LINCOLN — A 10-point scoring spurt at the end of the first half — including an unusual five-point play — propelled 17th-ranked Nebraska to an 87-53 win over South Dakota on Saturday before 5,358 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Husker women ran their record to 9-2 before sending players home for Christmas. They will play their next game at home against Oral Roberts at 2 p.m. on Dec. 29.
Through most of the first half, NU was unable to break away from South Dakota (7-6), which was playing without two key players — one a starter out with an injury and the other a key rebounder attending a family funeral.
But a 30-20 lead quickly swelled to 40-20 with a basket by Jordan Hooper, a three-point play by Hailie Sample and a 3-pointer by Tear'a Laudermill that turned into five points when Hooper was fouled as the shot went in and then sank both free throws.
“That's a huge, huge swing of events right there,” said Amy Williams, a former Husker player now in her second year as South Dakota's coach. “It really gave them some momentum going into the second half.”
The Coyotes never got closer than 19 points after that, and the Husker lead went as high as 35.
All 10 NU players scored, with Hooper leading the way with 19 points. Laudermill had a season-high 15 points, Sadie Murren added 11 and Emily Cady 10. Murren, who hit 3 of 6 3-pointers, also led the team in rebounding with eight, the most of her career.
“I'm pretty short,” the 5-foot-8 Murren said.
But coaches had told her at a recent practice that the team needed her to rebound.
“If I just hustle and go after every ball, I can get some rebounds,” she said.
Husker coach Connie Yori said it was good to get playing time for many players. After playing Oral Roberts, the Huskers will open Big Ten play against Northwestern on Jan. 2.
“We passed the ball better,” Yori said.
She also noted that the Huskers are shooting better.
“Maybe we're getting used to the atmosphere” of the new arena, she said.
As a team, Nebraska shot 46 percent for the game and made 41.7 percent of its 3-pointers.
“We'll take that,” Yori said.
She also complimented the team on its improvement in practice routines and in developing chemistry.
The game was punctuated with officials' timeouts to try to deal with mechanical problems to the shot clock. There were two breaks in action that lasted about 10 minutes.
“It was kind of like having three halftimes,” Yori said.
But NU players maintained their focus, she said.
Hooper had two streaks in the game. After going 2 for 11 through most of the first half, she hit her last five field goals — all four of her shots in the second half — and all four of her free throws.
The Husker senior, who ranks eighth among active NCAA players in scoring, is known for going on hot streaks. Yori said coaches keep telling Hooper not to turn down shooting opportunities.
“If I'm open,” Hooper said, “I shoot it.”