Indianapolis - No. 24 Nebraska matched No. 21 Purdue blow for blow for nearly 50 minutes, but the Boilermakers escaped Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a 74-70 win at the Big Ten Tournament title Sunday.
In a rematch of one of the best games in women's college basketball this season, Nebraska and Purdue put on another epic battle in front of more than 7,000 fans in Indianapolis and an ESPN2 national television audience.
Nebraska slipped to 24-8 overall after falling just short of becoming the first Big Ten team in history to win four games on the way to a conference championship. Purdue improved to 24-8 overall by going 3-0 in its home state for its Big Ten-leading eighth all-time tournament title. The Huskers just missed out on their first-ever conference tournament title in their first season in the Big Ten.
The Huskers won the first meeting in history between the schools, 93-89 in triple-overtime at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind., on Feb. 2. Purdue survived the rematch in the second meeting in Indiana, outscoring the Huskers 10-6 in the second OT.
Lindsey Moore and Jordan Hooper, who combined for 53 points in the first meeting between the two teams, pumped in a combined 52 points in the second showdown. Moore led the Huskers with 27 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals while playing the full 50 minutes to earn a spot on the all-tournament team.
Hooper added her third consecutive double-double and 14th of the season with 25 points and 10 boards to join Moore on the five-player Big Ten All-Tournament squad. Freshman Emily Cady added seven points, while matching her career high with 12 rebounds. Senior guard Kaitlyn Burke added seven points for the Huskers.
Hooper and Moore were keys in bringing back from a double-digit first-half deficit to tie the game at 29 at the half.
Moore and Hooper fueled another major Husker rally in the second half, as Nebraska erased a 51-43 deficit with four minutes left to send the game to overtime tied at 56. Both teams scored eight points in the first overtime, but the Huskers were unable to convert on two shots to win it in the final 10 seconds.
KK Houser led the Boilermakers with 19 points and five steals, while Chantel Poston played the biggest role in the championship game victory with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks off the bench. Poston's free throw with three seconds left gave Purdue a four-point lead to seal the win. Poston had five points, three rebounds, a block and a steal in the second OT.
Houser earned a spot on the all-tournament team, while Brittany Rayburn was named the tournament MVP despite being held to nine points on 1-of-9 shooting. Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis rounded out the all-tournament team.
Nebraska hit just 31.3 percent (20-64) from the field, including just 4-of-20 three-pointers while playing its fourth game in four days. The Huskers, who knocked off No. 2 seed Ohio State and No. 3 seed Iowa to become the first-ever No. 6 seed to advance to the Big Ten title game, hit 26-of-29 free throws. Moore hit 13-of-15 at the line, while Hooper went a perfect 12-for-12.
Purdue hit 37.5 percent (27-72) of its shots, including 4-of-17 threes, while hitting 16-of-20 free throws. The Boilermakers outrebounded NU, 51-40, but the Huskers won the turnover battle, 18-14.
Nebraska will return to Lincoln by charter flight tonight and return to classes on Monday while earning some well-deserved days off from practice this week. The Huskers will await the announcement of their postseason tournament destination and opponent during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show next Monday evening, March 12.