Lincoln – Kate Cain posted her third consecutive double-double with season highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds to go along with six blocked shots, as Nebraska powered past No. 24 Minnesota in front of a season-high crowd of 5,940 and a Big Ten Network TV audience on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 12-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, while the 24th-ranked Golden Gophers slipped to 11-3 and 1-2 in the conference.
Cain, a 6-5 center from Middletown, N.Y., who is on the Lisa Leslie Award watch list, hit 9-of-13 shots from the field and was huge on the defensive end as well with six blocks and 11 defensive rebounds. She added an assist on the offensive end and did not commit a turnover in the game.
With Cain anchoring the Huskers inside, Nebraska outworked the Gophers on the glass, 50-38, but it was far from a one-woman show on the boards for the Big Red.
Sophomore Sam Haiby, a 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., added 17 points and a career-high eight rebounds. She also tied a career high with a trio of three-pointers, while pitching in three assists and a pair of steals.
Senior Hannah Whitish also came up big in big moments for the Huskers. The 5-9 guard from Barneveld, Wis., pumped in a season-high 17 points while matching her season best with five three-pointers.
Sophomore Leigha Brown added eight points and five rebounds off the bench, while Nicea Eliely and Ashtyn Veerbeek each contributed five points and knocked down three-pointers for the Huskers. As a team, Nebraska buried 10-of-19 threes against the Gophers, who came into the contest as one of the Big Ten’s best three-point shooting teams.
The Husker defense locked down on Minnesota’s long-range shooters throughout the contest, holding a Gopher group that was averaging 8.4 made threes per game to just 5-of-18 shooting, including just 1-of-9 after halftime.
In a tight first quarter, Minnesota jumped to a quick four-point lead at 6-2 after back-to-back threes by the Gophers in the first two minutes, but a a pair of three-pointers in the quarter by Whitish, including one with 30 seconds left sent Nebraska to the second period with a 13-10 lead.
Minnesota cut the lead to 13-12 on a bucket by its leading scorer on the season Destiny Pitts, who finished with 12 points. But the Big Red responded with a three by Eliely, a basket by Haiby, another three by Whitish and a bucket by Cain to cap a 10-0 run to take the first double-digit lead of the game at 23-12 with 6:01 left in the first half.
The Gophers rallied to cut the Husker lead to 27-24 with three minutes left in the half before Haiby knocked down her first three of the day, Cain added a bucket and Haiby completed a traditional three-point play to push the margin back to 11 at 35-24 with 1:06 left in the half.
Pitts got the final two points of the quarter for the Gophers to send the Huskers to halftime with a 35-26 lead. Nebraska held Minnesota to just 27.8 percent (10-36) shooting in the first half, including 4-of-9 threes, while outrebounding the Gophers, 26-19. Minnesota won the first-half turnover battle, 8-5. The Huskers hit 43.8 percent (14-32) of their shots, as Cain, Haiby and Whitish combined to go 11-for-19 from the floor. In the half, Cain had eight points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Big Red, while Haiby led the Huskers with 11 points and Whitish added nine. The Huskers hit 5-of-9 threes in the first half.
Minnesota got back-to-back baskets from Taiye Bello to open the second half to quickly cut the Husker margin to 35-30, before another 10-0 run by Nebraska that featured three-pointers by Whitish and Veerbeek gave the Huskers their biggest lead of the game at 45-30 with six minutes left in the third quarter. Minnesota rallied again to cut the margin to seven at 51-44 in the closing minutes of the quarter before a big basket by Cain and a free throw by Eliely sent the Huskers to the fourth quarter with a 54-44 lead.
The Gophers got no closer than eight points the rest of the way as Nebraska closed out its third consecutive win in the series against Minnesota. Taiye Bello led Minnesota by scoring 14 of her team-high 16 points in the second half. Gadiva Hubbard put three Gophers in double figures with 10 points – all in the first half.
For the game, Nebraska hit 44.3 percent (27-61) of its shots from the field and 8-of-13 free throws. Minnesota finished at 31.5 percent (23-73) from the floor but just 27.8 percent (5-18) from long range. The Gophers hit 7-of-8 free throws and won the turnover battle, 16-10.
Nebraska returns to home Big Ten action on Thursday, Jan. 9, when the Huskers welcome Wisconsin to Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tip-off against the Badgers is set for 7 p.m.