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LINCOLN — Mood: sluggish. Rusty. Maybe a little sad.
The Nebraska women’s basketball team had to battle all three in a 77-67 win over Oral Roberts on Saturday afternoon. The Huskers had to power through a 10-day layoff, another frigid day of shooting from the 3-point line, an in-game injury to starting forward Ashtyn Veerbeek and a short bench missing three players, and, for that, coach Amy Williams was thankful.
The news she received in the days before the game, however, was rough. Junior forward Taylor Kissinger, who had starred in NU’s big win over Duke, will miss the rest of the season after deciding to get hip surgery. Kissinger’s hip had kept her from preseason practice this season prior to a severe concussion that kept her out several games. Now, after visiting a specialist, Kissinger is opting for a redshirt season.
“It’s tough for Taylor, it’s tough for our team, it’s tough for our seniors who absolutely adore playing for her and tough for her to miss out on some of the special things,” Williams said. “This team is 9-1, there’s a lot of excitement in our locker room and some really good goals.”
Oh, yeah. The Huskers keep winning and finding different ways to do it. Saturday, in front of 3,769 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena, it was a 13-0 run midway through the second quarter, spurred by a backcourt trap that sped up and rattled the Golden Eagles (4-7) just long enough to give NU the margin of error it needed against a team that Williams and players admitted played with more tenacity, at times, than Nebraska.
“We talked a lot about being the aggressor this game,” Nebraska guard Sam Haiby said.
Said Williams: “We’ve noticed, a little bit with our team, is that if we find different ways to do that with some different play calls and stuff, then it can pick up our intensity and energy. We felt like, in game preparation, this could potentially be a game where we took advantage of that.”
NU junior center Kate Cain, who had one of her best games of the season with 15 points and eight rebounds, hit a short jumper to break a 25-all tie. Two minutes later, the Huskers applied a two-player backcourt trap, spearheaded by Haiby, that forced multiple turnovers and sped up Oral Roberts’ generally patient offense. In one sequence, Haiby missed a breakaway layup, then got a chance at another breakaway 10 seconds later — which she made.
In all, Nebraska scored 17 points off 19 Oral Roberts turnovers. Williams said it was the difference in the game along with NU limiting the Golden Eagles to eight offensive rebounds and keeping Oral Roberts’ top scorer, Keni Jo Lippe, away from the foul line. Lippe finished with 21 points but attempted just two free throws. ORU, as a team, made 8 of 12 from the foul line.
NU hit 16 of 19, a performance that included a perfect 7-for-7 performance from sophomore guard Leigha Brown, who scored 15 off the bench. Brown had a trio of traditional three-point plays.
“I know these past few games, it’s been kind of rough for me, playing through contact,” Brown said. “That’s really been a point of emphasis for me this past week off. I’m just continuing to work on that and finish inside.”
NU had 38 overall points in the paint despite missing senior forward Grace Mitchell, who’s day-to-day with a shoulder injury that flared up again midweek, and Veerbeek going down in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. The sophomore went to the locker room briefly before returning for a few possessions when Nebraska had the game in hand.
“It looked to me like she was maybe favoring her ankle a little bit,” Williams said of Veerbeek, one of NU’s most efficient players. “It’s probably good for her we have a week off before our next game.”
The Huskers don’t play again until a Dec. 22 tilt against Manhattan. Finals week now awaits for a team packed with good students, Williams said, and enough weapons to overcome a sleepy, sluggish, rusty performance.
“There’s versatility there,” Williams said. “They’ve done a good job through some injuries and in-and-out and players being able to play and some having to limit minutes here and there. We’ve been able to adjust to that and lean on different people at different times.”
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Oral Roberts (4-7).....17 13 20 17—67
At Nebraska (9-1).....16 24 23 14—77
ORU: Lippe 8-17 2-2 21, Torrey 5-13 0-0 13, Garvie 4-9 0-0 11, Kirkhart 4-8 2-3 10, Brotons 4-8 1-3 9, Skalnik 0-2 3-4 3. Totals: 25-57 8-12 67.
NU: Haiby 8-14 3-3 20, Cain 7-9 1-1 15, Whitish 3-8 0-0 8, Veerbeek 3-8 1-2 7, Eliely 1-7 4-6 6, Brown 4-10 7-7 15, Mershon 2-4 0-0 4, Bourne 1-2 0-0 2, Hudson 0-1 0-0 0, Helms 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 29-65 16-19 77.
3-point field goals: ORU 9-23 (Lippe 3-8, Torrey 3-7, Garvie 3-6, Skalnik 0-2). NU 3-19 (Haiby 1-4, Whitish 2-7, Veerbeek 0-2, Eliely 0-3, Brown 0-1, Mershon 0-1, Helms 0-1).
Rebounds: ORU (Lippe, Brotons 7), NU 39 (Cain 8). Assists: OR 15 (Skalnik, Kirkhart 4), NU 14 (Eliely 7).