Women's Basketball falls to Nebraska, 79-75, in Big 12 opener
AUSTIN, Texas -- Led by 27 points from senior guard Kiera Hardy and 21 from sophomore forward Kelsey Griffin, the Nebraska Huskers posted a 79-75 win over The University of Texas in Big 12 women's basketball action Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center. It was the Big 12 season opener for both squads.
Nebraska (13-2) won its seventh game in a row as it overcame a 10-point deficit down the stretch. The Huskers outscored the Longhorns 27-13 in the final 10 minutes.
The Longhorns, now 10-4 overall, saw their three-game win streak end, despite game-highs of 28 points and 11 rebounds from senior All-America candidate Tiffany Jackson and three others in double-figure scoring. It was Jackson's (Dallas, Texas) sixth double-double of the year. Redshirt freshman forward Earnesia Williams (Sapulpa, Okla.) added a career-high 16 points for Texas.
Texas led 62-52 with 10:11 to go before the Huskers mounted a run and took the lead, 63-62, with 5:36 to go following a three-pointer from Chelsea Aubry, to cap an 11-0 run. In the Huskers run, the Longhorns missed four shots and a free throw and had two turnovers. The Longhorns regained the lead, 64-63, with 4:23 to play after a pullup jumper by freshman point guard Carla Cortijo, but that lead was short-lived as Nebraska came down the court and went inside to Griffin who scored on a layup to give NU the lead for good (67-64) with 3:49 remaining.
Down the stretch, the Longhorns would cut the lead to one point four times, the last being with 22 seconds left. Down four (74-70), UT sophomore guard Erika Arriaran drilled a three-pointer from the baseline to cut the lead to one, 76-75. Hardy was fouled on Nebraska's next possession and sank the first of two free throws for a 77-75 advantage. On Texas' next trip down the court, an Arriaran jumper rimmed in and out and Husker Ashley Ford grabbed the defensive board and was fouled on the play with four seconds left. Ford made both of her free throws for the final four-point margin of victory.
Jackson set her career record for free throws made in the game, going 14-for-15 from the foul line. Her previous best at the line was a 13-for-17 effort last Feb. 1, 2006 against Texas Tech in Lubbock.
Joining Jackson and Williams in double-figure scoring were freshman guard Brittainey Raven and sophomore guard Erika Arriaran. Raven (Fort Worth, Texas) had 11 points while Arriaran finished with 10 points and tied her career high with seven rebounds.
Texas is now 8-3 in all-time Big 12 season openers, and this is the first time that the Longhorns have lost at home in a Big 12 opener.
The Longhorns finished the game shooting 45 percent, making 28 of 62 shots, while Nebraska finished the game shooting 52 percent from the floor (30-58). Texas held a 41-29 advantage on the boards, yet the Huskers dominated scoring in the paint by a 32-28 margin. Texas was strong at the free throw line, connecting on 17 of 22 foul shots taken. Nebraska ended the game 14-for-20 from the foul line.
Nebraska got a big boost from its bench, outscoring the UT bench by a 16-4 margin. NU had a third player in double-figure scoring, as reserve TK LaFleur added 11 points. Griffin and Ford each had seven rebounds for the Huskers.
Texas had taken a 34-30 lead into intermission, thanks to 15 points and six rebounds from Jackson in the first half. Both teams shot 42 percent from the floor (both going 13-for-31). The difference in the first half was in rebounding and free throws. The Longhorns controlled the boards in the first half by a 23-15 margin. Texas was eight-for-nine from the line while the Huskers were three-for-four from the charity stripe.
Texas returns to action on Sunday, Jan. 8, hosting Purdue which is ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll and No. 11 in the USA Today/ESPN Poll. The Boilermakers stand 14-2 on the year, having defeated Iowa 68-58 Wednesday night at Iowa City in Big Ten Conference action.
Tickets to Texas home games may be purchased online at TexasBoxOffice.com; by calling 800-982-BEVO or 512-471-3333; in person at any Texas Box Office outlet, including Austin-area H-E-B stores and the UT Athletics Ticket Office in Bellmont Hall (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. CT); and in person one hour prior to game time at the Frank Erwin Center box office.
