Nebraska produced its best defensive quarter of the season, outscoring USC 15-2 in the fourth to claim a 67-54 win over the Women of Troy on Friday night at the South Point Shootout.
The Huskers, who improved to 6-1 on the season, held USC (3-3) without a field goal in the final period, surrendering just two free throws to Kayla Overbeck with 6:57 left. The free throws by Overbeck cut NU's lead to 56-54, but Nebraska scored the game's final 11 points and shut out USC for the final 6:56 to get the win.
Sophomore Leigha Brown led the Huskers with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting while adding a pair of assists. Senior Nicea Eliely contributed 12 points, including 10 in the first half, while junior center Kate Cain contributed 10 points, five rebounds and the 200th blocked shot of her career to help the Huskers outlast the Trojans.
Senior guard Hannah Whitish also made several big plays down the stretch for the Big Red. Following Overbeck's free throws with 6:57 left, USC got a stop and regained possession with a chance to tie the game. Desiree Caldwell drove to the basket with the shot clock winding down and went up for a layup. She made the shot, but upon review, the ball left her hand after the clock went to zero.
Whitish led the Huskers the other way and knocked down a short jumper just outside the paint on the right side to give NU a 58-54 lead. Whitish then came up with a key defensive rebound on USC's next possession. Coming the other way, Nebraska fed the ball inside to freshman forward Isabelle Bourne, who turned it over in a hard double-team by the Trojans. USC was headed the other direction with Bourne on the floor, but Whitish came up with a steal at halfcourt.
Whitish quickly transitioned with Bourne out front and fed the young post from Australia for a layup to put the Big Red up 60-54. Bourne matched career highs on the night with eight points and six rebounds, while adding two assists and a steal.
Seconds later, following a timeout and a Nebraska stop, Whitish buried a three-pointer with four minutes left to give the Huskers their biggest lead of the night at 63-54. Whitish finished with seven points and five assists, while moving ahead of two-time WNBA All-Star and fellow Wisconsin native Anna DeForge at No. 8 on the Husker career assist list with 393.
Buckets by Taylor Kissinger, who finished with eight points, and Cain closed out the win for Nebraska.
A fourth-quarter key came on the glass for Nebraska, which held the Trojans without an offensive rebound in the final period after USC pulled down 14 offensive boards in the first three periods. Sophomore Ashtyn Veerbeek played a key role in that category, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, including eight on the defensive end, while adding five points on the night.
Nebraska finished the night at 46 percent (29-63) from the field, including 27.8 percent (5-18) from three-point range. The Huskers went just 1-for-9 from three-point range in the second half after going 4-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half. NU held USC to just 32.8 percent (22-67) shooting for the game, including 25.9 percent (7-27) from three-point range. The Huskers, who led 39-31 at the half, saw the Trojans bury four threes in the third quarter to tie the score at 52 after 30 minutes, but USC went 0-for-6 from long range in the fourth quarter.
Angel Jackson led USC with 13 points off the bench, while adding eight rebounds. Overbeck added eight points and a team-high nine rebounds, while freshman Alissa Pili contributed eight points and seven boards inside for the Trojans.
Nebraska will close its two-game stay in Las Vegas by battling Sacred Heart on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (CT) at South Point Arena. The Pioneers produced a 66-60 win over Detroit Mercy in Friday's first game of the South Point Shootout to improve to 3-3 on the season. Sacred Heart advanced to the 2019 Postseason WNIT last season out of the Northeast Conference.
Free live video and Husker Sports Network audio will be available through links on the women's basketball schedule page on Huskers.com.