After picking up her second foul with 10:52
remaining in the first half, Nebraska senior forward and reigning Big
Ten Player of the Year Jordan Hooper was called to the bench.
the star senior, Nebraska raised its level of play to a new height,
outscoring MSU 34-16 the rest of the first period to build a 50-27 lead
It ultimately was an early grave for the Spartans (22-9 overall,
13-4 Big Ten), who fell to the Huskers 86-58 in the semifinal round of
the Big Ten tournament. Nebraska advances to the championship round,
where they will face Iowa at 1 p.m.
"That could quite possibly be the worst game we've ever played,"
head coach Suzy Merchant said during the post game press conference.
Nebraska a lot of credit. Their upperclassmen and leaders really showed
up, set the tone early. And then it was just kind of a snowball effect."
shot 63.3 percent in the first half and 54.2 percent for the game.
times, it seemed as though they could not miss, sinking open jumpers,
contested jumpers, making the most of fast break opportunities and
finishing layups through traffic.
"We had a good game plan and everything like that," senior forward Annalise Pickrel said. Everyone was ready,
everyone was motivated for the game. I feel like, like tonight, we beat
Nebraska junior guard Tear'a Laudermill
had 20 points and three steals, and junior guard Rachel Theriot had 18
points and eight assists.
To MSU's surprise, Nebraska freshman
forward Allie Havers, who averaged just three points per game during the
regular season, was a major catalyst, setting career highs in points
(17), assists (3), and blocks (3) in only 19 minutes of action.
"Kids who don't make scouting reports or play in the rotation are double
figure scorers," Merchant said. "We really didn't play well together, we really didn't
have good leadership from our vets."
The Spartans were
led in scoring by redshirt freshman Branndais Agee with 18 points, who
was a bright spot during the tournament.
Junior forward Becca Mills had
15 points and six rebounds, and redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers
had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Merchant lamented MSU's perceived lack of veteran leadership after
Defensively, the Spartans failed to get stops possession after
possession. MSU never got closer to within 18 during the second half.
"I think that we mentally had a brain lapse, I don't know. We just
weren't defending," senior guard Klarissa Bell said. "Laudermill had three 3's, or whatever it was. When
she gets hot, she gets hot and she keeps hitting shots. I think (Havers) came
in and gave them good minutes during that stretch. Things weren't going
well for us. We couldn't stop them from scoring."
Merchant decided not to use her timeout during the first half run.
reasoning was that she wanted to see her team step up.
In the end, she
said, the timeout wouldn't have made a difference.
"I felt like it was one of those things where watching it, quite
honestly, our kids were really making tons of excuses, quite frankly,
and I was sick of it," Merchant said. "Sometimes you gotta learn a lesson and play though
it. I didn't think it would matter, as bad as that sounds.
"Sometimes, you need to own up and be accountable and gut things out, and I
don't think it would have made a difference. You have a media timeout
every four minutes, you can get yourselves together at that point