Griffin, No. 3 Nebraska remain unbeated
By DOUG TUCKER
AP Sports Writer
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Coach Connie Yori figured No. 3 Nebraska could take all of five minutes to celebrate an amazing accomplishment that took five months to achieve.
With Kelsey Griffin scoring 36 points Saturday, the Huskers rallied to beat Kansas State 82-72 and become the first team in Big 12 history to post an unbeaten regular season.
“We’re excited about what we’ve done at this stage and where we’ve put ourselves,” Yori said. “But by no means are we going to pat ourselves on the back too much and think this is the pinnacle.”
Griffin punctuated her team’s historic game with her best day, scoring a career high and sparking a second-half rally as the Cornhuskers (29-0, 16-0 Big 12) stuck with No. 1 UConn as the only women’s teams with unblemished records.
“I’m ecstatic that we’ve been able to do this, but we don’t want to focus too much on it because there’s a lot of basketball left to be played,” said Griffin, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer. “We’re excited for it, we feel privileged. It’s awesome to be a part of history, but at the same time, we don’t want this to be the pinnacle of our season. March Madness, like they say, crazy things can happen. We just want to be a part of it.”
The Wildcats (13-17, 5-11), down to only seven players, led by as many as 11 points in the first half and took a surprising 45-38 advantage into the intermission.
But that’s when the game changed character entirely. With the 6-foot-2 Griffin leading the way, the Huskers clamped down on defense and unleashed an 18-3 run, seizing a 56-48 lead less than 5 minutes into the second half.
“Our defensive pressure got after it,” Yori said. “We took things away from them, got up and switched a few more screens. We got aggressive and got some easy baskets in transition.”
Ashley Sweat, the No. 3 all-time scorer for Kansas State, had 24 for the Wildcats and respectfully described Griffin as “a workhorse.”
“She works so hard every possession. Every possession she has incredible body control,” Sweat said. “She’s a great back-to-the-basket player. But she can step out and then drive you to the basket. She’s great on defense. I think she’s just one of those do-it-all players who can literally do everything she has to do to get her team victories.”
Griffin was 15 of 19 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the line. She consistently drove around defenders to bank home short jumpers, and also had seven rebounds.
She eclipsed her previous career-high of 31 points with a three-point play that put Nebraska on top 74-62.
“She’s got a will that’s unbelievable,” Yori said. “I’ve coached for 24 years and I’ve been a head coach for 20 years and I’ve never coached a player that has as much mental toughness as she has. She just wasn’t going to let us lose.”
Cory Montgomery had 13 points for the Huskers, the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big 12 tournament, and Lindsey Moore added 10.
Kansas State canned eight of its first 11 3-point attempts and had the Huskers back on their heels much of the first half.
Sweat hit back-to-back 3-pointers and then Taelor Karr connected from beyond the arc, prompting Nebraska to call a time out while trailing 24-17.
The Huskers fought back and tied it 29-all with 5:34 left in the half, and Branshea Brown’s bucket triggered an 11-0 run by the Wildcats, built on 3-pointers by Karr and Brittany Chambers. The lead reached 45-34 on Chambers’ 3.
But after taking control at the outset of the second half, the Huskers never let Kansas State mount another threat to their historic regular season perfection.
“Hopefully, we can be playing well into March and maybe into April,” Yori said.
Updated March 6, 2010