Piscataway, N.J. – Sam Haiby scored 20 points but the Nebraska women’s basketball team came up short in the Rutgers return to play after a 36-day layoff, as the Huskers suffered a 78-62 loss to the Scarlet Knights at the RAC on Sunday afternoon.
Annika Stewart contributed 12 points off the bench and Ashley Scoggins pitched in 10 to give Nebraska three scorers in double figures. The Huskers slipped to 9-7 overall and 7-6 in the Big Ten, while Rutgers improved to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference.
Nebraska found more offense than it did in its 53-50 win over Rutgers in the last game by the Scarlet Knights on Jan. 3 in Lincoln, but Tekia Mack led an explosive RU offense on Sunday. Mack erupted for a career-high 26 points while adding five rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks.
Freshman guard Diamond Johnson added her ninth consecutive double-figure scoring effort with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting with four three-pointers to go along with three assists and three steals, while senior Arella Guirantes contributed 17 points on 5-of-21 shooting.
While the Rutgers offense put up 78 points, a good portion came from the Scarlet Knight defense, which scored 19 points off Nebraska turnovers. Rutgers forced 19 turnovers by the Huskers.
Overall, Nebraska hit 21-of-50 shots (.420) from the field, including 9-of-18 three-point attempts (.500).The Huskers also hit 11-of-16 free throws (.688). NU out-rebounded Rutgers 31-28, but the Scarlet Knights won the turnover battle 19-10. Rutgers hit 29-of-59 shots (.492), including 8-of-20 threes (.400), while knocking down 12-of-16 free throws (.750).
Rutgers got a huge first half from Mack who pumped in 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 three-pointers. Mack scored 10 straight points for Rutgers to open the second quarter to keep the Scarlet Knights in the lead 32-20 after RU led 22-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Nebraska answered with an 8-0 run that included three-pointers by Haiby and Scoggins to cut the Rutgers margin to 32-28 midway through the second. Johnson, who poured in 13 points in the half, hit back-to-back threes to put Rutgers back up by 10 and the Scarlet Knights took a 43-31 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Rutgers, which scored just 50 points in the first game against Nebraska on Jan. 3, hit a sizzling 16-of-31 from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point range. The Scarlet Knights also did it with defense, forcing 10 Husker turnovers and scoring 13 points off the miscues to account for the difference in the first half.
Nebraska hit 11-of-28 first-half shots, including 5-of-11 threes. Both teams pulled down 16 first-half rebounds.
In the third quarter, Rutgers got off to a fast start taking its biggest lead at 55-37 on a Johnson three-pointer. But Stewart sparked the Huskers with back-to-back threes, before MiCole Cayton hit a pair free throws. Stewart scored again before Cayton scored on a layup with 40 seconds left in the period to cap a 12-2 Big Red surge to pull within 57-49. Guirantes then hit a jumper in the closing seconds to send Rutgers to fourth quarter with a 59-49 lead.
Nebraska was able to stay within three possessions early in the fourth quarter the last time coming after a Haiby three-pointer midway through the period, but Johnson answered with a runner and a foul for a traditional three-point play. The Huskers were never able to pull back within single digits.
The Huskers return home on Wednesday to play host to Iowa. Tip-off between Nebraska and the Hawkeyes is set for 7 p.m.