Sam Haiby scored 12 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a 10-for-10 effort at the free throw line to seal Nebraska's 79-74 women's basketball win over Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, Nebraska finished 9-9 in Big Ten regular-season play to secure either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed in next week's conference tournament in Indianapolis. Nebraska's seed, opponent and game time will not be known until after Sunday's regular-season Big Ten action. The Huskers improved to 14-15 overall, while Penn State slipped to 5-13 in the conference and 12-17 overall.
Nebraska built a 14-point lead at 50-36 early in the third quarter before Penn State rallied to tie the game at 57 just one minute into the fourth.
Then Haiby took over.
The 5-9 freshman point guard from Moorhead, Minn., broke the Lady Lions' press, which was effective in stifling the Huskers for much of the third quarter, for a driving layup. She then stole the Penn State inbounds pass, attacked the basket immediately and was fouled. She made both free throws to put the Big Red back up by two possessions at 61-57 with 8:48 left.
Penn State was never able to get closer than two points the rest of the way, in part thanks to big buckets from Taylor Kissinger, including her fourth three-pointer of the game with 3:05 left to put Nebraska up 68-63. Kissinger finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Haiby sank eight more free throws in the final 2:27 to push Nebraska's lead back to 79-72 with 17.6 seconds left to clinch the Huskers' seventh .500 or better Big Ten season in their eighth year in the conference. Haiby added five rebounds and three assists in an outstanding all-around effort.
Fellow freshmen Ashtyn Veerbeek, Leigha Brown and Kayla Mershon all contributed eight points, while Veerbeek added a team-high 10 rebounds for the Huskers. Kate Cain also contributed eight points, seven rebounds, four blocks, three assists and a steal in a solid performance.
Hannah Whitish and Nicea Eliely each pitched in six points, while Maddie Simon contributed five points for the Big Red in a winning effort.
As a team, Nebraska hit 48.3 percent (28-58) of its shots from the field, including 6-of-14 threes (.429). The Huskers were also a stellar 17-for-20 at the free throw line to earn their fifth Big Ten road win of the year.
The Huskers out-worked Penn State on the glass 39-33, to help overcome a 16-13 deficit in the turnover column.
Penn State answered by hitting 40.6 percent (27-66) of its shots, including 6-of-14 threes. The Lady Lions hit 14-of-19 free throws. Two-time All-Big Ten guard Teniya Page led the Lady Lions with a game-high 22 points, while freshman Lauren Ebo added 12 points and 12 rebounds for her second straight double-double. Kamaria McDaniel gave PSU three players in double figures with 10 points.
Nebraska used an explosive 17-2 surge early in second quarter to take a 43-32 halftime lead after the two teams were tied at 17 at the end of the first period.
Kissinger played a major role in shooting Nebraska to the lead in the second quarter, burying a trio of three-pointers on three attempts. Her first gave the Huskers their biggest lead in the game at that time at 27-19 with 5:44 left. Less than two minutes later, Kissinger knocked down another three to give the Big Red its first double-digit lead at 32-21 with 4:07 left and force the second timeout of the half by Penn State.
Kissinger's third triple came with 1:10 left and extended Nebraska's margin to 41-28. Kissinger led the Huskers with nine first-half points, as nine different Huskers scored at least three points in the first half. Brown pitched in six points, while Mershon scored the first five points of the game for the Huskers to help shoot NU to a 9-2 lead in the game's first three minutes.
Cain had four points, five rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists and a steal, while Veerbeek pitched in four points and eight first-half rebounds.
In the half, Nebraska hit 52.9 percent (18-34) of its shots, including 5-of-9 threes (.556), while going 2-for-3 at the line. The Huskers out-rebounded Penn State 22-20, but NU lost the first-half turnover battle 6-5. However, Nebraska outscored PSU in points off turnovers 8-6, while the Lady Lions outscored the Huskers 8-6 in second-chance points.
Nebraska held Penn State to 37.8 percent (14-37) shooting in the half, including just 1-for-4 from long range. The Lady Lions hit 3-of-5 free throws. Freshman center Lauren Ebo led PSU with eight points and five rebounds, as all eight Lady Lions who played in the first half found the scoring column.
Nebraska will head to Indianapolis to compete in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, March 7. NU's seed, opponent and game time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis will not be determined until the conclusion of tomorrow's regular-season Big Ten action.