Iowa City – Freshman Leigha Brown scored a career-high 20 points, including six in the final 3:30, to help Nebraska rally from a 12-point deficit to cut the margin to two with 26.8 seconds left, but No. 19 Iowa hung on for a 77-71 women’s basketball win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday night.
Brown, a 6-1 wing from Auburn, Ind., scored 20 points in just 19 minutes, while junior guard Hannah Whitish pitched in 14 points, including five points in Nebraska’s furious rally in the closing minutes. Freshman Sam Haiby added three of her nine points in a three-minute stretch where the Huskers scored 14 points to cut a 69-57 deficit to just 73-71 with 26.8 seconds left.
Nebraska slipped to 7-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, while Iowa improved to 10-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
Senior All-American Megan Gustafson led Iowa with 28 points and 17 rebounds but the 80 percent free throw shooter missed four free throws in the game’s final 11 minutes that could have put Nebraska away. However, she drew 12 fouls on the Huskers in the game.
Fellow senior Hannah Stewart made the game’s biggest plays for the Hawkeyes with a pair of offensive rebounds on missed free throws by teammates Tania Davis and Alexis Sevillian in the final 30 seconds that allowed Iowa to push the lead back to two possessions. Stewart finished with 14 points and four boards on the night. Davis, another senior, added 11 points, while junior point guard Kathleen Doyle pitched in 11 points and nine assists. However turnovers and fouls by Doyle and Davis late in the game allowed Nebraska to fight its way back into a one-possession game in the final minute.
Nebraska hung with the Hawkeyes despite shooting just 38.7 percent (24-62) on the night. The Huskers did hit 42.9 percent (9-21) of its threes and 14-of-17 free throws (.824). The two teams both committed 17 turnovers, but Nebraska won the battle of the boards, 41-36. However, Nebraska outscored Iowa 16-5 on second-chance points in the game, even though both teams had 11 offensive boards.
Iowa, one of the nation’s top scoring offenses, hit 49.2 percent (30-61) of its shots from the field, including 4-of-12 threes. One of the nation’s top free throw shooting teams, hit just 65 percent (13-20) of its free throws.
In a back-and-forth first half, Nebraska trailed 37-34 at halftime as Gustafson scored the final four points of the second quarter over the final 1:20.
Nebraska jumped to a 6-0 lead in the game with back-to-back three-pointers from Whitish and Taylor Kissinger, before Iowa answered with a 13-2 surge in a 2:13 span to give the Hawkeyes a 13-8 lead at the first media timeout.
Nebraska responded with 12 points off the bench from freshmen Ashtyn Veerbeek, Haiby, Kayla Mershon and Leigha Brown, who hit a pair of threes, to trim the Iowa margin to 22-20 at the end of the first quarter. Veerbeek, an Iowa native, finished with six points and a team-high nine rebounds in the game.
The Hawkeyes stretched the edge back to 25-20 to open the second quarter before the Big Red answered with an 8-0 run over the next 4:30. Maddie Simon started the run with a three-pointer, before Kate Cain added a traditional three-point play. Brown capped the run to give Nebraska 28-25 lead at the media break in the quarter. Brown finished the half with a team-high eight points. The Huskers maintained a 34-33 lead after a Whitish layup, before Gustafson closed the half for the Hawkeyes. Whitish closed the half with seven points to help the Big Red.
Nebraska hit 40.6 percent (13-32) of its shots in the half, including 5-of-9 three-pointers (.556) and all three of its free throw attempts. The Huskers lost the first-half turnover battle 9-8 and the war on the boards, 19-17. However, the Huskers outscored Iowa 8-2 in second-chance points and 11-7 in points off turnovers.
Iowa hit 48.8 percent (16-33) of its first-half shots, including 4-of-8 threes. The Hawkeyes went just 1-for-2 at the line. Gustafson led the Hawkeyes with 12 points and nine rebounds in the half, while Davis added 10 points.
Nebraska regained the lead to start the third quarter and took a 43-39 lead with 8:12 left in the period on Nicea Eliely’s three-pointer. But the Hawkeyes got 10 straight points from Gustafson in the final 2:48 of the quarter to outscore Nebraska 10-3 down the stretch and take a 59-49 lead to the fourth.
Nebraska returns to Big Ten Conference home action next week, when the Huskers take on No. 4 Maryland on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Tip-off between the Big Red and the Terrapins is set for 7 p.m. with tickets available now at Huskers.com.