"Well, I want to congratulate Kentucky," said Nebraska head coach Connie Yori. "I thought they played really well. They came out and got us on our heels, and we just couldn't get back to who we were all season until the latter part of the game, and that's a credit to them."
With just under 12 minutes to go in the first half, Nebraska held a 17-16 lead. Then, Wildcat senior guard Amani Franklin came off the bench and hit a three-pointer, which gave Kentucky the lead. The Wildcats would lead from that point on.
Nebraska ended the first half with four straight points, and cut the Kentucky lead to nine. The pressure was on Kentucky, who had to try to contain the Huskers to start the second half.
"Nebraska went into halftime on a 4-0 run, and I was really concerned coming out of halftime that if we let them get going, it was going to be tough," said Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell. "So we talked a lot about the first four minutes."
Kentucky extended their lead in those first four minutes. The Wildcats caught fire with an 11-1 run, and took a 19 point lead.
The 32 win Huskers refused to quit. With 3:39 remaining in the game, NU junior Dominique Kelley nailed an off-balance jumper, and cut the Husker deficit to ten. But, Kentucky caught a break. As the ball was loose underneath the UK hoop, Victoria Dunlap tipped the ball in the air, and it managed to get in the hoop.
Nebraska cut the deficit to single digits with two minutes remaining, but it was too late.
Nebraska was lead by the combined force of Kelsey Griffin, Cory Montgomery, Lindsey Moore, and Dominique Kelley, who scored 61 of the team's 67 points, while playing a combined 140 minutes. Nebraska's tired starters just could not contain Kentucky's trio of Victoria Dunlap, A'dia Mathies, and Keula Snowden, who scored 52 combined points for the Wildcats, and shot a combined 21-31 from the field.
"We just wanted to play with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy, and a lot of effort," said Coach Mitchell, who will lead his Wildcats to their program's first elite eight. "It's been our formula for success all season."
The stunning loss also brings an end to the careers of Nebraska's six seniors. The realization has hit that it is all over.
"The thing that hurt so much about losing this game isn't the game, it's the fact that I'm not going to get to go back and practice with these underclassmen and the rest of my seniors," Kelsey Griffin said after her final game in a Nebraska uniform.
The loss hit hard with NU head coach Connie Yori, who seven years ago, worked so hard to put together this senior class. All it took was 40 minutes to bring her time with that group to an end.
"I could foresee ahead that it was going to be a big class," Yori said of her seniors. "It was going to be an important class to get us over the hump, and obviously they've done a lot more than just get us over the hump. I mean, they have taken us to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, won 32 games, absolutely shattered the school record, won their -- were part of winning the first Big 12 championship in program history, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, but 30-game winning streak."
Yori's seventh season as the head coach at NU will go down as her most successful team, and easily the most successful team in Nebraska women's basketball history. The team shattered seemingly every record imaginable, and made a mark on the program that will be remembered forever. After her final game coaching this group, Yori said she'll remember the character of the team, not the records.
"I've been a head coach for 20 years, and this is absolutely the most unselfish team that I've ever coached," Yori said. "They didn't care who got the credit. They weren't about points, rebounds, stats, minutes. They were just about being great teammates, working every day to get better, and there's nothing more that you can ask for as a coach than having an opportunity to work with the young women in our program who have that great character."
This being the final game marks the end of a historic career for Kelsey Griffin. Griffin put herself in the Nebraska record books, was named conference player of the year, and is a candidate for many more postseason award. More importantly, the senior from Eagle River, Alaska helped bring the Nebraska women's basketball program unprecedented success. After her final game, the senior spoke of leaving a mark that will never be forgotten, and turning the page for the future of the program.
"I think that we have helped Nebraska put Nebraska on the map, and I'm so excited to see what the team is going to do next year," Griffin said. "They're bringing in some great freshmen. The freshmen this year got great exposure. Everyone grew up a lot this year, and so I'm really excited to see where Nebraska is going to go, and I know it's only going to get better from here on out."