Huskers Outlast Illini, 80-72
Champaign, Ill. - Hannah Whitish hit a career-high six three-pointers to finish with 20 points, while redshirt senior Janay Morton added the best performance of her Husker career with 10 points off the bench in the second half to lead Nebraska to an 80-72 women's basketball win on Wednesday night at the State Farm Center.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 12-5 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten while notching its seventh consecutive win away from home. The Fighting Illini slipped to 9-10 overall and 0-5 in the Big Ten. The seven straight road wins for the Huskers ties for the second-longest road streak in school history.
Whitish, Nebraska's leading scorer coming into the game, hit 6-of-11 three-pointers on the night and added a pair of late free throws. Whitish's sixth three was her biggest, putting Nebraska up 77-72 with 28 seconds left.
Morton, who scored nine of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, then sealed the Husker win with a pair of free throws with 13.1 seconds left. The Big Red who entered the final quarter with a 58-56 lead got a free throw from Morton to open the quarter, then a Whitish three before back-to-back threes from Morton to shoot Nebraska to its biggest lead of the game at the time at 68-57 with 7:07 left.
After an Illinois timeout, the Huskers got a two-pointer from freshman Kate Cain, who finished with 11 points, to take their biggest lead of the game at 70-58 with 6:30 left. But the Big Red went without a field goal for six minutes until Whitish's final three, as Illinois trimmed the margin to 74-72 with 58 seconds left.
For the game, Whitish led four Huskers in double figures, including 11 points and five rebounds from junior forward Maddie Simon. Senior guard Jasmine Cincore also played big for Nebraska with points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Cincore led a Nebraska team that dominated the glass, 40-27, including 13 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points.
The Huskers hit 46.6 percent (27-58) of their shots, including 12-of-27 (.444) three-pointers. Nebraska hit 14-of-22 free throws, but lost the turnover battle, 13-6.
Illinois hit 26-of-58 (.448) shots, including 7-of-15 threes (.467) and 13-of-19 free throws. Junior forward Alex Wittinger led Illinois with a game-high 23 points, while adding seven rebounds and three blocks. Ali Andrews added 13 points, while sophomore point guard Brandi Beasley pitched in 10 points and 11 assists. Courtney Joens added 13 points and 3-of-5 threes off the bench for the Illini.
The Huskers overcame a slow start to build a 10-point second-quarter lead before settling for a 41-38 halftime advantage. Nebraska went scoreless for the first 3:23 before the Big Red got six straight points in a 1:21 span to take a 6-4 lead.
The Illini led for the last time in the half at 10-8 before a three-pointer by Chicago native Bria Stallworth put the Huskers up 11-10 with 2:48 left in the first quarter. The Huskers the got a five-point play off a layup from Nicea Eliely, who was fouled but missed the free throw. Nebraska got the offensive rebound and Simon hit a three 20 seconds later to push NU's lead to 16-11.
Whitish hit the first of three first-half threes to extend the Husker margin to 19-13 with 34 seconds left in the quarter.
But Nebraska faced adversity in the final five seconds of the quarter, when the Illini's Kennedy Cattenhead was the beneficiary of a foul in the middle of the lane by NU's Cain with less than a second on the shot clock and less than four seconds in the quarter. Cattenhead made one free throw before Cain was whistled for her second foul with 0.9 seconds left on an illegal screen at halfcourt in front of Whitish's half-court shot attempt.
Nebraska still led 19-14 at the end of the quarter, but the Illini took advantage of Cain's absence at the start of the second quarter to cut the NU margin to 22-20.
But the Big Red responded, surging to their largest lead of the half at 33-23 after another five-point play. Grace Mitchell sparked the Huskers with four straight points, including a strong finish at the rim and a foul. She missed the free throw, but 14 seconds later Whitish hit a three to push the NU lead to 10 with 4:48 left in the half.
Nebraska hit 48.5 percent (16-33) of its first-half shots, including 6-of-16 threes (.375). The Huskers went 3-for-5 at the line, but turned both misses into made three-pointers. Nebraska won the first-half rebound battle, 21-17, but lost the turnover battle, 8-3. Whitish led the Huskers with nine first-half points, while Cain and Taylor Kissinger each had six first-half points.
The Illini hit 45.7 percent (16-35) of their first-half shots, including 4-of-9 threes. The Illini was 2-for-5 at the line. Wittinger led Illinois with 14 points, while Ali Andrews added 11 in the half.
The Huskers return to home action at Pinnacle Bank Arena this Saturday when they take on No. 23 Michigan. Tip-off between the Big Red and the Wolverines is set for 7 p.m. with tickets available now at Huskers.com.