Shepard, Whitish Shoot Huskers Past Spartans in OT
Lincoln - Jessica Shepard scored a season-high 32 points and Hannah Whitish added a career-high 24 to lead the Nebraska women’s basketball team to a 76-74 overtime win over Michigan State on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Shepard, a sophomore forward from Fremont, Neb., scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Huskers overcome a seven-point deficit at the end of three periods. Shepard also grabbed 11 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the season.
Whitish, a freshman from Barneveld, Wis., produced the first 20-point game of her career, including a career-high five three-pointers. She hit two threes to open the overtime period to put Nebraska in control in the winning frame.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 7-21 overall and finished Big Ten regular-season play at 3-13 in a four-way tie for 11th. The Huskers earned the No. 13 seed at the upcoming Big Ten Touranment and will play No. 12 seed Illinois on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (CT) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Michigan State slipped to 19-10 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten, after watching Nebraska erase a 14-point second-quarter deficit to rally to victory. Senior guard Tori Jankoska led the Spartans with 29 points, including 7-of-13 three-point shooting. In the fourth quarter and the start of the overtime, Jankoska scored 18 consecutive points for the Spartans in a losing effort.
Shepard scored 12 of her 28 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left to give Nebraska a 65-62 lead.
Jankoska then answered with her sixth three-pointer of the game, a wild running three from the left corner that hit high off the top corner of the glass and banked in with 20.3 seconds left to tie the game at 65.
Nebraska then got a look for Shepard in the heart of the paint in the closing seconds, but her turnaround jumper fell off the iron, sending the game to overtime.
Whitish quickly set the tone for the Huskers in the extra period. After Shepard won the tip, Whitish nailed her fourth three of the game just 19 seconds into the overtime to give NU a 68-65 lead. Jankoska answered with her first two-point field goal of the game on a layup, before Whitish responded with her career-high fifth three with 3:27 left to give Nebraska its biggest lead of the game at 71-67.
Jankoska quickly responded with her seventh three to cut the margin back to 71-70, but Michigan State's offense stalled against a gritty Nebraska defense. The Huskers mustered 1-of-2 free throws with 2:31 left from Allie Havers, who finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists in her final game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Senior Day. Neither team scored for the next 1:25, before Shepard hit a pair of free throws to put Nebraska back up by four at 74-70 with 1:06 left.
Lexi Gussert got a field goal for the Spartans with 56 seconds left to end a stretch of nearly 14 minutes where Jankoska was the only Spartan to score.
After Shepard hit 1-of-2 free throws with 34 seconds left, Jankoska hit a pair of free throws to cut the margin to 75-74 with 19 seconds left. Whitish then scored the game's final point by going 1-for-2 at three throw line. Nebraska's defense answered with a stop and after a pair of missed free throws by Shepard, Jankoska's 70-foot heave at the buzzer hit off the back of the iron to set off a second-straight home victory celebration over a top-50 RPI team at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Nebraska hit 40.9 percent (27-66) of its shots from the field for the game, including 17-of-29 in the second half. The Huskers hit 9-of-14 shots in the fourth quarter, after going 8-for-31 in the first half half. The Huskers hit 7-of-22 three-pointers, but just 15-of-30 free throws for the game. Nebraska outrebounded the Spartans, 48-41 and won the turnover battle, 11-9, despite trailing 6-1 in that category at the end of the first quarter.
Although Shepard and Whitish were the only two Huskers in double figures, combining for 56 of Nebraska's 76 points, Maddie Simon provided a huge lift off the bench for the Big Red with seven points, five rebounds and four assists without committing a turnover. Simon played a season-high 28 minutes and also played stellar defense.
Nicea Eliely nearly shut out Jankoska in the first half, adding seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals for the Big Red. Jasmine Cincore also contributed five points and six boards in the win.
Michigan State hit 38.2 percent (26-of-68) of its shots, including 12-of-27 threes. The Spartans also hit 10-of-13 free throws.
Jenna Allen came off the bench to score 13 points as the only other Spartan in double figures for the game. Branndais Agee managed nine points and six rebounds, while Taya Reimer added eight points and seven boards.
Nebraska got off to a solid start, taking a 10-8 lead on a pair of free throws by Cincore with 5:23 left. However, Michigan State ended the quarter on a 14-0 run, holding the Huskers scoreless for the final 5:23 on 0-for-5 shooting.
Michigan State closed the first quarter at 10-for-21 from the field, while Nebraska was just 3-for-11. The Huskers committed six first-quarter turnovers and were outrebounded 10-9 in the period.
Nebraska responded by winning the second quarter despite cold field goal shooting. The Huskers went just 5-for-20 from the floor in the second quarter by outrebounded MSU, 16-12 in the quarter, and won the second quarter turnover battle 3-1.
Michigan State went just 3-for-14 from the floor in the second quarter, but all three were three-pointers, as the Spartans held a 34-25 lead at the half.
The Huskers went to the fourth quarter trailing 49-42, after outscoring Michigan State 17-15 in the third.