Hardy Scores 28, but Huskers Fall to Aggies

Kiera Hardy scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds but it was not enough to prevent the Huskers from falling 73-64 to No. 23 Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference at Reunion Arena on Wednesday night.

With the loss, Nebraska was eliminated from the Big 12 Tournament and slipped to 17-12 overall after closing the regular season with five victories in their final seven games. Both of NU's losses during that span came away from home against top 25 opponents.

The Huskers will now wait to learn their postseason tournament fate. The NCAA Tournament will announce its 64-team field on Monday, while the Postseason WNIT will announce its 40-team bracket later that day.

Hardy hit 11-of-24 shots from the field, including a trio of three-pointers in the best Big 12 Tournament performance of her career. Freshman forward Kelsey Griffin added 15 points and four rebounds, while freshman guard TK LaFleur added one of her best efforts of the season with 10 points and three rebounds off the bench.

Takia Starks countered Hardy's effort by scoring 18 of her team-high 22 points in the second half, while adding five rebounds for the Aggies. Morenike Atunrase added 21 points and four boards to help Texas A&M advance to Thursday's semifinal matchup with No. 10 Baylor, which moved to the semifinals with an overtime victory over Kansas State earlier Wednesday.

The Huskers, who entered the contest with a 13-2 record this season when leading at halftime, carried a 29-27 lead into the locker room after Hardy's jumper with 10 seconds left in the half. Hardy scored 16 points in the first half, which surpassed her previous Big 12 Tournament single-game high of 14 points.

Hardy kept firing in the second half, shooting the Huskers to a 35-31 lead with 18:28 left after back-to-back jumpers gave her the 11th 20-point scoring effort of the season.

Then Starks led the Aggies back, knocking down a three-pointer to cut the lead to one. Atunrase added a jumper to make it 36-35 A&M with 16:56 left, before Starks hit another jumper to give the Aggies a three-point lead. Danielle Gant, who scored seven points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, capped A&M's 10-0 run with a three-point play to push the Aggies' lead to 41-35 with 14:50 left.

Nebraska was never able to regain the lead, but the Huskers kept fighting. Led by big second-half efforts from Hardy, Griffin and LaFleur, the Huskers stayed within striking distance.

Hardy scored 12 points in the second half, while Griffin pitched in 11 points in the second stanza. LaFleur, a native of Houston, Texas, scored all 10 of her points, including a pair of three-pointers, in the second stanza to keep the Huskers close.

Nebraska got down by as many as 13 points at 62-49 with 6:07 left in the game, before LaFleur hit a three-pointer and Griffin knocked down a pair of free throws to cut the Aggie lead to eight with 4:36 left.

After a three-point play by Atunrase, LaFleur and Griffin hit back-to-back jumpers to cut the Aggie lead to seven points at 65-58 with 3:12 remaining, but the Huskers could get no closer, as A&M was a perfect 9-for-9 at the foul line in the final 4:03.

For the game, Texas A&M hit 44.4 percent (28-63) of its field goal attempts, including a blistering 56.7 percent (17-30) in the second half. The Aggies also hit 70 percent (14-20) of their free throws, including 10-of-11 attempts in the second half. A&M was also 2-for-3 from three-point range in the second stanza.

Along with their hot shooting, the Aggies dominated the boards, outrebounding the Huskers, 47-30. Nebraska did managed to produce a plus-two turnover against one of the nation's best turnover margin teams.

Nebraska hit 43.1 percent (25-58) of its shots from the field, including 29.4 percent (5-17) from three-point range. The Huskers, who entered the game as one of the Big 12's best free throw shooting teams, struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 56.3 percent (9-16) of their attempts.

Box Score

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