Husker Comeback Falls Short at Minnesota

Minneapolis - The Nebraska women's basketball team overcame a 21-point first-half deficit to take a three-point lead midway through the second half before falling 78-70 at No. 10 Minnesota at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Saturday night.

Junior guard Kiera Hardy knocked five three-pointers, including three in the first five minutes of the second half, to lead four Huskers in double figures with 22 points. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Week added a career-high six assists in a strong all-around effort, despite only playing

27 minutes because of foul trouble throughout the game for the Huskers (2-3).

Freshman forward Kelsey Griffin added 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal to help the Huskers outrebound the much taller Golden Gophers

37-24 on the night.

Senior point guard LaToya Howell added an NU career-high 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in her best game as a Husker, while freshman guard TK LaFleur contributed a career-high 10 points to go along with an assist and a steal to give Nebraska a major lift with Hardy on the bench in foul trouble.

Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said Minnesota deserved credit for the victory, while the Huskers showed great heart and fight in the loss.

"I thought our team showed great character with the way they came back on the road against a top-10 team in a hostile environment," Yori said.

"We had two players step up big for us, TK LaFleur and LaToya Howell, who really played well and made big plays for us at big times in the game. You have to credit Minnesota though for taking great shots early in the game and then finding their composure in the second half to hold on for the win by making plays down the stretch."

The Huskers fell behind the Golden Gophers 45-24 with three minutes left in the first half as Minnesota came out firing on all cylinders in the opening period. Minnesota hit 16 of its first 19 shots from the field and all nine of its free throw attempts in the first 17 minutes of the game to shoot to its 21-point lead.

But in the final 2:38 of the first half, Hardy came off the bench despite carrying three fouls and powered Nebraska to a 12-0 run to close the half.

Hardy had a hand in NU's final 10 points of the half, starting her surge with a traditional three-point play with 1:55 left in the opening stanza, before knocking down a two to pull NU within 16. She then found Chelsea Aubry alone underneath with a spectacular spinning assist, before burying a three-pointer with 23 seconds left to trim Minnesota's lead to single digits at 45-36 at the break.

Hardy led the Huskers with 13 points in the first half, while Griffin added a strong effort with 12 points in the first half. LaFleur also gave the Huskers five straight points off the bench in place of Hardy, knocking down a pair of free throws and a three-pointer while adding a steal to help the Huskers.

Hardy maintained the hot hand to open the second half to vault Nebraska into its first lead of the game early the second half. After Jessica Gerhart opened the second half with a jumper, Hardy knocked down a three-pointer to pull NU within 45-41 with 19:05 left in the game. After another Gerhart jumper extended NU's run to 19-0 over a five-minute stretch, Natasha Williams hit a pair of free throws for the Gophers to stop the run and push the U of M lead back to 47-43.

But Hardy hit another three-pointer to pull NU within one at 47-46 with

16:24 left in the half. After a Kelly Roysland basket for Minnesota, Howell knocked down a pair of free throws before Hardy buried her third three-pointer of the second half to give Nebraska its first lead of the game at 51-49 with 15:25 left in the game. When the dust had settled, the Huskers had blitzed Minnesota for a 27-4 outburst in just over seven minutes of play.

However, with 14:24 left in the contest Hardy was whistled for her fourth foul and spent nearly the next eight minutes of the game on the bench.

With Hardy off the floor, Minnesota's Jamie Broback, who tied Hardy for game-high scoring honors with 22, hit a shot to tie the score at 51 with

14 minutes to play. Danielle Page gave NU back the lead with a pair of free throws at the 13:45 mark, before Broback answered with two free throws for U of M.

LaFleur then hit her second three-pointer to give Nebraska its biggest lead of the night at 56-53 with 13:15 to play in the game. Broback scored two more to pull the Gophers within two points before Liz Podominick scored to give Minnesota the lead back at 57-56 with 11:55 remaining in the game.

Nebraska never regained the lead, but Howell kept the Huskers in it until the final buzzer by scoring 10 of NU's final 12 points of the game, including a pair of three-pointers in the final six minutes.

In addition to Broback's team-high 22, Podominick added 15 points, while April Calhoun pitched in 12 points, and Roysland added 11 points for the the Gophers, who improved to 5-1 on the year.

For the game, Nebraska shot just 36.5 percent (23-63), but did hit

9-of-27 three-pointers (33 percent). The Huskers were also solid at the free throw line, knocking down 15-of-17 free throws (88.2 percent).

Minnesota finished the game at 61 percent (25-41), including a blistering

69.6 percent (16-23) in the first half. The Gophers also hit 38.5 percent

(5-13) of their three-point attempts, while knocking down 23-of-26 (88.5

percent) of their free throws. Nebraska and Minnesota each committed 16 turnovers on the night.

Nebraska returns home to the Bob Devaney Sports Center for the first time since Nov. 21, when the Huskers play host to Texas Southern on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Tip-off against the Lady Tigers is set for 7:05 p.m.

Nebraska vs. Minnesota Box Score


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