INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Rachel Theriot saw her teammates struggling Sunday, the sophomore point guard went into championship mode.
She took open shots, passed when warranted and willed No. 16 Nebraska to victory.
Theriot opened the second half by scoring the Cornhuskers’ first nine points and sealed it by accounting for six more in a decisive 8-3 run that helped the Cornhuskers outlast No. 23 Iowa 72-65 for the Big Ten tournament title — Nebraska’s first conference tourney championship.
It was a remarkable three-day stretch for Theriot.
She finished with 14 points, 18 assists and five rebounds in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Minnesota. She came back with 18 points and eight assists in Saturday’s semifinal victory over Michigan State. Then Sunday, Theriot scored 19 of her 24 points in the second half and pushed her three- day assist total to a tourney record 30.
Without Theriot, the Huskers (25-6) probably would not have been standing in the confetti that streamed down from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse rafters and then was sprayed onto the victory stand by a blower. Nebraska now heads into NCAA tournament play with 12 wins in 13 games.
Iowa (26-8) also should be NCAA bound even though it fell short of becoming the first Big Ten women’s team to win four times in four days in the tournament.
Ally Disterhoft scored 20 points and Samantha Logic had 14 on a day the Hawkeyes made eight 3-pointers but saw their six-game winning streak end.
The reasons for this loss, Iowa’s eighth straight to Nebraska, were obvious: rebounding and the Cornhuskers’ huge free-throw disparity. Nebraska was 30 of 36. Iowa was 11 of 14.
“It’s hard to win those types of games with numbers like that,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Iowa closed to 57-56 when Disterhoft made three free throws with 7:13 to play, but Bluder’s technical and Theriot’s late surge sealed the win.