IOWA CITY — In the final minute Monday night, it appeared the tide had finally turned for Iowa against Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes had whittled a 10-point lead to three, brought a home crowd on its feet and got as good of a look as they'd want from one of the top scorers in school history. Jaime Printy's 3-pointer went all the way down and then, as if blown by an invisible wind, spun out. Printy got a second shot but missed again.
And so NU's potential meltdown in Iowa City became a 76-75 squeaker. The Huskers earned their sixth straight win, fourth straight on the road and the fourth straight over Iowa. This budding women's basketball rivalry is still all red.
“We got lucky,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said on her postgame radio show. “We got lucky. On both those plays. There's no doubt, we got lucky. They had two open 3s.”
“They were agonizing,” said forward Jordan Hooper of the final minutes. “Watching them miss the shots that they probably usually make was just — ugh. I was thanking the big man.”
The junior from Alliance could easily have thanked herself. Hooper's 29 points helped build the lead that the Huskers (18-6 overall, 8-3 in the Big Ten) clung to keep. She scored six of NU's first 11 points on 3-pointers, then spent the rest of the night working in the middle of Iowa's zone.
Hooper's play inside the arc helped open up 3-pointers for her teammates. Nebraska made 11 of 23 of them for the night. The last trey, from freshman guard Rachel Theriot, gave NU a 64-52 lead with 8:32 left. The Huskers still led 72-62 with 2:38 remaining.
Iowa then went to work. Guard Melissa Dixon hit a 3-pointer. The Hawkeyes forced two turnovers on the next three Nebraska possessions and hit four free throws. After Iowa guard Samantha Logic ripped a rebound out of NU forward Emily Cady's hands and Husker teammate Hailie Sample knocked the ball out of bounds, Iowa had its chance to tie.
“Iowa — they were fighting tooth and nail to win this game,” Yori said. “This was almost a must-win for them.”
Printy, who scored 16, took the wide-open 3-pointer that spun out. Nebraska better defended her second attempt, also a miss. Sample rebounded and hit two free throws for a 74-69 lead. Dixon swished a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to cut NU's lead to 74-72. Husker guard Lindsey Moore, who scored all 14 of her points in the second half, made two more free throws.
The Hawkeyes (16-9 and 5-6) hit a final 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin.
Nebraska now stands alone in second place in the Big Ten standings, two games behind Penn State, while Iowa — which had started the conference slate 5-2 — slipped to seventh in the league. And Hooper, who's averaging 19.3 points in Big Ten play, has squarely inserted herself in the league's player of the year race.
“She's on a tear,” Yori said in a telephone interview. “She's playing really, really well. She's in one of those stretches.”