Huskers Roll to Victory over KU

The Nebraska women's basketball team used a 17-2 run late in the first half to turn a three-point deficit into a 12-point halftime lead, as the Huskers rolled to a 71-51 victory over Kansas in front of more than 5,400 fans at the Bob Devaney Sports Center and an FSN national television audience on Saturday afternoon.

With the victory, Nebraska improved to 13-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12, while Kansas slipped to 11-4 overall and 0-2 in league action. The Huskers also extended their home winning streak to 11 games, including a perfect 10-0 mark this season with their fifth straight series win against the Jayhawks, who entered the contest at 22nd nationally in the most recent collegerpi.com ranking.

First-team All-Big 12 forward Kelsey Griffin led Nebraska with 15 points, including a 9-for-11 shooting performance at the free throw line. Griffin added six rebounds for the Huskers, who produced their best free throw effort of the season at the line, going 30-of-32 at the stripe. Coming into the game, NU had hit just 60.7 percent of its free throws as a team, but improved its season percentage to 64 percent after the stellar effort.

The Huskers were a perfect 19-for-19 from the line in the second half, as they added to their lead after intermission, despite going 12 minutes in the second half with just one field goal. In fact, Nebraska scored 19 points at the line and just 14 points from the field in the second half to produce a 20-point victory margin.

Griffin was the only Husker to manage double figures in the scoring column, but Nebraska received outstanding contributions across the board from its lineup. Senior forward Danielle Page had an impressive line that included eight points, seven rebounds, seven blocked shots, four assists and three steals. Page's seven blocks tied for the second-best total in school history and marked the third time in the last 26 games she had seven or more blocks in a contest, including her school-record nine in a win over Baylor on Feb. 3, 2007.

Sophomore guard Kala Kuhlmann added her second straight strong performance to open Big 12 play, scoring eight points and adding three rebounds off the bench after scoring seven points with a career-best six boards in a win over No. 15 Texas on Wednesday.

Junior transfer Tay Hester added seven points, including a perfect 5-for-5 shooting effort at the free throw line, while sophomore point guard Yvonne Turner continued her solid play with seven points and five steals. Turner has nabbed 19 total steals in NU's last three contests.

Sophomores Nikki Bober and Nicole Neals also provided impressive contributions with six points apiece, including a perfect shooting night from the field and the line for Bober, and a pair of three-pointers for Neals.

"If you look at the stat sheet you'll see that we had 10 players with four or more points," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. "That is exactly the kind of team effort that we want in our system. Kelsey was the only player in double figures, but we had nine players who had double-figure minutes, and we believe as the season wears on that is going to be big for us."

Nebraska concluded a four-game homestand with a perfect 4-0 mark with another tremendous defensive effort. KU produced the highest point total against NU in the last four games, but the Jayhawks struggled to score throughout the contest.

Kansas finished the game shooting just 33.9 percent (20-59) from the field and committed 24 turnovers. The Jayhawks were able to keep the score respectable by outrebounding the Huskers, 38-27, including 19 offensive boards. KU attempted 19 more shots than the Huskers, but hit just one more field goal, while NU outscored the Jayhawks, 30-7, at the free throw line.

"I thought our defensive effort was tremendous for the first 30 minutes of the game," Yori said. "I thought we really came out and got after it, and other than some rebounds that we gave up early after defensive rotation, I thought we were really causing them some problems. I thought near the end of the game we relaxed a little bit and gave up some easier baskets, but for the first 30 minutes we didn't give them anything easy."

Nebraska took control of the game late in the first half, after KU starters Danielle McCray and Taylor McIntosh each picked up their second fouls within a span of 20 seconds.

With NU trailing, 19-16, McCray fouled Hester driving to the basket with 6:50 left. Hester hit both free throws to pull NU within one. After a defensive stop,  Griffin went up strong, scored and was fouled by McIntosh with 6:30 left.

Griffin missed the free throw, but with McCray and McIntosh on the bench the Huskers were off and running. Kaitlyn Burke scored on a layup, before Turner buried a three-pointer from the corner with 5:25 left to give NU a 25-19 lead to cap NU's 9-0 run.

Morris stopped the run momentarily with her jumper, but Page and Turner then connected on four consecutive free throws to give the Huskers points on six straight possessions to take a 29-21 lead with 4:15 left in the half.

Although the Huskers had their streak of consecutive possessions with points stopped on their next possession, they continued to extend their lead with back-to-back baskets from Griffin and Dominique Kelley to push their edge to 12 points at 33-21 with 2:30 left in the opening period.

NU maintained a 12-point edge at 38-26 at halftime, and quickly pushed the margin to 18 by opening the second half on an 8-2 surge, capped by Turner's layup following a steal to make it 46-28 with 17:18 left in the game.

Nebraska's next field goal didn't come until Bober scored with 9:31 left, but the Huskers still maintained an 18-point edge at 56-38, as Cory Montgomery, Griffin, Bober and Page combined to hit eight straight free throws during NU's field goal drought.

The Huskers didn't get another field goal until 2:52 remaining, but managed to push their lead to 20 points after four straight free throws from Griffin and Kuhlmann, and three straight from Hester to make it 65-45 with 3:55 left.

Kuhlmann hit a pair of jumpers in the final three minutes and Catheryn Redmon scored the first two points of Big 12 action in her career to give the Huskers their final margin at 71-51.

McCray led the Jayhawks with 14 points and five rebounds, while Sade Morris added 11 points. Nicollette Smith contributed nine points and five rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench before fouling out.

The Huskers hit the road for the first time in Big 12 action on Wednesday night when they travel to Norman to battle the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. with live television coverage provided by the Sooner Sports Network on MyTV Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 110 in Lincoln and DirecTV Channel 25. The game can also be on Charter basic cable service on Channel 17 in the Kearney and Grand Island areas.

 

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