Lincoln – Nicea Eliely scored all of her game-high 14 points in the fourth quarter to fuel a dominant 33-13 surge in the period, as Nebraska rallied to a 70-56 women’s basketball win over Michigan on Friday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Eliely, a 6-1 junior from Colorado Springs, Colo., went 3-for-3 from the field with a three to open the fourth and 7-of-8 shooting at the free throw line in the final period, single-handedly outscoring the Wolverines 14-13 in the period. She also had three steals, two defensive rebounds and an assist in the quarter to help the Huskers open Big Ten play with a victory and improve to 6-6 overall. Nebraska also notched their fifth consecutive home win at Pinnacle Bank Arena, which attracted a season-high 4,450 fans for the conference opener with the Wolverines.
Prior to the fourth quarter, Eliely had not attempted a shot in the game, as the Huskers entered the final period trailing the Wolverines (9-4, 0-1) 43-37.
But Eliely wasn’t the only Husker to erupt in the fourth, as freshman Sam Haiby scored 10 of her 12 points for the game in the final period, including a pair of game-sealing three-pointers to allow Nebraska to surge to the 14-point win.
In the fourth quarter, Nebraska hit 9-of-15 field goal attempts (.600) including 3-of-4 threes (.750), while knocking down 12-of-14 free throws (.857). The Big Red also outworked Michigan on the glass, 12-3, including five offensive rebounds on their eight missed shots in the quarter. Nebraska entered the fourth quarter minus-10 on the glass to a Michigan team that ranked among national leaders with nearly a plus-14 average rebound margin entering the contest.
In a fourth quarter that saw Nebraska outscore Michigan 33-13, the Huskers beat Michigan 10-0 in points off turnovers and 9-0 in second-chance points, while the Nebraska bench outscored the Wolverine bench 14-0. The Huskers forced seven turnovers by the Wolverines, while committing just one in the final period.
“That was really rewarding as a coach to see all the things we have been preaching to our players – like staying locked in on defense, putting great ball pressure on the dribbler and closing out possessions with defensive rebounds – come together in the fourth quarter,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “We played good defense for four quarters today, but especially in the fourth.”
The Huskers, who held Michigan 20 points below its season scoring average entering the contest, limited the Wolverines to just 4-of-12 shooting in the fourth quarter.
In addition to double-digit performances from Eliely (14) and Haiby (12), the Huskers got 11 big points and a career-high five rebounds from freshman Leigha Brown.
Senior Maddie Simon added 10 points to give the Huskers four players in double figures, while sophomore Taylor Kissinger pitched in eight points. Fellow sophomore Kate Cain contributed five points, six rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists and a steal to help anchor the Husker defense. Junior guard Hannah Whitish also contributed five points and three assists.
For the game, Nebraska hit just 36.7 percent (22-60) of its shots from the field, including 13-of-45 through the first three quarters. The Huskers did connect on 9-of-24 threes (.375) outscoring the Wolverines by 21 points from beyond the arc. The Big Red also connected on 17-of-21 free throws (.800) and won the turnover battle, 23-15.
Nebraska held Michigan to 37.7 percent (20-53) shooting, including a dismal 2-of-10 from three-point range. Michigan hit just 14-of-22 free throws (.636) but did win the battle of the boards 39-38 for the game.
Senior center Hallie Thome led Michigan with 14 points and seven rebounds but committed five turnovers. She was also strapped with foul trouble for much of the game.
Sophomore forward Hailey Brown was the only other Wolverine to manage double figures with 12 points, including both of Michigan’s three-pointers on the night. Fellow sophomore Deja Church just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds for the Wolverines.
The Huskers trailed 31-27 at the half despite eight second-quarter points from Simon. Whitish and Kissinger each added five points in the half for Nebraska, but the Huskers hit just 32.3 percent (10-31) of their first-half shots, including 4-of-14 (.286) three-pointers.
The difference in the first half came at the free throw line, where the Wolverines outscored NU 8-3, while attempting 14 free throws compared to five for the home-standing Huskers. The oddly paced half included 20 total fouls, including 11 on Nebraska and nine on Michigan, as eight players (four for each team) ended the half with two fouls.
Michigan hit 37.9 percent (11-29) of its shots, but just 1-of-5 threes. The Wolverines out-rebounded NU, 25-17, and won the first-half turnover battle 11-10. Brown led Michigan with seven first-half points, including the Wolverines’ lone three, while Thome pitched in six points.
Nebraska opens Big Ten road play at Ohio State on New Year’s Eve. Tip-off between the Big Red and the defending Big Ten champion Buckeyes is set for a noon tip with live television coverage by BTN.