Lincoln – Sophomore Leigha Brown scored 17 of her game-high 22 points in a explosive first half as the Nebraska women’s basketball team rolled to an 80-58 win over Illinois on Senior Day at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Nebraska knocked down a season-high 13 three-pointers, including 11-for-16 long-range shooting in the first half, led by a career-high-matching four threes from Brown in the first half. Senior Hannah Whitish added 12 points on four three-pointers of her own, while adding a game-high seven assists to go along with five rebounds.
Nicea Eliely pitched in nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in a strong all-around effort, while fellow senior Grace Mitchell contributed four points. Nebraska’s fourth senior, Kristian Hudson also joined Eliely, Mitchell and Whitish as they walked off the floor in the final minute to standing ovations from the more than 5,000 Husker fans in attendance on Senior Day.
For the game, Nebraska shot a season-best 51.7 percent (31-60) from the field, including 48.1 percent (13-27) from three-point range. The Huskers also out-rebounded Illinois, 41-30. NU’s defense held its fifth straight Big Ten foe to 65 points or less, limiting Illinois to just 36.1 percent (22-61), including 37.5 percent (9-24) from three-point range. Illinois also won the turnover battle, 12-11.
Nebraska erupted for its best first half of the season, pouring in 56 points to tie for the 10th-best first-half total in school history, to carry a 56-27 lead to the halftime locker room. The Huskers buried 11-of-16 first-half threes just days after going 2-for-20 from long range at Ohio State.
Brown did the most damage for the Huskers in the half, pumping in 17 points including 4-of-5 threes to tie a career high. Whitish added nine points on three first-half threes, while Veerbeek pitched in eight points including a pair of triples. Cain added eight points of her own on 4-of-5 shooting. She added five rebounds, two assists and two blocks on the afternoon.
In the half, Nebraska hit 63.6 percent (21-33) of its shots overall and went 3-for-4 at the line. The Huskers out-rebounded the Illini 19-10 and won the first-half turnover battle 5-2. Six Huskers had two or more assists in the half, including five from Sam Haiby, who finished with three points, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal.
Nebraska’s defense held Illinois to just 37 percent (10-27) shooting in the half, including 27.3 percent (3-11) from three-point range. Illinois did go 4-for-4 at the free throw line. Cierra Rice led the Illini with 10 first-half points, including eight in the second quarter after Nebraska built a 40-13 lead with a 12-0 run to start the second period.
Brandi Beasley led the Illini with 12 points, while Rice and Kennedi Myles added 10 points.
Nebraska will close Big Ten regular-season action at No. 24 Indiana on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. (CT) in Bloomington, Ind., with live television coverage provided by the Big Ten Network.