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Husker women explode in fourth quarter to defeat Michigan in Big Ten opener

December 29, 2018

Through three quarters on Friday, the offense for the Nebraska women’s basketball team hadn’t done enough to get the Huskers a big win against Michigan to start the Big Ten Conference season.

But Nebraska playing its best game of the season on defense allowed the Huskers to stick around through the rough patches, and they rallied in the fourth quarter to win 70-56 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Michigan was held 20 points under its average.

Nebraska (6-6) trailed by six points to start the fourth quarter, but after three quarters in which Nebraska had some stretches with too many turnovers and missed shots, the Huskers outscored Michigan 33-13 in the final quarter.

In the first three quarters combined, Nebraska missed 32 field-goal attempts, shooting 28 percent. Then in the fourth quarter, Nebraska made 60 percent of its shots, going 9-of-15.

“In that third quarter we had some layups that we couldn’t get to find the bottom of the strings,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said. “That’s always kind of nerve-wracking, but the thing we’ve been preaching with this team is to hang your hat on the defensive side. And when the ball is not going through the basket, we said at halftime just keep working, keep executing, because those same shots are going to go when we need them the most; and I thought our kids stuck with it and continued to play defense and dig in.”

Of course, the easiest offense is when it’s created by defense, and that’s what Nebraska did in the fourth quarter.

Junior guard Nicea Eliely was the star in the fourth quarter. She scored all of her game-high 14 points in the final quarter. She had three steals in the quarter, and Nebraska scored off each of them.

Nebraska started the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter. Eliely made a three-pointer and then scored on a drive to the basket.

Eliely came up big again later in the quarter with a steal and layup that gave Nebraska a 53-48 lead with 4:35 left in the game. Michigan never regained the lead.

In the fourth quarter, Eliely made all three of her field-goal attempts, was 7-for-8 on free throws, had two rebounds and one assist. She outscored Michigan by herself in the fourth quarter, 14-13.

“I think that was the first time I’ve had a quarter like that,” Eliely said.

Eliely had not attempted a field goal or free throw before the fourth quarter.

“We talked in our pregame talk about how everybody on this team brings unique talents and special things to the table and we’re not asking anybody to do anything that they’re not capable of, and I thought Nicea just did a fantastic job of playing inside of herself and using the things that she’s great at,” Williams said.

In the fourth quarter, Nebraska only missed six field goals and two free throws, while committing just one turnover. The Huskers outrebounded Michigan 12-3, and only gave up one offensive rebound.

“To watch it all come together and see the team success, it’s just a really proud thing for a coach,” Williams said.

Sam Haiby also had a great fourth quarter, when she scored 10 of her 12 points and made two three-pointers. Maddie Simon finished with 10 points, and it was a couple of tough jumpers she made in the second quarter that kept Nebraska close at halftime.

Nebraska made 17 of 21 free throws for the game. Nebraska outscored Michigan 23-9 on turnovers, an area that had hurt the Huskers in a few losses.

Hallie Thome scored 14 points for Michigan (9-4).

[ PHOTOS: The Husker women’s basketball team opens the Big Ten season against Michigan ]

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