Ohio State vs. Nebraska, 12/28

Nebraska's Nicea Eliely (5) goes up for a layup while guarded by Ohio State's Stephanie Mavunga (1) during the first half Thursday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

KAYLA WOLF, Journal Star

The Nebraska women opened Big Ten play with a 73-61 home loss to Ohio State, but they managed to hold the No. 12 team in the country somewhat in check.

The Buckeyes rank second nationally in scoring at 91.4 points per game.

“If you hold a team to 18 points below its scoring average, I think there are some positive things to build on,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said.

Ohio State got out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter. Williams said her team made some timid plays early on, which led to turnovers.

“We just didn’t handle the ball as tight as we needed to,” Williams said.

But Williams said despite the self-inflicted wounds, her team was ready to take on the Buckeyes.

“I think our kids were focused and loose and had an expectation to protect our home court,” she said. “That was not the question, was did we expect to win.”

Nebraska managed to hang around the whole first half. Ohio State led by as many as 12, but the Huskers came as close as six points in the second quarter. But the Huskers struggled to get going from outside, shooting just 2-for-12 from three. Nebraska headed into the locker room down 34-24 at halftime.

The Buckeyes took control after the break, leading by as many as 17. The Huskers cut the deficit to eight points with a minute left, but Ohio State was able to milk the shot clock and keep the ball on its end to run out the clock.

Kelsey Mitchell, the nation’s leading scorer this season, put up 25 points to lead Ohio State (12-2).

“She’s so crafty with the ball that as hard as we try to deny her, as hard as we try to defend her, and help and double team, she’s going to find a way to score,” Nebraska forward Maddie Simon said.

Simon scored 14 points, which tied with Kate Cain for a team high. The pair combined for just eight points in the last game against Washington State on Dec. 22.

Simon scored 12 of her points in the second half.

“When she catches the basketball and thinks score first and it’s not kind of an afterthought or a second thought, she’s very dangerous,” Williams said of Simon.

The Huskers (9-5) got a boost from the return of freshman Taylor Kissinger, who missed the team’s past six games with a knee injury. Kissinger came off the bench and scored eight points, including two three-pointers in 15 minutes of action.

Williams said it was good to have Kissinger back, but there will be no rush to increase her playing time.

“She provides for us another scoring threat from behind that arc, so it’s nice to have her back into the mix,” Williams said. “I think obviously when you have missed four weeks, there’s a learning curve to get back in.”

Nebraska will head to Minneapolis on Sunday for a New Year’s Eve showdown with Minnesota. 

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