Madison, Wis. – Nebraska fought back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to find a way to earn a 72-68 women’s basketball win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore Sam Haiby made the game’s biggest defensive play with her fifth steal of the contest in the corner off a Niya Beverley pass with 7.7 seconds, before burying the game’s biggest free throws with 5.3 seconds left to seal the win for the Huskers. Haiby, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds, helped Nebraska improve to 15-5 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten, while erasing the memory of a one-point loss on a three-pointer at the buzzer last season in Madison. The Huskers also completed this season’s series sweep of the Badgers.
While Haiby made two huge plays in the closing seconds, fellow sophomore Ashtyn Veerbeek hit the game’s biggest shot with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 59 seconds left to put Nebraska up 70-68. Veerbeek finished with 11 points and five rebounds in a strong effort.
Sophomore Leigha Brown led the Huskers with a team-high 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter and a pair of huge three-point plays to help the Huskers rally from 10 points down. Junior Kate Cain added 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds to go along with three blocks, as Nebraska notched its first Big Ten road win of the season.
Imani Lewis led all scorers with 21 points, including a three-pointer with 1:20 left to give Wisconsin a brief 68-67 lead. It was the first three-point attempt of the season for Lewis, and it came with three on the shot clock after Nebraska had played solid defense. But Veerbeek answered with her last three-pointer of the game to give the Huskers the lead for good, before Haiby made the game-clinching plays for the Big Red.
Wisconsin, which slipped to 10-10 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten, also got 14 points and nine rebounds from Abby Laszewski, while Suzanne Gilreath added 11 points off the bench, including a trio of second-half threes.
Nebraska won despite hitting a season-low 33.9 percent (20-59) of its shots from the field. But the Huskers hit a sensational 26-of-30 free throws (.867) on the road, and outscored the Badgers by 14 points at the line. Brown led the way by going 9-for-10 at the free throw line, while Haiby added a 5-for-6 effort at the stripe. The Huskers also hit 6-of-18 threes and matched Wisconsin on the glass with 41 rebounds. NU also won the turnover battle, 11-10, in a well-played game by both teams.
The Huskers held Wisconsin to 38.2 percent (26-68) shooting, but the Badgers heated up from long range in the second half, going 6-for-11 from beyond the arc to finish 7-for-19 for the game. The Badgers also hit 12-of-16 free throws.
In a possession game for the entire first half, Nebraska held a lead for most of the half despite being outshot from the field and outrebounded. The Huskers led 38-36 at the half despite hitting just 10-of-28 field goal attempts (.357) and being outrebounded, 26-17, by the Badgers. Nebraska overcame those struggles by hitting 5-of-12 three-points (.417) compared to just 1-of-8 three-point success by Wisconsin. The Huskers also hit 13-of-15 free throws (.867) compared to 5-of-6 shooting at the line for the Badgers.
Brown led the Big Red with 11 first-half points, and Veerbeek contributed six points on a pair of first-quarter three-pointers.
Wisconsin hit 37.5 percent (15-40) of its shots, but lost the first-half turnover battle, 6-5. Lewis led Wisconsin with 12 first-half points, while Laszewski pitched in nine points for the Badgers.
The third quarter belonged to the Badgers, as Wisconsin outscored the Huskers 21-9, including a 12-2 surge to close the quarter with a 57-47 lead.
Trailing 59-49 with nine minutes left, Cain and Brown scored on back-to-back three-point plays to ignite a stagnant Husker offense in the second half. Minutes later, Brown hit two more free throws, before Haiby and Cain scored on back-to-back possessions to tie the score at 61 with 5:26 left, capping a 12-2 surge for the Big Red.
After UW’s Laszewski hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Badgers the lead back with 4:10 left, Brown finished another traditional three-point play to put the Big Red up 64-62 with 3:56 left.
Julie Pospisilova buried a long three for the Badgers on the ensuing possession before Nebraska freshman Isabelle Bourne hit a free throw, then ran the floor on a the next offensive possession for the Huskers to get a layup off a great delivery from Haiby to give the Huskers a 67-65 edge with 2:30 left.
The defenses controlled the next minute before Lewis hit her unexpected three with 1:20 left. Veerbeek produced the biggest answer of the game with her final three of day 21 seconds later to put the Big Red back up 70-68.
Nebraska got a stop on its next defensive possession before the Badgers forced a shot-clock violation on the Huskers with 12.6 seconds left to give Wisconsin the ball back with a chance to tie or win. Then Haiby made the play of the game with a deflection and a steal of a Niya Beverley pass intended for Sydney Hilliard. Haiby immediately called timeout so Nebraska could advance to the front court with 7.7 seconds left. Haiby received the inbounds pass in the backcourt and was fouled, then calmly stepped to the line with 5.3 seconds left to make both free throws to put Nebraska up 72-68 and seal the win.
Both free throws were made even more crucial as UW’s Gilreath buried her third three-pointer of the half at the buzzer to make the final margin, 72-71 Nebraska. Gilreath and Beverley played major roles in the Badgers pushing to a 57-47 lead at the end of three quarters. Beverley’s three with 4:47 left in the third gave Wisconsin its first lead since the opening moments of the game at 48-45, before Gilreath buried back-to-back threes in a 40-second span to put UW up 54-45.
The Huskers return to Big Ten road action on Thursday when they travel to Minnesota. Tip-off between Nebraska and the Golden Gophers at Williams Arena in Minneapolis is set for 7 p.m. (CT). A live video stream will be available from BTN+ and live radio coverage will be provided by the Learfield IMG College Husker Sports Network.