PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers didn’t look fazed after a 36-day COVID-19 hiatus.
The turnover-prone Nebraska women lost their second straight game after three Scarlet Knights scored 15 or more points en route to a 78-62 win.
The Scarlet Knights began the game with fresh legs and a full-court press, forcing back-to-back turnovers from guard Sam Haiby by double-teaming and trapping her.
“When you’re playing a team that hasn’t played for over a month, it’s less opportunities to really have a good feel for what type of defense they’re exactly going to come out and run against you,” NU coach Amy Williams said.
Turnovers quickly became the tale of the game. The Huskers (9-7, 7-6 Big Ten) finished with 19 compared to the Scarlet Knights’ 10.
Rutgers’ Tekia Mack caught fire early, scoring 17 points in the first half though she didn’t score the final eight minutes of the second quarter after being charged with a technical. She finished with a team-high 26 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“Seventeen first-half points was just really a spark that buried us a little bit and we were constantly trying to play catch-up,” Williams said.
When Mack wasn’t hurting Nebraska’s defense, guard Diamond Johnson was. She has 13 first-half points and went 3 of 5 from behind the arc. The freshman ended with 22 points, hitting 4 of 7 3-pointers. Rutgers forward Arella Guirantes added 17 points and six assists.
“It sounds crazy to think that I’m pleased with the defensive effort on a kid who had 17 points but 5 of 21 is not very efficient,” said Williams, referring to Guirantes’ performance from the field.
A five-minute scoring drought for NU in the first quarter ended with Haiby’s 3-pointer with 2:53 left. But Nebraska was down 22-10 at the end of the first.
Nebraska closed to 32-28 with 4:22 left in the second quarter thanks to 3s by Haiby and Ashley Scoggin. Johnson answered with two 3-pointers to extend Rutgers’ lead to 38-28.
The Huskers trailed 43-31 at halftime as Rutgers shot 51.5% from the field and 6 of 11 from behind the arc.
Coming out of the break, NU didn’t score a field goal until Scoggin’s jumper with 4:19 left in the third, but forward Annika Stewart kept Nebraska in the game with eight third-quarter points. She finished with 12.
Haiby heated up in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of her 20.
Center Kate Cain, who averages 10 points per game and seven rebounds, had four points and two rebounds. She didn’t play a minute in the fourth quarter due to matchup concerns with Mack.
Forward Issie Bourne started her first game since an ankle injury on Jan. 10. She had five points and six rebounds, while forward Bella Cravens had six rebounds with no points.
“The more disappointing thing from that position was just seven of our 19 turnovers really coming from Bella and Issie and those two kids really had to try to handle the ball a little bit and help us with breaking pressure,” Williams said.
Nebraska plays a fast-paced Iowa team in Lincoln on Wednesday.