The Texas-Purdue game has numerous ticket and fan promotions. Postgame, all fans will be treated to a FREE concert by blues and gospel recording artist Ruthie Foster. The contest is a "Take a Kid to the Game" promotion, where youths 14-and-under can purchase a $4 general admission ticket on game day. It also is "Team Day," where a $3 general admission ticket can be purchased for all players and coaches in their team jerseys or t-shirts.
Additionally, it is "Medical Community Night," as all employees in a medical field will receive a discounted reserved ticket. Group packages are also available. For group tickets, call 512-232-3865 or email UTHoopsCentral@athletics.utexas.edu.
NEBRASKA POSTGAME QUOTES
On the comeback victory (Nebraska was down by 10, 62-52, with 10 minutes to go): The last several games we have done a really good job staying composed. We have been giving up leads and have found ways to come back and win in four of the last five games. The accumulation of us running the ball down the floor and getting the ball to our post players was really big. We wanted to get the ball up and down the court and take advantage of our game plan. Being able to get the ball inside off of transition was a key to us coming back.
On the importance of the victory: This a tremendous win for many reasons. Five years ago I took over this program and we came in here and lost big, getting down like 18-0 right at the start. To come away with this win tonight, especially on the road, was really big, with what we have coming up in the Big 12 Conference. Again, a win on the road in this conference is always huge.
TEXAS POSTGAME QUOTES
Let me say this about Nebraska and the job Connie (Yori) is doing there -- this is the best Nebraska team we have played. They are a very very solid team. They've had some close games and have battled at the end of them, so tonight they had some poise in the final minutes and we did not.
On the play of both teams down the stretch: They shoot quick and we talked about that before the game. So, when we got a lead, we were thinking, OK, we are set now. That's how the mind works -- we are up and we are OK. But, it is not OK against a team as offensive-minded as Nebraska is.
Erika (Arriaran) had a look there to tie the game with seven seconds left, but her shot rimmed out. I really thought the difference tonight was our missed free throws down the stretch and the bad job we did defensively. Those were the factors down the stretch.
We will learn from this. I told the players again in the locker room a few minutes ago -- every possession counts, and certainly in this ballgame you could see that. At the same time that it's disappointing to start the conference with a loss, the Big 12 (season) is a marathon. Every night you face a quality opponent. Right now, it might be a good break for us to go outside the league to face Purdue (Sunday). I want to see if we can bounce back from a tough loss.
On what took place when the Longhorns went up by 10 (62-52) with 10:11 to go: We lost focus when we got up by 10. We gave up two really easy buckets, a layup and an open three, and Nebraska is on a roll. We in turn, had defensive breakdowns after we got on a roll. We did not buckle down, had those two defensive breakdowns, and there goes half your lead. That gave them real confidence and momentum, and they were looking to take their shots after that. Hardy really did (hit the shots) when the game was on the line. She really started to heat up in the final minutes. She is one of the very best guards in the Big 12, and showed that tonight.
On our end, we went to a zone and had some breakdowns there, as well. Defense is a team thing. It is not one player's fault that we lost; it was that one or two people had breakdowns at the same time and we did not pay attention at times late in the game.
On junior guard Erneisha Bailey's absence down the stretch (she fouled out with 9:06 to play): She is our defensive sparkplug. I gambled and it did not pay off when I put her back in with four fouls. You never want to put yourself in a position to draw a foul or take a charge when you have four fouls. I had someone at the table to sub for her when she fouled out. That was a tough one. Right now, we are thin at guard. I was expecting and hoping for Crystal Boyd to be able to provide us with depth, but the injury bug hit her again in San Diego, and she is out now and facing surgery on a fractured foot. (Freshman) Brittainey Raven played 35 minutes tonight. It is hard for a young guard to maintain focus in such a tough game like this for that long, and Brittainey struggled with that focus. But, we did not have any option other than playing her as the game wound down.