COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M wasn’t necessarily bad Monday night. Nebraska was just better.
“I’m not sure Nebraska could play any better than they did,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “They were magnificent.”
Jordan Hooper scored 21 points and Lindsey Moore had 20 points and a season-high 10 assists to lead Nebraska to a 74-63 win over Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The sixth-seeded Cornhuskers used two big runs in the first half to build the lead and never trailed in the second half to earn their first trip to the round of 16 since 2010 and second overall. Nebraska will face the winner of Tuesday’s game between second-seeded Duke and No. 7 Oklahoma State in the regional semifinals Sunday.
Nebraska (25-8) led by 16 before a 13-4 run pulled the Aggies within 64-57 with less than 3 minutes remaining. But Hailie Sample made a pair of layups before the Cornhuskers added six free throws to hold on.
Third-seeded Texas A&M (25-10), which won the national title in 2011, was led by Adrienne Pratcher’s 17 points. The loss keeps the Aggies from making the round of 16 for the first time since 2010.
“We played hard, but we didn’t play hard enough,” Pratcher said.
During A&M’s late run, Courtney Walker scored the first four points and freshman Jordan Jones took over after that, scoring nine straight points. She made consecutive 3-pointers before swiping the ball from Moore and hitting an off-balance layup. She was fouled on the play and knocked down the free throw.
But just as they had earlier in the quarter, Nebraska shut down A&M’s rally attempt.
“They made the stops that they needed to,” Texas A&M’s Kelsey Bone said. “Every time we got a little life they did a good job of hitting the big shot.”
Moore and Hooper proved to be a potent combination in this one, and they combined for five 3-pointers. Hooper also had eight rebounds, three steals and a block, and Moore had six rebounds and a steal.
“I just thought we played with good poise,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We had a stretch where they turned it up and we handled it.”
Sample was the only other Cornhusker in double figures with 10 points, and she led the team with 11 rebounds.
The Cornhuskers were helped by almost perfect free throw shooting, where they made 14 of 15. A&M got to the line only twice and made one of those shots.
It looked as though the Aggies were finally gaining some momentum when they scored four quick points to cut the lead to 10 with about 15 minutes left. But two minutes later they were down 56-40 after 3-pointers by Hooper and Moore.
Hooper made a 3-pointer under heavy pressure before Moore missed a 3-point attempt. Sample grabbed the rebound and kicked it back out to Moore, who remained in the same spot of the miss, and this time she knocked it down.
Texas A&M’s 6-foot-4 star center Bone didn’t get into foul trouble like she did in the team’s opening round game, but she was still held below her 16.7 point average by finishing with 13 points and five rebounds.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t get the ball inside more than we did,” Blair said.
It could be the junior’s last game at A&M as she contemplates leaving school early for the WNBA draft. Bone said she’ll meet with her family and Blair this week before making a decision on the draft sometime next week.
Blair shouldered much of the blame for the loss.
“We got out-rebounded, we got out-hustled, and they had a better game plan than what I presented to my team,” he said.
Jones finished with 12 points for the Aggies and Williams added 11.
The Aggies led 14-6 early after a run which included consecutive 3-pointers by Bone and Williams. Nebraska then scored the next seven points as the beginning of a 19-2 spurt that put the Cornhuskers up 25-16 with eight minutes left in the first half. Hooper had eight points with two 3-pointers in that span for Nebraska.
She had 12 points at halftime after managing just three points in the first half of Nebraska’s first-round win over Chattanooga on Saturday.
Texas A&M soon answered that run by Nebraska with a 12-5 run powered by seven points from Pratcher to get within 32-30. Jones was also key in that run by knocking down a 3-pointer and grabbing a rebound.
Nebraska closed out the first half by outscoring A&M 11-2 to take a 43-32 lead into halftime. Rachel Theriot made a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left and hit a jump shot as time expired in the first half to extend the lead.
It was the first meeting between these former Big 12 foes since an 84-49 victory by A&M in 2011.
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