PULLMAN – A devastating scoring surge to open the second half buried the Washington State women’s basketball team, which lost to No. 16 Nebraska 82-61 in front of 853 fans on Wednesday night.
After trailing by as many as 21 points in the second half, the Cougars pulled within 10 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds remaining. But the Cornhuskers scored the next eight points, effectively ending any chance of a WSU comeback.
WSU’s Louise Brown tied the score at 34 heading into halftime with a deep basket that just beat the buzzer. But the Cornhuskers opened the second half with a 16-4 run that took less than 5 minutes off the clock. The Cougars didn’t have an answer.
The Cougars blamed Nebraska’s sudden effectiveness on a lack of defensive communication.
“We lost our energy offensively because shots weren’t going in,” coach June Daugherty said. “Defensively, we go on the other end and, in our defense you’ve got to talk because there are a lot of reads going on, and when you don’t you give up the easy layups that they had to start the second half.”
“When our defense works, it works amazingly,” added Tia Presley (Gonzaga Prep). “They get easy buckets when we don’t talk and we don’t move.”
The loss drops the Cougars to 2-1 on the season. Washington State was looking for its second win over a Top 25 in less than a week after beating No. 22 Dayton 76-60 last Friday.
Brown’s shot was the last 3-pointer the Cougars made in the game. WSU missed all 15 in the second half and finished 2 for 27.
“I think that we pressed a little bit too much individually,” Daugherty said. “And the lesson to be learned here, stay in things and move the ball side to side and you’ll get better shot selection.”
Nebraska returns four starters from last year’s team that went 26-7 and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Last season the Cougars upset No. 10 Nebraska 76-72 in Lincoln.
Senior forward Shalie Dheensaw led the Cougars with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but WSU’s dynamic backcourt was unable to provide its usual scoring punch.
Lia Galdiera and Presley combined to average 46 points in the team’s first two games but teamed for 27 against Nebraska and combined to shoot 10 of 34 from the field.
“They were playing really aggressive, trying to play the driving lanes and we were struggling to get to the basket,” Presley said. “They played really tough and I guess we didn’t match their intensity. It was hard to score against their defense.”
The Cougars will finish their four-game homestand Friday when they host Seattle University at 8:30 p.m.
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