Gophers women’s basketball picks up second Big Ten road win at Nebraska

Gadiva Hubbard’s 12-point fourth quarter is what ultimately gave Minnesota its second Big Ten win of the season.

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Shannon Doyle

Gophers center Klarke Sconiers fights for a pass at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The Gophers defeated Eastern Illinois 72-68.

Tony Liebert, Sports Reporter

Minnesota’s lone senior that has spent her entire career with the program came up huge down the stretch, giving the Gophers a 76-71 road victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Tuesday afternoon presented another challenge for the struggling Gophers. There is really no off-day in the Big Ten, because though the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-5) may only be ranked seventh in the conference standings, they entered as one of the hottest teams in the conference. The Cornhuskers went into the match with two consecutive wins over ranked Big Ten teams and three total in their last five games.

“The Big Ten is a tough conference, and there are a lot of great teams,” Gophers’ head coach Lindsay Whalen said. “There is no question that this is a great basketball conference and you’re playing for a team nearly every night that is being considered for the NCAA tournament.”

The Amy Williams-led Cornhuskers has had a next woman up attitude resulting in their recent hot streak. Junior guard Sam Haiby has been the focal point of the offense, averaging 16.9 points per contest all season.

Sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne was the team’s second-leading scorer at 14 points per game before she suffered an ankle injury on Jan. 10 against Michigan State. The school’s all-time leading shot-blocker Kate Cain has picked up the slack, earning last week’s Big Ten player of the week honors. Nebraska’s ability to find production from everyone on their team has been what has carried its recent success.

Jasmine Powell began Tuesday’s matchup trying to carry the momentum from her terrific 22 point, eight assist and seven-rebound performance last time out against Maryland. The Gophers were not able to find much offensive success outside of Powell in the first quarter, trailing 20-10 after 10 minutes of play.

The second quarter saw Sara Scalia carry Minnesota back into the game. All of the sophomore guard’s 11 first-half points came in the second quarter. As a team, the Gophers’ 6-of-13 shooting from behind the three-point line in the second quarter sparked a 15-5 run, shrinking their deficit to 42-39 heading into halftime.

Nebraska opened the second half on a 9-2 run, but Minnesota’s hot three-point shooting carried the team back into the game. A well-balanced quarter saw the six different Gophers score and combine to shoot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc in the quarter, keeping themselves well within striking distance, only trailing 61-59 heading into the fourth quarter.

Gadiva Hubbard took the game over in the fourth quarter. The senior guard finished with 12 points in the quarter, knocking down three of her four three-point shoots, adding three more points from the free-throw line. Nebraska couldn’t overcome its 24.2% shooting in the second half, which helped pave the way for a Gophers’ victory. Hubbard’s late-game heroics ultimately is what earned the Gophers a 76-71 victory.

Hubbard has now been the Gophers’ go-to player late in both of their last two wins. The Virginia Beach, Virginia native scored 19 second-half points in their last win against Wisconsin while playing with four fouls from the third quarter on.

“I think my teammates are trusting me and they know I have the experience to trust me with the ball,” Hubbard said. “I am just trusting in myself and my teammates are trusting in me.”

Ultimately, the Gophers’ remarkable 18 assists on 24 made field goals gave them their best offensive performance of the season, resulting in their second Big Ten win. They now move to 3-7 on the season and 2-6 in Big Ten play.

“We’ve had more time playing together,” Whalen said. “I told our team today, this is our 10th game and we’ve had five or six where everyone is able to play, so I think it’s just about the time together in the gym.”

Next for Minnesota is a Jan. 25 game, where they will travel to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on Penn State.