Kelsey Griffin scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Nebraska women's basketball team to its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1998 with a 61-58 win over Xavier on Sunday at the Comcast Center.
Kelsey Griffin, a two-time first-team All-Big 12
, hit 10-of-17 shots from the
field and 6-of-8 free throws while adding four rebounds and three
"Kelsey Griffin had a great game for
us, and she is one of the most underrated players in the country," Nebraska
Coach Connie Yori said. "She doesn't get a lot of notoriety, but the Big 12
people know who she is. Her name may not be one you know across the country, but
you can see how great of a player she is. We're glad she's on our team. She made
a lot of plays when we needed her to make them."
which tied her season-high point total for the third time, also matched the
second-most points ever scored by a Husker in an NCAA Tournament game, trailing
only Nicole Kubik's 32 points against Kentucky in 1999.
With the victory, the eighth-seeded
Huskers improved to 21-11 on the season and advanced to the second round of the
NCAA Tournament for the first time since battling Old Dominion at
, in 1998. The ninth-seeded Musketeers
finished their season with a 24-9 record after winning the Atlantic-10
Conference Tournament title.
Huskers' win also allowed the Big 12 to improve to 7-0 in the first round of the
NCAA Tournament, with only No. 8 Texas facing No. 9 Minnesota in Bridgeport, Conn. , tonight.
Griffin's monstrous performance, Tay Hester pumped in 13
points, including two free throws with 35 seconds left to help
victory. Hester's effort matched her second-highest point total of the season
and put her in double figures for the first time since helping the Huskers to a
win over Texas A&M on Jan. 23.
"The pace of the game helped me
because it's the type that I like," Hester said. "I attacked the basket and they
were having trouble with transition defense. We knew that if we kept up our pace
we would get easy layups. I just attacked the basket."
Sophomore forward Cory Montgomery
also gave the Huskers a major lift off the bench by scoring 12 points,
including a pair of three-pointers and six straight points during a two-minute
stretch in the second half. The 6-2 forward from
, added five rebounds and a steal in a
"When I come in, I try to give my
team a needed spark and do my part,"
said. "My shot was on tonight. I
came in and worked hard. I wanted to be aggressive and help my team by making
the open shot."
addition to the offensive exploits of the Huskers,
tremendous led by the inside play of senior forward Danielle Page. The 6-2
native out of Monument,
, pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds
while tying her own NU NCAA Tournament record with five blocked shots. She added
five points and two assists.
Griffin and Hester
both had big first halves to help the Huskers build a 14-point lead with three
minutes left in the opening period.
hit 6-of-8 shots from the field to lead
NU with 13 first-half points, while Hester hit 4-of-6 shots from the field in
the opening period to finish with nine points while adding an assist and a
thought the pace of the game was in our favor," Yori said. "We wanted to
run up and down and the fact that Ta'Shia Phillips got in foul trouble in the
first half, I thought was important. Xavier didn't have the play to run with us,
so at that point, I thought that favored us through a good portion of the
Nebraska led by double figures for
more than 30 minutes in the game, after opening the contest on a 13-2 run in the
first three minutes. The Huskers maintained their double-digit lead for nearly
the entire first half and led by 12 points at 56-44 with 4:39
However, a three-pointer by XU's
Jerri Taylor sparked an 8-0 Musketeer run over the next four minutes that cut
the NU lead to 56-52 with 58 seconds left.
Griffin hit one of
two free throws with 47 seconds left to end XU's run, before Hester grabbed a
big defensive rebound and was fouled with 35 seconds left. Hester, who was
shooting just over 50 percent from the line on the season, then connected on a
pair of free throws to push NU's lead back to seven points at
Taylor hit her
fifth three-pointer of the game to cut NU's lead back to 59-55, before Dominique Kelley sprinted to the basket for a breakaway layup with 16 seconds left to seal
the Husker win.
finished with a team-high 19 points for
Xavier, while Kelley finished with five points, five rebounds and an assist for
Amber Harris, who hit a
three-pointer in the closing seconds to provide the final margin, added 14
points and 10 rebounds for Xavier, while Ta'Shia Phillips finished with nine
points and 16 boards for the Musketeers.
Nebraska shot just
38.1 percent (24-63) from the field for the game, including just 4-of-18
shooting from three-point range. But NU outscored XU, 9-5, at the free throw
line. The Huskers also won the turnover battle (16-14). Xavier, which came into
the game as one of the nation's top rebounding teams with a plus-8.6
margin, won the battle of the boards, 48-41.
held Xavier to just 33.3 percent (23-69) from the field, including 7-of-22
shooting from three-point range. The Musketeers managed just 25.7 percent (9-35)
shooting in the first half to finish with just 20 points. It was the fifth time
this season that
held an opponent to 20 first-half
jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes, as Page and Hester hit
back-to-back threes to open the game before Griffin ran out for a three-point
play to give NU a 9-2 edge in the opening two minutes.
before Kelley gave the Huskers their first double-figure lead on her layup
with 16:15 left in the half.
added a 13-3 run later in the half to
push its lead to 30-16 with 3:45 left in the opening period.
Huskers continued to extend their lead early in the second half,
's second three-pointer of the game
pushed NU's lead to 39-24 with 17:14 left.
Nebraska will face the winner of the
first-round battle between No. 1 Maryland and 16th-seeded Coppin State on
Tuesday at 6 p.m. Central time. The game will be televised live by ESPN2
and ESPNU, while radio coverage will be available on the Husker Sports Network,
including a free audio broadcast on Huskers.com.