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Nebraska misses opportunities late as Hawkeyes hand Husker women first loss in Big Ten play

IOWA CITY — For a half, Nebraska held the best Big Ten women’s basketball player reasonably in check. She even had a scoring drought that nearly lasted a full quarter.

But Iowa center Megan Gustafson has every post move in the book and, in a fateful third quarter of the Hawkeyes’ 77-71 win over the Huskers, she put them to work.

With a 20-6 run, No. 19 Iowa turned a 43-39 second-half deficit into a 59-49 lead by the end of the third quarter. Gustafson, the 6-foot-3 senior who averages 26 points per game, scored Iowa’s final 10 points of the quarter, drawing fouls on her final two baskets with elongated post moves that NU posts Kate Cain and Ashtyn Veerbeek couldn’t stop. Cain fouled out with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter — and that would hurt Nebraska late when it needed key defensive rebounds and Cain wasn’t there to grab them.

Gustafson finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots. She helped hand the Huskers (7-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten) their first loss in league play. Three players tried to guard Gustafson, including freshmen  Veerbeek and Kayla Mershon.

“She’s such a great player,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said on her postgame radio show of Gustafson. “She’s got counters for everything.”

Nebraska’s normally efficient offense committed 17 turnovers and generally struggled with Iowa’s physical defense and the officials’ willingness to let every player — except, perhaps, Gustafson, who repeatedly drew fouls — battle through consistent contact from defenders.

Then, in the final minute, Nebraska couldn’t cash in on several chances to steal a road win.

» When Nebraska cut Iowa’s lead to four — and had the ball to slice the lead further — point guard Sam Haiby left a top-of-the-key 3-pointer short with 48 seconds left.

“It just rimmed out, but what a fantastic shot,” Williams said, who added that Haiby made a “great read” on taking the shot.

» When the Huskers trailed 74-71 with 18 seconds left, Iowa guard Tania Davis missed a free throw. Iowa forward Hannah Stewart got the long rebound. After another missed free throw, Stewart again got a long offensive rebound. Cain, NU’s best rebounder, could only watch from the bench.

» Husker forward Taylor Kissinger missed a 3-pointer with nine seconds left that would have cut Iowa’s lead to one. The ball went off the back iron.

“We had a couple mistakes where we didn’t take care of business,” Williams said.

Those miscues negated the best game of freshman Leigha Brown’s young career. She finished with 20 points — she has averaged 15.2 points per game in her past five contests.

Senior guard Hannah Whitish scored 14 points and hit 6 of 12 shots from the floor, potentially breaking a shooting slump she’s been in. Veerbeek, playing in her home state, had six points and nine rebounds.

The Hawkeyes improved to 10-3 and 1-1 in the Big Ten.

Nebraska next plays Tuesday, hosting Maryland, which has never lost to the Huskers since joining the Big Ten.

Nebraska (7-7, 2-1)……….20 14 15 22—71

At Iowa (10-3, 1-1)………..22 15 22 18—77

NU: Simon 2-5 1-2 7, Cain 1-6 1-1 3, Eliely 1-2 2-2 5, Kissinger 2-9 0-0 5, Whitish 6-12 0-0 14, Brown 6-10 5-6 20, Mershon 1-3 0-0 2, Veerbeek 2-5 2-2 6, Haiby 3-9 3-4 9, Mitchell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 14-17 71.

I: Stewart 6-11 2-2 14, Gustafson 11-20 6-10 28, Davis 4-9 1-2 11, Doyle 5-9 1-2 11, Meyer 1-6 0-0 2, Czinano 0-0 0-0 0, Ollinger 0-0 0-0 0, Sevillian 2-4 3-4 8, Taiwo 1-2 0-0 3, Totals 30-61 13-20 77.

3-point goals: NU 9-21 (Simon 2-3, Eliely 1-2, Kissinger 1-5, Whitish 2-4, Brown 3-4, Mershon 0-1, Veerbeek 0-1, Haiby 0-1), Iowa 4-12 (Davis 2-4, Doyle 0-1, Meyer 0-4, Sevillian 1-2, Taiwo 1-1). Assists: NU 14 (Eliely 5), I 21 (Doyle 9). Fouled out: NU Cain, Brown. Rebounds: NU 36 (Veerbeek 9), I 41 (Gustafson 17). Total fouls: NU 23, I 14. Technical fouls: None. Att.: 4,391.

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