Lincoln – The Nebraska women’s basketball team struggled with their shooting strokes from near and far in a 55-35 loss to No. 25 Missouri in the second round of the Preseason WNIT at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Monday night.
The Huskers, who slipped to 1-1 on the season, hit just 15.9 percent (10-63) of their shots from the field, including just 4-of-32 two-point attempts. The Big Red connected on 6-of-31 threes (.194) and just 9-of-17 free throws (.529) in a rugged shooting performance against a Missouri team that advanced to the Preseason WNIT semifinals to improve to 2-0. The Tigers return four starters from a squad that advanced to the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Jessica Shepard, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, just missed her second straight double-double to open the season, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. But Shepard hit just 4-of-17 field goal attempts and 3-of-7 free throws.
Sophie Cunningham, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, led Missouri with 18 points and 10 rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and 7-of-9 shooting at the line. Sierra Michaelis matched Cunningham for game-high scoring honors with 18 points, including 4-of-11 three-point shooting, while Cierra Porter added a double-double inside with 10 points and 10 boards for the Tigers.
Although Nebraska’s offense struggled, the defense played well for a majority of the game, holding the Tigers to just 36 percent shooting (18-50) including 24 percent (6-25) from beyond the arc. MU did hit 13-of-17 free throws (.765).
Nebraska battled to a 9-7 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter, but went nearly eight minutes without scoring as Missouri went on a 16-0 run to take a 23-9 lead with 6:45 left in the second quarter.
Shepard, who knocked down a free throw line jumper with 6:30 left in the half to stop the run, got Nebraska in the scoring column in the second, but Missouri scored seven straight points to build a 30-11 lead before Nebraska called a timeout.
Over the final four minutes of the first half, Nebraska shut out Missouri and got five points to cut Missouri’s halftime lead back to 14 points at 30-16.
Shepard and freshman Nicea Eliely were the only Huskers to hit more than one field goal in the first half. Shepard went 2-for-9 with a three to finish with five points, while Eliely added 2-for-5 shooting with a three of her own to finish with five points and four rebounds in the half. Esther Ramacieri and Maddie Simon each added first-half three-pointers for the Huskers, who went 4-for-18 from three-point range (.222) but just 6-for-37 overall from the field (.162).
Nebraska did not attempt a free throw in the first half, as the two teams combined for just eight fouls in the half. Missouri went 1-for-1 at the line, while managing 12-of-28 field goal shooting (.429) including 5-for-16 (.313) from three-point range. The Huskers were outrebounded 27-20 in the half, despite grabbing 10 offensive rebounds.
The Huskers, who missed their first 16 two-point field goal attempts in the game, got an uncontested layup from Shepard off a nice assist from Ramacieri to open the second half, befor Ramacieri hit 1-of-2 free throws to cut the Tiger lead to 11 at 30-19. Ramacieri’s free throw capped an 8-0 Husker run.
A pair of free throws by Cunningham stopped the run before Shepard hit 1-of-4 free throws with 6:01 left in the third quarter to make it 32-20.
Porter then hit back-to-back field goals to end nearly a nine-minute field goal drought for the Tigers. A traditional three-point play by Shepard trimmed the margin back to 13, but Missouri did not allow the Huskers to get any closer the rest of the way.
Eliely finished with her second straight strong all-around performance for the Huskers with eight points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block. The freshman hit 2-of-5 field goals and 3-4 free throws, as the only Husker to shoot better than 30 percent from the floor or 50 percent from the line in the game.
Simon finished with six points on a pair of threes off the bench, as the only other Husker to score more than four points.
Nebraska’s 35 points tied for the second-lowest total in school history, matching the 35 it scored against Texas Tech on Feb. 26, 2003. The four lowest scoring totals in school history came against Big 12/Big Eight foes, including 31 points at Kansas State on Feb. 17, 1975. The last time Nebraska scored fewer than 40 points in a game came with 37 points at Kansas State on Jan. 22, 2011.
The 90 combined points for both teams was one of the 10 lowest outputs in school history, but the last time Nebraska was involved in a game with 90 or fewer points came just 43 games ago when Rutgers outlasted the Huskers 46-43 on Feb. 5, 2015 at the RAC in Piscataway.
Nebraska returns to Preseason WNIT action at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m.