Having to make late runs is becoming a habit for the Huskers, but the outcome isn’t always in favor of Big Red.
“This is a tough loss on our home court,” said Nebraska coach Amy Williams. “We really wanted to build on momentum after that big win over Michigan and just didn’t come out ready to play.”
Nebraska(14-5, 4-4 Big Ten) kept things close at the beginning before getting smacked in the mouth by the Boilermakers. With an 8-6 lead, Purdue(13-7, 4-4 Big Ten) would close out the first quarter with an 18-7 advantage to lead 28-13. Purdue shot 79-percent in the first quarter, including not missing any of their shots inside the arc while going 4-for-7 from deep.
The Huskers began the second quarter with a three-point play via a basket and free throw from Leigha Brown, but then Purdue came out swinging again. The Boilermakers held Nebraska to just one field goal over the next four minutes, extending the lead to 21 with a 13-2 run.
Then something switched for Big Red.
Isabelle Bourne got fouled on a layup and made the free throw. Hannah Whitish made a jumper in the lane followed by a three pointer before Kayla Mershon hit a three as well. Purdue didn’t score for the final 5:28 of the half and the 11-0 by Nebraska made it just a 39-29 game at the half.
The third quarter began with things hovering around that 10 point difference as Ashtyn Veerbeek scored seven of the first 10 points for Nebraska. The Huskers closed out the quarter on another run, this time 9-0 to make it just 54-50 with 10 minutes left. Nebraska outscored Purdue 21-15 in the quarter, with contributing nine of those.
“Getting defensive stops over and over again helped us a lot,” said Veerbeek. “That made us push better in transition and got us easier looks scoring.”
The Husker run continued as Nebraska fought to take their first lead of the game 58-56 at the 5:48 mark then took their biggest lead of the game at 63-59 with 4:09 to go.
But the energy used to come back has drained the tank for Nebraska.
Purdue outscored Nebraska 17-5 the rest of the way, including six free throws in the final 1:11. The Huskers were held with just a single field goal, a Nicea Eliely triple with four seconds remaining, over the final four minutes.
“It was very disappointing,” said Williams. “We talked in that timeout with 3:40 to go about by no means that the fact that we had taken the lead was the game over.”
The Boilermakers did just enough at the end to hold on for the 76-68 win.
Purdue shot 47.5-percent for the game, including 8-for-20 from beyond the arc. They were led by Ae-Rianna Harris with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds. Karissa McLaughlin scored 19 points and Dominique Oden scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“(Harris) is one of the best post players in the conference,” said Veerbeek, who was one that had to guard Harris. “Super strong and physical. We let her catch (the ball) too low. If she got two feet in the paint it was an automatic two points.”
Nebraska shot 40-percent from the field and only made 6-of-20 three pointers.
Four Huskers reached double-figures, led by Eliely with 15 points. Veerbeek scored 13 points while Brown and Sam Haiby each contributed 10.
This is the first home loss for Nebraska in Big Ten play. They will try for their first conference road win Saturday, January 25 at Wisconsin(10-9, 2-6 Big Ten). The Huskers won the first meeting earlier this month in Lincoln by a score of 65-60.