Huskers Run Past Panthers In WNIT

Photo Courtesy/Scott Bruhn/NU Communications

Isabelle Bourne notched her second straight double-double to lead four Huskers in double figures, as the Nebraska women’s basketball team cruised to a 77-57 victory over Northern Iowa in the second round of the Postseason WNIT on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The Huskers, who improved to 18-14 overall, attracted their third-largest home crowd of the season with 6,478 fans on their way to becoming the first team nationally to advance to the 2023 Postseason WNIT Super 16. Bourne helped send the Big Red faithful home happy with team highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Jaz Shelley added a big game of her own with 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a blocked shot, while Alexis Markowski added 11 points.

Maddie Krull put four Huskers in double figures with 10 points, while sophomore Kendall Moriarty contributed eight big points – all in the third quarter – after graduate guard Sam Haiby left the game with a lower leg injury early in the second period. Haiby, who played just eight minutes in the game, finished with five points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals.

Nebraska’s victory marked the first time in school history that the Huskers won a pair of home postseason games in the same tournament (NCAA or WNIT). It also represented the first time NU advanced to the third round of the Postseason WNIT since 2006, when the Huskers defeated Drake at the Devaney Center before knocking off Wyoming in Laramie.

The last time Nebraska won two games in the same postseason tournament came in 2013, when the Huskers advanced to their second NCAA Sweet Sixteen with wins over Chattanooga and Texas A&M in College Station.

Northern Iowa had its season come to an end with a 23-10 record that included a 16-4 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference. Maya McDermott led three Panthers in double figures with 19 points, while Emerson Green added 11 points. Grace Boffeli just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, while a fourth starter, Rachael Heittola, contributed nine points. The rest of the Panthers combined for just eight points against a stingy Nebraska defense.

UNI jumped to a 16-8 lead in the first eight minutes, before Nebraska responded with a 13-1 spurt to take a 21-17 lead early in the second quarter. Following a Northern Iowa timeout, the Panthers answered with a bucket, and Haiby left the game with a lower leg injury.

Clinging to a tenuous 21-19 lead, the Huskers surged again without Haiby, outscoring UNI 15-7 to take their biggest lead at 38-26 with one minute left in the half.

Nebraska took a 38-29 lead to the locker room behind 11 first-half points including a trio of three-pointers from Shelley. She added four assists, a block and a steal in the half, while Bourne put up 10 points and seven rebounds, a block and a steal of her own in the first 20 minutes. Callin Hake also stepped up in a big way, scoring six points after Haiby left the game. Hake’s contributions came on a three-pointer that gave NU its largest lead at the time (30-23) and a traditional three-point play to give the Huskers the first double-digit edge of the game at 36-26 with 1:30 left in the half.

The Huskers went 14-for-39 (.359) from the field in the half but connected on 6-of-17 threes (.353), while going 4-for-5 at the free throw line. NU outworked UNI on the boards, 22-20, and won the turnover battle 8-0. The Huskers outscored the Panthers 9-0 in points off turnovers in the half to account for the nine-point lead.

Nebraska held UNI to 40.7 percent (11-27) shooting, but the Panthers sank 6-of-14 threes (.429), while going 1-for-3 at the line. Green scored all 11 of her points for the game in the half, while McDermott added 10 points, but the rest of the Panthers combined for just eight points.

Nebraska kept building momentum in the third quarter, as Kendall Moriarty opened the half with a three-pointer before Bourne sank a pair of free throws to extend the Husker margin to 43-29. UNI answered with a 5-0 run of its own, before Markowski provided another answer with five straight points.

The Big Red led 48-36 with 4:30 left in the period, before outscoring the Panthers 13-7 the rest of the period to take a 61-43 lead to the fourth quarter. Moriarty scored five points and Shelley added four down the stretch in the period to solidify Nebraska’s grip on the game.

McDermott scored four quick points to open the final period to give UNI some hope of a rally, but Krull hit a shot before Bourne buried her second three of the game to extend Nebraska’s margin to 19 points and force UNI’s third timeout of the contest. Two minutes later, Krull connected on a three to force Northern Iowa’s final timeout of the day with 4:58 left, trailing by 19. Krull scored the final three points of the game in the closing minutes to give Nebraska the 20-point margin while scoring eight of her 10 points in the final period.

Nebraska finished the day at 40.9 percent (27-66) from the field, including 10-of-28 threes (.357). It marked Nebraska’s 15th game this season with double-digit threes. The Huskers were also a strong 13-of-17 (.765) at the free throw line. NU dominated the glass, 44-34, and held UNI to just five offensive rebounds. The Big Red also won the final turnover battle, 13-7, outscoring the Panthers 16-4 in points off turnovers.

The Huskers held UNI to just 38.6 percent (22-57) shooting, including 9-for-29 (.310) threes. The Panthers hit just 4-of-7 free throws.

Nebraska will advance to the third round of the WNIT to face the winner of Monday night’s second-round match-up between Missouri and Kansas in Lawrence.

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