They held leads at the end of three different quarters — just not the one that means the most.
The fourth quarter was ultimately the difference for the Gophers women’s basketball team, and the result was a 79-74 loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten home opener Sunday afternoon in front of an announced 3,284 at Williams Arena.
Finishing out possessions defensively in the final quarter is an area where the Gophers have to be better, according to coach Marlene Stollings.
“It’s just transition defense,” said sophomore guard Gadiva Hubbard, who had 15 points and eight assists. “We weren’t really getting to our transition defense like we should have.”
A 13-2 run by the Cornhuskers (10-5, 1-1) in the fourth quarter set the tone.
Then the Gophers (12-3, 1-1) took a 74-73 lead with 38 seconds left on junior guard Kenisha Bell’s steal and layup. But Nebraska’s Maddie Simon answered with 24 seconds left and the Gophers couldn’t get a couple of three-pointers to fall.
The Gophers lost at home for the first time in eight games this season.
“It’s not so much that last series as much as it was the fourth quarter in terms of our intensity level overall,” Stollings said. “We needed to rebound better. We needed to go get second shots.”
In the fourth quarter, the Gophers made just four of 16 shots and went 1-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc, while Nebraska made seven of 10 shots and eight of nine from the free-throw line.
The Gophers got great looks all game long, but offensive rebounds were an issue.
“When we missed that first shot, you’ve got to go get the second one,” Stollings said. “You’re not always going to hit the first one, and that’s our big takeaway from that piece.”
Bell was her usual dominating force, putting up 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. It’s the third time this season she’s scored at least 30 points and the second time in the past three games. She’s also put up at least 20 points in each of the past six games.
Stollings is most proud of how Bell takes care of the basketball; she had just two turnovers in the game after going two in a row with zero.
“I got the team on my back,” Bell said. “They trust me, and that gives me more confidence each game to do that stuff that I do.”
The Gophers contained Nebraska 6-5 freshman Kate Cain, who finished with eight points and six rebounds. Her two blocks ran her total to 54, tying the freshman school record.
“She didn’t really hurt us,” Stollings said. “It was really guard drives that really hurt us more than anything.”
Simon led the Cornhuskers with 18 points, five assists and eight rebounds.