Colorado Ends NU Women’s Season 75-71 In WNIT

BOX SCORE Courtesy NU Athletic Communications

Sam Haiby scored 20 points to lead five Huskers in double figures, but Colorado held on for a 75-71 women’s basketball win over Nebraska in the round of 16 at the 2021 Postseason WNIT at My Movers Fieldhouse on Saturday night.

Nebraska ended its season with a 13-13 overall record that included a 9-10 Big Ten mark as one eight conference schools to advance to the postseason. Colorado advanced to the Memphis Regional championship game to be played on Monday, improving to 12-10 on the season after going 8-8 in the Pac-12.

Haiby added six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot to her 10th 20-point scoring performance of the season. The 5-9 All-Big Ten guard from Moorhead, Minn., scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including four points after back-to-back steals in an 11-second span. Haiby’s eruption came after the Huskers had fallen behind 68-57 with three minutes left. It was Nebraska’s biggest deficit of the game, but two free throws by Bella Cravens and a three-pointer by Mi’Cole Cayton surrounding Haiby’s spurt had the Huskers back within a possession at 69-66 with one minute left.

Cravens finished with 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds to go along with three assists and two blocks. Kate Cain and Isabelle Bourne also pitched in 10 points, while Cayton finished with six points on a pair of three-pointers.

Annika Stewart added 11 points in 11 minutes off the bench by burying 3-of-4 three-pointers, as she and Cayton combined to go 5-for-6 from long range. Stewart’s final three came with four seconds left to pull NU within 74-71. However, the rest of the Huskers went just 2-for-21 from beyond the arc on the night in what ultimately was the difference in a tight contest.

While NU went just 7-for-27 (.259) as a team from three-point range, the Buffaloes hit 8-of-19 three-point attempts (.421). The Buffs also outscored Nebraska 19-16 at the free throw line. CU went 9-for-14 at the line in the fourth quarter, as NU was forced to foul down the stretch to try and cut into the lead. Nebraska finished 24-of-59 (.407) from the field and 16-of-20 at the free throw line. Colorado also hit 24 field goals on just 49 attempts (.490), while knocking down 19-of-28 free throws (.679). The Buffs won the battle of the boards 33-31, but the Huskers won the turnover battle, 13-9.

Frida Formann led Colorado with 18 points, including 4-of-7 three-point shooting, while going 4-for-4 at the foul line. Charlotte Whittaker helped the Buffs off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds inside, while Peanut Tuitele added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Lesila Finau gave CU four players in double figures with 12 points, including 10 in the decisive fourth quarter.

Nebraska went to the final period trailing just 50-47, and Haiby pulled the Big Red within 50-49 on the opening possession. But Colorado responded with a 9-0 run that began with back-to-back baskets by Whittaker and a three-pointer by Finau, before Tuitele capped the run to make it 59-49. 

In a tightly contested first half, Colorado used a 12-2 surge to build a 22-12 lead late in the first quarter. However, Haiby scored the final five points of the quarter and added the first two of the second quarter to quickly trim CU’s margin to 22-19.

After a pair of free throws by CU’s Tayanna Jones stopped Haiby’s run, back-to-back buckets by Cravens and Cain cut the Buff margin to 24-23 with 7:18 left in the half. Nebraska had multiple chances to take the lead, but Colorado held and responded with six straight points to regain a 30-23 edge with just under three minutes remaining in the half.

Nebraska found answers on back-to-back threes by Cayton and Stewart in the final 1:10 to head to the locker room down just 34-31. Cain led Nebraska with eight first-half points, while Haiby added seven and Cravens contributed six points and five rebounds. Nebraska hit just 11-of-29 shots (.379) from the floor including just 3-of-12 threes (.250), while knocking down 6-of-8 free throws.

Colorado hit 50 percent (12-24) of its first-half shots including 4-of-8 threes, while going 6-for-10 from the line. CU won the battle of the boards 17-15, but had no offensive rebounds. Nebraska won the first-half turnover battle, 5-3. Tuitele led CU with seven points and five boards in the half, while Jones added seven points and Charlotte Whittaker pitched in six points.

CU opened the second half with a Formann three-pointer, before Cain, Bourne and Haiby responded with a 7-0 run over the next minute capped by a Haiby three to give the Huskers their only lead of the second half at 38-37. The Buffs responded with a 7-0 run of their own, but Nebraska cut the lead back to one point on two more occasions in the quarter.

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