Lincoln - The Nebraska women's basketball team used a suffocating defense to hold Illinois to just 10 first-half points, as the Huskers worked their way to a 62-47 win over the Fighting Illini at the Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday night.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 17-6 overall and 8-2 in the Big Ten, while Illinois slipped to 9-15 overall and 0-10 in the conference. Coupled with a Purdue win over Michigan, Nebraska climbed into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, trailing only No. 11 Maryland. The Terrapins improved to 19-3 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten with a win over Rutgers on Thursday night in College Park. Sunday's 2 p.m. tip with the Terrapins at Pinnacle Bank Arena will be for first place in the Big Ten standings, and tickets are available now at Huskers.com.
Fans are encouraged to by tickets on-line early to avoid lines at the ticket windows on Sunday.
In a low-scoring defensive struggle, sophomore Nicea Eliely was the only Husker to score in double figures with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, including a three-pointer. She added six rebounds and a steal in just 23 minutes for the Big Red.
Freshman Taylor Kissinger added nine points, six rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench, to help the Husker reserves outscore the Illinois bench, 26-9 to more than account for the difference in the game.
Junior forward Maddie Simon contributed eight points and a team-high seven rebounds, while sophomore point guard Hannah Whitish pitched in eight points and a game-high five assists. Freshman Kate Cain also produced eight points, four rebounds and a block for a balanced Nebraska attack, while junior Darrien Washington managed six points on 3-of-3 shooting, three rebounds and two blocks in an outstanding 12-minute effort.
For the game, Nebraska hit 40.4 percent (23-57) of its shots from the field, including 8-of-20 three-pointers (.400), while hitting 8-of-15 free throws. The Huskers won the battle of the boards, 43-40, but lost the turnover battle, 17-15.
Nebraska's stingy defense held the Illini to just 27.1 percent (16-59) shooting, including 5-of-17 from three-point range. Illinois was also 10-of-13 at the free throw line. Cierra Rice led three Illini in double figures with 13 points, while Alex Wittinger and Kennedy Cattenhead each added 10 points.
In the lowest scoring half in school history, Nebraska took a 26-10 lead to the locker room at halftime despite hitting just 8-of-30 shots (.267), including 4-of-12 (.333) from three-point range. The Huskers also hit 6-of-8 free throws. Nebraska outrebounded Illinois, 24-23, and won the first-half turnover battle, 10-7.
Nebraska led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter, then held Illinois without a field goal in the second quarter, the second time this season the Husker defense held an opponent without a field goal in a quarter joining NU's defensive effort in the fourth period at Kansas. The one point allowed by the Big Red against the Illini was the best defensive effort in a quarter since the advent of the quarter system.
The Huskers outscored the Illini 12-1 in the second quarter, as the 36 points combined in the first half tied for fewest points ever scored in a half in a Nebraska women's basketball game.
Kissinger led the Huskers in the second quarter with five points and four rebounds, while Simon added three points and three boards after opening the game with five points in the first quarter.
Nebraska's defense was exceptional in the second quarter, holding Illinois to 0-of-12 shooting with five turnovers. The Huskers extended the lead despite going 3-for-16 from the floor in the second quarter.