All-American Jordan Hooper shot the No. 17 Nebraska women's basketball team team to a memorable opening day at Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 77-49 victory over UCLA on Friday.
Hooper and the Huskers put on an impressive show for a Nebraska non-conference record crowd of 9,750 in the first regular-season game in the history of NU's new arena.
"What a great way to start the season," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. "We had a great crowd and a great atmosphere and we played pretty well, too."
Hooper, a 6-2 senior forward from Alliance, Neb., erupted for her 27th career double-double with game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds, including 19 points in the first half to shoot the Huskers to a 40-20 halftime lead over the Bruins.
The Bruins, who were ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Preseason Top 25 after winning 26 games a year ago, had no answer for Hooper. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten performer hit 7-of-9 first-half shots, including a pair of three-pointers as Nebraska pulled away from UCLA.
For the game, Hooper hit 9-of-14 shots from the field and 7-of-8 free throws. She added a steal in 32 minutes of work.
Junior forward Emily Cady added 12 points, five rebounds and a pair of assists to help power the Huskers' inside game. Cady scored the first official points by a Husker and knocked down the first three-pointer in Pinnacle Bank Arena history.
Nebraska's dominant inside game helped the Huskers outrebound the short-handed Bruins 44-23 on the day. It also included 14 points and three rebounds in just 15 minutes from 6-5 freshman center Allie Havers.
Junior guard Brandi Jeffery added an impressive effort with nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in a starting role for the Huskers. Jeffery scored six straight points in the middle of a decisive 14-0 run midway through the first half that turned a 19-13 NU lead into a 33-13 Husker advantage.
Sophomore point guard Rachel Theriot directed the Husker backcourt with a career-high nine assists, as Nebraska dished out 21 assists on 28 made baskets. Theriot added four points and four rebounds.
"I thought we passed the ball really well today," Yori said. "It is amazing how much easier the game gets when you pass the ball well and talk to your teammates. I thought we communicated better today as well, which we emphasized a lot during the week. It was a good start."
Nebraska's strong passing led to the Huskers to better than 50 percent shooting from the field (28-55) for the day, despite going just 3-of-14 from three-point range. The Huskers also hit 18-of-23 free throws. Nebraska was plus-21 on the glass and matched the Bruins at 15 in the turnover battle.
The Husker defense held UCLA to just 34 percent shooting for the game (18-53), including 4-of-19 from three-point range. The Bruins also hit just 9-of-17 free throws. Senior guard Thea Lemberger led the Bruins with 17 points and four assists, while Atonye Nyingifa added 12 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Nirra Fields gave UCLA three players in double figures with 11 points. The Bruins, who only had six active players in the game.