PISCATAWAY, N.J. — In a rock fight full of seesawing runs, fouls, turnovers and missed free throws, the Nebraska women’s basketball team had one too many pebbles in its shoes.
Ultimately, the Huskers lost 69-65 at Rutgers, never leading after a disastrous end to the first half, when a 32-27 lead turned into a 35-32 deficit with an 8-0 Rutgers run over the final two minutes of the second quarter.
“Anytime you give those type of stretches — whether it comes at the end of the half or at what point in the season — you give them those stretches where they can go gain that momentum, they really feed off of that,” coach Amy Williams said on her postgame radio show. “It’s something you have to try and limit with Rutgers. They just had a few of those runs here today.”
Nebraska (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) hit 12 3-pointers, a performance offset by 32.4% percent shooting inside the arc and 17 turnovers.
Forward Ashtyn Veerbeek scored 14 and Hannah Whitish had 10 while NU got 25 points from its bench, including nine points and eight rebounds from Isabelle Bourne. Rutgers (14-2, 4-1) had four starters score in double figures, but 13 missed free throws left the door open for the Huskers to make a last-gasp run in the final five minutes of the game.
NU fell just short, cutting RU’s 59-44 lead to four by the final buzzer. A poor third quarter, on top of the end of the first half, was too much to overcome.
The Huskers started the game with an 11-2 run — Veerbeek hit two 3-pointers and Whitish hit one — before Rutgers answered with an 11-0 run. Nebraska retook control, tied the game 18-18 by the end of the first quarter and had a 29-23 lead with 3:47 left in the half when Trinity Brady hit a 3-pointer. NU led 32-27 after Leigha Brown’s layup with 2:09 left.
Then it fell apart for Nebraska.
Whitish missed two free throws and NU had turnovers from Veerbeek, Sam Haiby and Nicea Eliely. Rutgers made three layups in the final minute of the half.
“We let our foot off the gas a little bit and let them back in,” said Williams, who added she was “grateful” that the halftime buzzer stopped the momentum.
And while Nebraska stayed close for five minutes of the third quarter, Rutgers’ defense clamped down. The Scarlet Knights used an 11-2 run over the last half of the quarter to put the game out of reach.
NU struggled to get shots at the rim and its two best drivers, Haiby and Brown, combined to hit 5 of 13 shots.
The Huskers had 15 assists to 17 giveaways.
“They were very tough and they forced (us) into more turnovers than what we’re used to. And for us, on a stat sheet, to see a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, that’s never good for us, that’s not going to equate to good things,” Williams said. “You have to credit your defense. I thought they did some really good things to try to take us out of any type of rhythm offensively.
"It was just tough all night.”
Nebraska next heads to No. 17 Maryland on Thursday. It has never beaten the Terrapins and only come close to doing so a few times. Maryland routed Michigan 77-49 Sunday.