LOS ANGELES (AP) It took Nebraska a while to find its game after a two-week break. Once the Cornhuskers did, though, they cruised into the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament.
Big Ten player of the year Jordan Hooper had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the Huskers’ 74-55 victory over Fresno State on Saturday.
”We were rusty. We missed a lot of easy shots that we normally make,” league coach of the year Connie Yori said. ”We hope we got the kinks out a little bit and can play better on Monday.”
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That’s when the Huskers will take on either No. 5 seed North Carolina State or 12th-seeded BYU at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus.
Emily Cady added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Huskers (26-6), the Big Ten tournament champions who have won 13 of 14 games. Tear’a Laudermill added 13 points, and Rachel Theriot had 10 points and 12 assists for the Huskers, who controlled the boards, 46-35.
”The game was very physical. That’s definitely a Big Ten-style of play,” Bulldogs coach Raegan Pebley said. ”That played to their favor a little bit more than ours.”
Taylor Thompson was the only player in double figures with 14 points for the 13th-seeded Bulldogs (22-11). They closed within four points early in the second half, but never got any closer in falling to 0-7 in the NCAA tourney. The Mountain West tourney champions had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
”Our team got some stops on defense and we made good shots on offense,” Thompson said. ”We went on a run and then they went on a run. You have your good shooting days and your not good shooting days. We got good looks; they just weren’t falling for us. It’s how it goes sometimes.”
The Bulldogs opened the second half on a 15-9 run to close to 38-34, getting four points each from three different players. Their bench outscored Nebraska’s reserves, 20-7.
The Huskers answered by outscoring Fresno State 14-7, including two 3-pointers each from Hooper and Laundermill, to go up 52-41. From there, the Huskers cruised to the finish.
”We didn’t get good looks at the rim and when we did, we didn’t convert,” Pebley said. ”They stayed patient in finding the right shooters.”
Bulldogs guard Alex Furr went down clutching her left knee with 9:26 left in the game. The junior, who has torn her left ACL twice in recent years, returned later to score a basket.
The Huskers pulled away to a 29-19 halftime lead on a 17-7 run, including six points by Hooper and five from Cady.
The game’s first 10 minutes were a messy affair, with four ties and six lead changes to go with a slew of turnovers and poor shooting by both teams. Fresno State shot 26 percent and had 11 of its 14 turnovers; while the Huskers shot 35 percent and had seven of its 11 miscues.