Huskers win it all!
Indianapolis - No. 16 Nebraska captured the first conference tournament title in school history, outworking No. 23 Iowa on the boards in a 72-65 victory in the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament Championship Game on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Nebraska, which improved to 25-6 overall with a 3-0 performance at the tournament as the No. 3 seed, won the battle of the boards with the leg-weary Hawkeyes, 58-27, including 26 offensive rebounds. Iowa, which moved to 26-8 on the season, finished 3-1 in the tournament after entering as the No. 5 seed.
Nebraska put up 20 second-chance points and went 30-for-36 at the free throw to overcome 31.3 percent (20-64) shooting, including a 2-for-17 effort from three-point range.
Sophomore Rachel Theriot was the only gun firing from the field for the Big Red, scoring a game-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, including 1-of-3 threes. Theriot scored 19 points after halftime, while adding four assists for the game. The 6-0 point guard from Middleburg Heights, Ohio, averaged 18.0 points and 10.0 assists in three tournament games to earn MVP honors.
Jordan Hooper added her 13th double-double of the season and 39th of her career with 18 points and 10 boards, despite going just 3-for-16 from the field and 0-for-3 from long range. The 6-2 senior forward from Alliance, Neb., tied her career high with 12 free throws on 12-of-14 shooting. She joined Theriot as Nebraska's representatives on the all-tournament team.
Junior Hailie Sample added her second career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. The 6-0 forward from Flower Mound, Texas, led the Huskers on the glass and produced numerous hustle plays to give NU a chance to win. Sample's only other career double-double came in last year's NCAA second-round win at No. 9 Texas A&M to send the Big Red to the second Sweet 16 in school history.
Fellow junior forward Emily Cady just missed a double-double with eight points and 11 assists, while junior guard Tear'a Laudermill pitched in 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Although Hooper, Laudermill and Cady combined for 37 points, they went just 8-for-48 from the field.
"We just couldn't hit a shot," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said, "but you look at those rebounding numbers, and oh my gosh, our kids showed that they really wanted to win this game."
The juniors and Hooper played in a game for a Big Ten title for the fourth time in the last three years and finally came away with their first victory.
Iowa outshot Nebraska in the game, hitting 37.7 percent (23-61), including 8-of-25 threes, while going 11-for-14 from the line. The Hawkeyes also won the turnover battle, 16-11. Freshman Ally Disterhoft led Iowa with 20 points, while junior point guard Samantha Logic managed 14 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Melissa Dixon was the only other Hawkeye in double figures with 11 points, as Nebraska improved to 8-0 against Iowa as Big Ten foes, including 3-0 in Big Ten Tournament play.
Nebraska was the aggressor in the first half, taking a 34-26 after carrying a 14-point lead after a 16-0 run made it 18-4 with with 11:03 left. From that point, the Huskers hit just four field goals in the final 11 minutes, as Iowa was able to keep the lead at single digits to end the first.
Although NU only had four field goals in the final 11 minutes, the Huskers got nine points at the free throw line during the stretch. The Big Red went 13-for-18 at the line in the half, after forcing 13 fouls on the Hawkeyes. Nebraska won the first-half rebounding battle, 30-15, including 14-5 on the offensive glass. NU also won the first-half turnover battle, 8-7.
Iowa outshot the Huskers from the floor, but hit just 32.3 percent (10-31), while Nebraska went 10-for-32 (.313). Iowa hit four threes (4-15) to stay within striking distance, while NU wen just 1-for-5. While Iowa outscored the Huskers by nine from outside the arc, the Huskers outscored the Hawkeyes 13-2 at the line.
Theiarra Taylor and Dixon each went to the bench midway through the first half with three fouls for the Hawkeyes, while Bethany Doolittle and reserves Claire Till and Kali Peschel were all whistled for two fouls.
Hooper led all first-half scorers with 13 points, while adding four rebounds. Laudermill added nine points, but the two Huskers combined to go just 5-for-17 from the floor, but 11-for-12 at the line, including a 9-for-10 effort from Hooper.
Sample led Nebraska's boardwork in the first half with eight rebounds to go along with her five points. Theriot contributed five points and four assists.
Disterhoft kept the Hawkeyes within striking distance with 10 first-half points, while no other Hawkeye had more than five points.
The Huskers rebuilt the lead to 13 points as Theriot scored nine straight points for the Big Red to open the second half. But after pushing the lead to 41-28, Iowa began chipping away.
The Hawkeyes cut the margin to just one at 57-56 after three Disterhoft free throws with 7:13 left, but Laudermill was fouled with 4:43 left. She hit the first free throw, before Iowa Coachc Lisa Bluder was assessed a technical foul. Theriot hit two free throws, before Laudermill hit the second of her two to push the NU margin back to 61-56. Iowa got no closer than three the rest of the way as Nebraska made plays and free throws down the stretch.
The NCAA Selection is set for Monday, March 17 at 6 p.m. (CT) with live national television coverage of the announcement by ESPN.
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