Clutch Husker Threes Sink Colorado State
Shepard, Whitish Hit Big Shots in Final Minutes Lincoln – Jessica Shepard battled for her 12th career double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds and joined freshman Hannah Whitish in hitting clutch three-pointers in the final two minutes to propel the Nebraska women’s basketball team to a 62-59 win over defending Mountain West Conference champion Colorado State on Thursday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Shepard, a 6-4 sophomore forward from Fremont, Neb., hit 9-of-22 shots from the field, including a pair of three-pointers to help the Huskers improve to 2-1 on the season while closing out their appearance in the Preseason WNIT. None of Shepard’s shots were bigger than her three-pointer with one minute left that turned a 58-57 lead into a 61-57 advantage. Shepard’s production came despite constant double and triple teams from the Rams, who slipped to 1-2 on the young season with their other loss coming at No. 17 Washington on Monday night in Seattle.
Whitish, a 5-9 freshman guard from Barneveld, Wis., sealed the victory for the Huskers with a pair of huge hits in the final minutes. The first came with her long three-pointer from the left wing with one second on the shot clock that gave Nebraska a 58-55 edge with 1:48 remaining. She added a free throw with 17 seconds left to give Nebraska a 62-59 lead.
Whitish, the 2016 Wisconsin High School Player of the Year, produced the first double-figure performance of her collegiate career with 10 points including a career-high three three-pointers. She also added two assists and a rebound in a career-high 26 minutes off the bench.
Whitish wasn’t the only freshman to make a big contribution on Thursday. Starter Nicea Eliely, a 6-1 freshman from Colorado Springs, produced an outstanding all-around game with six points, six rebounds and career highs of six assists and three steals. Eliely also played the primary role in frustrating 2016 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Ellen Nystrom. Eliely put Nystrom in first-half foul trouble to enable the Huskers to take a 33-26 halftime lead. In the second half, Eliely helped the Huskers build a 13-point third-quarter lead, before Nystrom and the Rams battled back to take a 50-49 lead at the end of three quarters.
But Eliely’s pressure caused Nystrom to commit multiple frustration fouls until ultimately fouling out and turning the ball over with 2:58 left. She was the second of three Rams to foul out in the game, including reserve post Amanda Kantzy who struggled to help contain Shepard, and Elin Gustavsson, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds before fouling Whitish to send her to the free throw line in the closing seconds.
Nystrom, who entered the game averaging 21.5 points per game, and ranked among the top 25 players in the nation last season with 186 assists, managed just 13 points and one assist against Eliely and the Huskers.
The Big Red also got a strong night from junior guard Jasmine Cincore who finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting including a three-pointer while adding an assist and a steal. She also drew a pair of key charges in the game.
It was a true team effort for the Huskers to beat the Rams, who won 31 games a year ago on their way to the NCAA Tournament. Senior center Allie Havers managed just two points on 1-of-8 shooting, but pulled down eight rebounds and tied her career high with five assists, including the big offensive rebound and pass to Whitish for the go ahead three with 1:48 left.
Sophomore guard Maddie Simon added four points including a first-half three-pointer, while 5-5 junior guard Emily Wood contributed a huge offensive rebound off a missed Shepard jumper that not only earned her two free throws but fouled out Kantzy in the process. Wood made both free throws for the Huskers to give NU a 55-52 lead. She was the only Husker that was perfect at the free throw line against the Rams, as the Big Red shot a dismal 10-for-22 (.455) at the line.
However, the Huskers overcame their struggles at the stripe by going 8-for-16 from three-point range, including the clutch threes down the stretch. Nebraska also outrebounded Colorado State, 44-42, and won the turnover battle, 14-10 against the much more experienced Rams.
As a team, Nebraska hit just 34.4 percent (22-64) of its shots from the field, but held CSU to just 38.2 percent (21-55) shooting, including 6-of-23 (.261) from long range. Colorado State connected on 11-of-16 free throws (.688).
Hannah Tvrdy led Colorado State with a career-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds and two assists in 38 minutes against her home-state school.
Nebraska will conclude a four-game season-opening home stand by playing host to Omaha on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Tip-off at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 7 p.m. It will mark Nebraska’s first regular-season with the Mavericks since Nov. 26, 2010, and just the second regular-season meeting between the two schools since 1986.
Nebraska returns to home action on Tuesday when the Huskers take on Omaha. Tip-off between the Big Red and the Mavericks at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 7 p.