Shepard’s 30 Helps Huskers Past Bearcats

Published: Nov. 6, 2016 at 9:42 PM CST
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The Nebraska women's basketball team built a 17-point third-quarter lead before holding on for a 73-71 victory over Southwest Baptist in exhibition play at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon.

Sophomore forward Jessica Shepard led the Huskers with 30 points and 13 rebounds, while senior forward Allie Havers pitched in 14 points and six rebounds. The big games inside for their two returning post players helped the Huskers earn their 31st consecutive exhibition victory, but it did not come without last-second drama.

After pushing to a 48-31 lead with 6:40 left in the third quarter, Nebraska saw Southwest Baptist finish the quarter on a 14-2 surge to cut NU's margin to 50-45 heading to the fourth quarter.

Nebraska answered the SBU rally early in the fourth by pushing the lead back to eight points on two occasions, the last time coming on a Maddie Simon layup with 5:31 left to make it 63-55 Huskers. NU maintained a 73-66 lead after freshman Rylie Cascio Jensen hit a free throw with 39 seconds left, but the Bearcats had one comeback left. Forward Kiana Peterson connected on her second three-pointer of the game to cut NU's margin to 73-69 left. Sophomore forward Caylee Richardson added a jumper to cut the margin to 73-71 with 14 seconds left, before a turnover at midcourt by Shepard gave the Bearcats one last shot.

Peterson, who finished with eight points, got a wide open look from just left of the top of the key but could not find the mark with her third three of the game and Nebraska came away with the win.

Following the game, first-year Coach Amy Williams took to the public address microphone to thank the 4,400 Husker fans in attendance for her first game on the Nebraska sideline.

After introducing her coaching staff and family to the Huskers fans, Williams said, "one good thing from today's game that you will be able to see is that we are going to get better."

For the game, guard Megan Rosenbohm led the Bearcats with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and six steals, while guard Alex Botkin added 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Richardson, SBU's top returning scorer from a year ago, added nine points, five boards and four assists, while senior center Natalie O'Keefe contributed eight points off the bench in the first half.

Southwest Baptist hit 45.2 percent of its shots from the field, including 55.6 percent (10-18) in the fourth quarter. SBU also hit 7-of-18 three-pointers, including 3-of-6 in the fourth quarter.

Nebraska answered with 30 points from Shepard and 14 from Havers, while sophomore forward Darrien Washington added five points to give the Big Red 49 points and 21 rebounds inside. Cascio Jensen finished with seven points to lead the Husker backcourt, while fellow freshman Nicea Eliely contributed four points. Senior guard Esther Ramacieri and junior guard Emily Wood added crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Huskers preserve the victory, while junior Jasmine Cincore finished with four points.

As a team, Nebraska hit 24-of-57 shots (.421) from the floor, including 3-of-13 threes (.231). The Huskers won the game at the free throw line, outscoring SBU, 22-8, while also outrebounding the Bearcats, 43-31. Southwest Baptist won the turnover battle, 19-15, including 12-4 in the second half.

The Huskers led 6-0 early before falling behind 16-10 to the Bearcats late in the first quarter. But the Big Red rallied late in the second quarter, outscoring SBU 12-2 in the final three minutes to take a 40-29 lead to the locker room at halftime. Shepard did the most damage for the Huskers in the first half, pumping in 19 first-half points to go along with six rebounds and an assist.

Jensen, Shepard's fellow Fremont High School graduate and Nebraska High School Player of the Year, sparked the Huskers off the bench with six second-quarter points and an assist. Havers also contributed six first-half points to go along with three rebounds.

As a team, Nebraska hit 13-of-29 shots from the floor, including 1-of-5 three-pointers. The Big Red also hit 13-of-18 free throws in the half, including 11-of-14 in the second quarter. Southwest Baptist hit 12-of-29 shots from the floor in the half including 3-of-9 threes, but went just 2-for-2 at the line. Both teams pulled down 18 rebounds and dished out eight assists. The Huskers won the first-half turnover battle, 11-7.

The Huskers open regular-season play Saturday in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. Tip-off between Nebraska and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 1 p.m.