LINCOLN, Neb. – June Daugherty knew she had a good 3-point-shooting team. It took until Saturday for her Washington State Cougars to show it.
The Cougars made a season-high 12 shots from beyond the arc and held off Nebraska twice after building big leads in a 76-72 upset of the No. 10 Cornhuskers. It was the WSU program’s first win over a Top 10 team.
“Honestly, not to be boastful, this is what I know this team can do,” Daugherty said. “We went to Europe in August and this is what we were doing. We hadn’t found our rhythm from the 3-point line, although we have some very good shooters. The key for us was we were moving the basketball better tonight.”
The Cougars (4-4) made 9 of 17 3s in the first half, most against Nebraska’s zone defense, while getting out to a 45-38 lead. It was 58-40 early in the second after Lia Galdeira and Sage Romberg combined for three more early in the second, and the Cougars’ lead was 19 points with less than 13 minutes to go.
“Right now we’re playing defense like we hope they miss as opposed to let’s make them miss,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We knew defensively that we had a lot of work to do, and I thought they hit shots, but we’re just not able to take a lot of things away from opponents right now.”
The Huskers (6-1) made it a one-point game late but couldn’t finish the comeback against a WSU team picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12.
“A lot of our girls had never played in an arena this loud, so for us to keep our composure and poise when they came back on us showed that we can hang with some of the top teams,” said Tia Presley, who scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half.
Galdeira added 14 points and reserve Taylor Edmondson and Dawnyelle Awa had 13 apiece for the Cougars.
Jordan Hooper led the Huskers with 24 points but was 6 of 27 from the field. Emily Cady had 13 points, Hailie Sample added 11 and Rachel Theriot and Tear’a Laudermill 10 apiece.
“We weren’t efficient enough offensively to beat a team that’s a good offensive team,” Yori said. “We knew we would have to score some in order to beat them. They go 12 for 25 from the 3-point line and we have the same shots and go 4 for 18. There you go.”
Cady scored 10 points during a 16-0 spurt that got the Huskers within 63-60 with 8 minutes to play, and it was a one-point game after Laudermill’s left-handed scoop putback.
The Huskers were still within 71-69 after Hooper hit a 3-pointer, and three times in a row they had chances to tie or go ahead.
Presley made two free throws to make it a five-point game with 14 seconds left. Hooper hit a 3 to cut it to 74-72, but Shalie Dheensaw made two free throws with 4.6 seconds to play.
“They’re a really good shooting team, and we knew that coming in,” Hooper said. “We just didn’t find them quick enough. When we found them, unfortunately, they already had shot the shot and made it.”
The Cougars, who came in shooting 28 percent on 3-pointers, made six shots from beyond the arc in the first 10 minutes to open a double-digit lead that grew to 15. Yori called a timeout, and after that the Huskers went on a 16-0 surge that produced a brief lead. But Brandi Thomas and Romberg made 3s in the last 1:23, and Washington State led 45-38 at half.