Tear'a Laudermill scored 22 of her career-high 27 points and made six of her seven 3-pointers in the first half, and No. 16 Nebraska defeated eighth-ranked Penn State 94-74 to stay alive in the Big Ten race on Monday night.
The Cornhuskers (21-5, 11-3) extended their winning streak to a season-best eight games and pulled within a half-game of the two-time defending champion Lady Lions (21-6, 12-3). The Huskers have two games remaining in the regular season and the Lady Lions have one.
The surprisingly easy win came after a blistering first-half shooting performance. The Huskers made 11 of 14 3-pointers the opening 20 minutes, a 78.6-percent clip that was the best by a major-conference team this season and second-best in Division I behind Alabama State's 81.8 percent (9 of 11) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Nebraska finished with a season-high 16 3s on 22 attempts. The school record for 3s in a game is 17.
Jordan Hooper added 19 points, Rachel Theriot had 17 and Emily Cady added 14.
Ariel Edwards led Penn State with 24 points, Maggie Lucas had 17 and Dara Taylor had 10.
The Huskers held Lucas scoreless until the second half. The Big Ten's second-leading scorer had averaged better than 23 points in four previous games against Nebraska. Hailie Sample shadowed Lucas everywhere, and the conference preseason player of the year missed her first eight shots before making her first field goal with 14:16 left.
The crowd razzed Lucas after she launched an air ball from the top of the key early in the second half. She turned around, head down, as she went back to play defense. Her first points came on a couple free throws the next time down the court. She went to the bench frustrated after committing her third foul, throwing her towel under her chair as she sat down.
Lucas, who scored 34 points and made an arena-record eight 3-pointers the last time she faced the Huskers, ended up 5 of 18 with three 3s.
Penn State had beaten Nebraska in their previous three meetings, scoring no fewer than 80 points and winning by an average margin of 19 points.
The Huskers led all the way this time. They were up 22 points at halftime and stretched the lead to 32. It was Penn State's most lopsided loss of the season.
With about a minute left, the student section began chanting, "We Want UConn!"
Laudermill's third 3-pointer put Nebraska up 14 points less than five minutes into the game, and she made three more before she missed from the corner after calling for a cross-court pass from Theriot. Nebraska built a 15-point lead before Penn State went on a 10-2 run that Edwards finished with a 3 to pull the Lions within seven.