Jessica Shepard notched her ninth double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead three Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska recorded its first Big Ten women’s basketball win of the season with a 62-58 victory over Rutgers on Tuesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
While the sophomore Shepard contributed her 19th career double-double, junior Jasmine Cincore pitched in 12 points to produce double digits for the second straight game. Cincore also tied her career high with four steals, while adding three assists in a strong all-around effort. Shepard also recorded three steals, nearly matching her total of four steals from the first 16 games this season.
Freshman Hannah Whitish pitched in 11 points for her fourth double-figure scoring effort in five Big Ten starts. Whitish’s two free throws in the closing seconds helped the Huskers seal the win at the line. She also knocked down three three-pointers on the night to help Nebraska improve to 5-12 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten.
Rutgers slipped to 5-13 overall, while falling to 2-3 in the conference. The Scarlet Knights suffered their ninth consecutive road loss this season.
Nebraska led by as many as 11 points twice early in the fourth quarter, the last time on a traditional three-point play from Shepard with 8:15 left that made it 52-41 Big Red. But Shrita Parker and Khadaizha Sanders closed the gap to four points at 60-56 in the final seconds, before Nicea Eliely and Whitish sealed the win at the line. In fact, Nebraska freshmen hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final 3:21 to close the game, starting with a huge offensive rebound and two free throws for Grace Mitchell to give NU a 56-48 lead.
The Huskers then went scoreless for the next 2:45 in the fourth quarter, before Eliely buried a pair of free throws with 36.6 seconds left.
Sanders then answered with her second three-pointer of the quarter to pull Rutgers within 58-53. She finished the quarter with 12 of her 17 points. Whitish then missed a pair of free throws with 27.7 seconds left to open the door for the Scarlet Knights. Parker was fouled 9.6 seconds later but the 92 percent free throw shooter missed the first of two free throws to cut the Husker edge to 58-54. Parker scored 10 of her 12 points in the quarter, as Sanders and Parker combined for all 22 of Rutgers’ fourth-quarter points.
Eliely, who finished with eight points in the game, then stepped to the line and knocked down two more free throws with 16.7 seconds left, before Whitish capped the Husker win with two free throws with nine seconds left.
For the game, Nebraska hit 18-of-25 free throws, including 9-of-11 in the final quarter to get the win. The Huskers hit just 37.3 percent (19-51) of their field goals in the game, including just 7-of-23 in the second half. The Huskers were also 6-of-19 (.316) from three-point range. Nebraska won the turnover battle 17-12, outscoring Rutgers in points-off-turnovers 16-6.
In addition to double-digit efforts from Sanders and Parker, Aliyah Jeune scored 15 points for the Scarlet Knights, including 13 in the first half.
Rutgers finished 21-of-48 (.438) from the field, including 7-of-16 (.438) from three-point range. The Scarlet Knights also hit 9-of-14 free throws and outrebounded the Huskers, 32-31.
The Huskers led 44-36 after three quarters, as Shepard produced 17 points and nine rebounds through the first 30 minutes. Cincore added 10 points through three quarters. Cincore and Shepard combined for nine points in the third quarter as the Huskers won the quarter, 13-9.
Nebraska led 31-27 at the half thanks to 13 first-half points from Shepard. The Huskers hit 12-of-28 first-half shots, including 3-of-10 threes and 4-of-6 free throws in the first 20 minutes. NU also won the first-half turnover battle 10-6.
However, Jeune kept the Scarlet Knights close with 13 first-half points of her own. The 6-1 sophomore entered the game averaging just seven points per game but knocked 3-of-4 threes and 5-of-7 shots overall. Jeune’s eight points in the second quarter helped the Scarlet Knights trim a nine-point deficit at 28-19 with five minutes left in the half to just 29-27 before a steal and layup for Eliely gave the Huskers the final two points of the half.
As a team, Rutgers hit 12-of-23 shots from the field, including 3-of-8 threes in the first half. The Scarlet Knights did not attempt a free and were outrebounded 14-13 in the half. Jeune, Kandiss Barber and Desiree Keeling did not start against Nebraska after Rutgers’ lopsided loss at Illinois on Saturday. Those three Scarlet Knights combined for 21 of Rutgers’ 27 first-half points.
Nebraska led 16-11 at the end of the first quarter thanks to five straight points in the final 50 seconds from Cincore. Six different Huskers scored in the opening period, including three points from Shepard and two each from Eliely, Allie Havers, Maddie Simon and Darrien Washington.
Jeune was the only Scarlet Knight to score more than two points in the opening quarter. She finished with five points on 2-of-2 shooting.
The Huskers return to Big Ten road action on Sunday when they travel to Illinois. Tip-off between the Big Red and the Fighting Illini at the State Farm Center in Champaign is set for 2 p.m.