Hardy comes up big against Northern Arizona

Kiera Hardy scored 32 points, including 23 in the second half to lead the Nebraska women's basketball team to a 70-56 win over Northern Arizona Saturday afternoon at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. It was Hardy's third 30-point scoring effort of her career and allowed Nebraska to end non-conference play with an 8-3 record on a six-game winning streak.

Kiera Hardy's season-high 32 points marked the second-highest total for her career, trailing only her 37-point effort in the Huskers' 103-99 triple overtime win over eventual national champion Baylor last season. Her 13 field goals also marked a career best, while her five steals were just one shy of her career mark.

The Huskers needed Hardy's hot hand in the second half to overcome a dismal first-half shooting performance as a team. In the second stanza, Hardy hit 9-of-13 field goal attempts, including all three of her three-point attempts to spark Nebraska's 47-point second-half eruption.

As a team, Nebraska shot 62.1 percent (18-29) from the field in the second half, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc, and was perfect from the free throw line with an 8-for-8 effort to head off the Lumberjacks who threatened a comeback midway through the second half.  Northern Arizona slipped to 8-5 with the loss.

Kelsey Griffin's layup to open the second half followed by eight consecutive points by Hardy ignited a 16-2 run to give NU a 12-point lead.  Hardy scored 10 points in just five minutes while Nebraska did not allow Northern Arizona a field goal for the first six mintues of the second half.

Griffin joined Hardy in double digits with 12 points and six rebounds for the Huskers, giving the freshman from Eagle River, Alaska, her the eighth double-digit scoring effort in her first 11 games as a Husker.  Junior Chelsea Aubry chipped in nine points, seven rebounds and three steals. Aubry scored seven of her nine points late in the second half after opening the game with a layup off the tip for the Huskers.      

NU trailed at the half despite forcing 16 Northern Arizona turnovers and outrebounding NAU, 22-20, in the first half. NU hit just 9-of-37 field goal attempts, including 0-of-7 three-pointers, in the opening half, while Northern Arizona knocked down 10-of-23 field goal attempts and 1-of-5 three-pointers. The Lumberjacks were also 4-for-4 from the free throw line.

The Huskers quickly overcame that halftime deficit, turning NAU's 25-23 lead into a 39-27 NU advantage just 4:44 into the second half.

NAU's Sandra Viksryte tried to lead a Lumberjack comeback with 13 straight points midway through the second half, cutting the Huskers' lead down to seven at 61-54 with 2:26 left in the game. The Huskers closed the door on the Lumberjacks for good as Aubry converted a three-point play to push the lead back to 10, before Hardy scored four straight points in a span of 15 seconds to extend NU's margin to 14 points at 68-54 with 56 seconds left in the game. 

For the game, Nebraska hit 40.9 percent (27-66) of its shots from the field, including 27.3 percent (3-11) from beyond the arc. NU hit 86.7 percent (13-15) of its shots from the free throw line, while outrebounding NAU, 40-32. The Huskers also enjoyed a plus-seven team turnover margin by forcing 22 NAU miscues and committing just 15 turnovers, including just six in the second half.

Northern Arizona hit 42.6 percent (23-54) of its shots from the field, including just 14.3 percent (1-7) from three-point range, while hitting 81.8 percent (9-11) from thre free throw stripe.

Viksryte led NAU with 18 points, while Nicky Eason produced a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Megan Porter added a third Lumberjack in double figures with 10.

Nebraska opens Big 12 Conference play on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2006, when the Huskers take on Colorado (5-7) in Boulder. The Buffaloes lost to Northern Arizona 84-83 in overtime in Puerto Rico on Dec. 19. NU's game with the Buffs will be televised live by Fox Sports Rocky Mountain, with tip-off set for 8 p.m. central time.

The Huskers open home Big 12 play against Kansas next Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Devaney Center. The game with the Jayhawks, who are off to the best start in school history at 11-0, will be a special "Pack the Devaney" promotion in Lincoln featuring "Dollar Days" with $1 admission, $1 hot dogs and $1 Pepsi products. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.    

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