kenisha Bell with 38 seconds left. The two points for Bell, who finished with a game-high 30 points, were the last for Minnesota, which saw the Huskers score the game’s final six points in the final 24.1 seconds.
Simon hit a hook shot in the lane to give the Huskers the lead back at 75-74 with 24.1 left, then NU got a stop after a quick three-pointer from Gopher freshman Destiny Pitts was off the mark and Simon got the strong rebound and was immediately fouled.
Simon, a 6-2 junior out of Lincoln Pius X High School, calmly stepped to the line and buried a pair of free throws to give Nebraska a 77-74 edge with 12.9 seconds left. Simon finished with 18 points while adding eight rebounds, a career-high five assists and three steals.
Senior guard Jasmine Cincore, who scored 11 big points in the game, then forced an off-balance three from near the right corner by Carlie Wagner, and Eliely cleared another huge rebound for the Huskers and was immediately fouled.
Eliely sank both free throws with 3.8 seconds left to cap Nebraska’s best free throw shooting performance of the season, including eight consecutive makes in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Eliely finished with a season-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting including a three-pointer to open the game. She pitched in six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block for the Big Red.
The Huskers outscored Minnesota 22-15 in the fourth quarter despite sophomore guard Hannah Whitish going without a point in the final period. Whitish finished with 14 points and five assists, but sat out much of the final period after being hit in the jaw while driving to the basket.
Kissinger, who scored four points in the fourth quarter to help the Huskers regain the lead midway through the period, finished with nine points and six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench in her second game back from injury.
Fellow freshman Kate Cain added eight points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks in a solid effort, while tying Nebraska’s single-season freshman block record with 54 just 15 games into the season.
As a team, Nebraska shot a season-high 52.5 percent (31-59), including 6-of-17 three-pointers. The Huskers were also a season-best 84.6 percent (11-13) from the free throw line. It marked just the second time this season that Nebraska hit 70 percent or better of its free throws in a game. The Huskers outrebounded Minnesota, 39-31, but lost the turnover battle 18-13.
Nebraska, which held Minnesota to just 33 points in the second half, limited the Gophers to 15 points less than its season scoring average and a full 20 points below the 94.2 points per game Minnesota had been scoring at Williams Arena in its first seven games this year.
Bell led three Gophers in double figures with 30 points, while Wagner managed 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting for the game, including three threes.
Gadiva Hubbard pitched in 15 points and eight assists, while Pitts contributed 11 points and five rebounds.
As a team, Minnesota was held to just 36.9 percent (24-65) shooting, but hit 12-of-32 threes. The Gophers also knocked down 14-of-19 free throws.
In a back-and-forth first half, Nebraska took its biggest lead at 13-6 with 5:32 left in the first quarter. The Huskers maintained a 15-9 lead with 2:45 left in the first quarter before Minnesota closed the quarter on an explosive 15-4 surge to take a 24-19 lead to the second quarter. Pitts hit three of Minnesota’s six first-quarter three-pointers, including a 30-footer at the buzzer.
The Golden Gophers took their biggest lead of the first half on their first basket of the second quarter to make it 26-19 with 9:30 left in the half, but the Big Red responded with a 9-2 surge to tie the score at 28 after three straight points from Whitish.
The Gophers pushed back to a six-point lead at 41-35 with 40 seconds left, before Whitish drained a three to cut the margin in half and send the Huskers to intermission trailing just 41-38.
Nebraska shot a solid 46.9 percent (15-32) from the field including 45.5 percent (5-11) from three-point range, while hitting 3-of-4 free throws. Nebraska won the first-half turnover battle 8-7, and matched the Gophers on the boards at 17. Whitish led the Huskers with 11 points, while Cincore contributed nine first-half points.
Minnesota hit 14-of-30 first-half shots (.467), including 7-of-13 threes (.538), while hitting 6-of-8 free throws. Bell led Minnesota with 13 first-half points, while Pitts managed nine points – all in the first quarter.
The Huskers started strong in the third quarter and took their first lead of the half at 44-43 on a layup from Simon. The Huskers maintained a 49-48 lead after a Simon bucket with 4:32 left in the quarter, before Minnesota exploded on an 8-0 run in just 1:28 to take a 56-49 lead. A Bell three-pointer with 1:43 left gave the Gophers their biggest lead of the game at 59-51, before Simon and Cain connected for the final six points of the quarter to send the Huskers to the fourth quarter trailing, 59-57.
The Huskers continue their three-game Big Ten road swing by traveling to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. Tip-off between the Big Red and Wildcats is set for 2 p.m (CT).