Huskers Win State Farm Title

Kiera Hardy scored a game-high 29 points and Kelsey Griffin added her sixth double-double of the year with 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Nebraska women's basketball team to the State Farm Classic Tournament title with an 81-73 victory over the hosts from Florida at the O'Connell Center on Friday night.

With the victory, Nebraska became just the third team other than the host Gators to win the State Farm Classic, while the Huskers also won their first tournament title on the road since capturing the Big Kona Classic in 1996.

Nebraska improved to 12-2 on the season with its sixth consecutive victory, marking the first time since 1982 that the Huskers have won 12 non-conference games to open the season. NU also improved to 5-2 on the year against 2006 NCAA Tournament teams with all five wins coming away from Lincoln . The Gators slipped to 6-8 with the loss, failing to win their home tournament for the first time since Boston College won the crown in 1999.

"We were tough tonight. We responded in some tight situations. We had our four seniors on the floor at the end and they came up big in some clutch situations. The free throws by Kelsey and Kiera were huge, and our defensive rebounding was the key all night long."

Along with the two big efforts from Hardy and Griffin, Nebraska received a career-high-tying 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench from Danielle Page, along with 10 points from sophomore TK LaFleur.

Hardy, a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection, earned State Farm Classic MVP honors with her second-highest point total of the season. She hit 10-of-21 shots from the field, including 4-of-12 three-pointers, despite playing against a box-and-one defense focused on her for much of the game. Hardy also hit 5-of-6 free throws on the night, including four straight to end the game and seal the NU victory.

Griffin, who produced her third double-double in the last four games, including back-to-back double-doubles in the State Farm Classic, joined Hardy on the all-tournament team, while scoring six points in the last four minutes, including each of her last four free throws in the final 1:18.

Nebraska bounced back from its worst start of the season, trailing 6-0 in the first 3:30, before finding the scoreboard. The Huskers' deficit grew as large as nine points at 14-5 with 14:09 left in the first half before storming back in a big way.

Hardy gave the Huskers their first lead of the game with a three-pointer to make it 22-20 with 8:34 left in the half, and Nebraska would not relinquish the lead again. Hardy's three ignited an 11-0 run that ended with a Page layup to make it 28-20 Huskers with 4:33 left in opening period. NU's lead grew as large as 12 at 40-28 on another Hardy jumper with 1:26 left in the half, before a Sha Brooks three-pointer closed the Husker lead to 40-31 at the half.

Brooks, who finished with 24 points to lead the Gators, sparked a quick three-point barrage from the Gators that continued at the start of the second half. Depree Bowden knocked down a triple to cut the NU lead to six, before Jennifer Mossor added another three to cut it to 40-37 with 18:41 to play.

Griffin stropped the Florida surge with a layup, but Mossor connected on another three to make it a two-point game at 42-40. Nebraska continued to hold off the Gators, as a Hardy jumper ignited an 8-0 run capped by a Griffin steal and fastbreak layup to push NU's advantage back to 55-44 with 12:36 left.

But Florida refused to surrender, chipping away at the Nebraska lead until a Brooks layup made it 72-71 Huskers with 1:31 left. Hardy and Griffin closed the door on Florida by combining for NU's final nine points to outscore UF 9-1 the rest of the way.

Along with double-digit scoring contributions from Hardy, Griffin , Page and LaFleur, the Huskers received a career-high-tying 11 rebounds from Chelsea Aubry to go along with seven points. Jelena Spiric also just missed a career-best with nine boards, as the Huskers dominated the glass against the Gators, 54-39.

Nebraska's bench - led by Page and LaFleur - gave the Huskers a huge edge, outscoring a normally deep Florida reserve corps 28-5 on the night.

The Huskers hit 40.6 percent (28-69) of their shots from the field, despite connecting on just 7-of-28 three-pointers (25 percent). NU also hit 66.7 percent (18-27) of its free throws.

Florida managed just 37.5 percent shooting (24-64) from the field, including 29.4 percent (5-17) from three-point range. The Gators also struggled at the line, hitting just 62.5 percent (20-32) of their free throws. UF did force 16 turnovers by the Huskers, while committing just 11 of its own.

Nebraska returns to Lincoln on Saturday to begin preparations for its Big 12 Conference opener at Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 3. The Huskers will tip-off against the 9-3 Longhorns in Austin at 7 p.m.

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