Updated at: 11/30/2013 8:05 PM
By ERIC OLSON
(AP) LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska came into its game against Washington State beating opponents by an average of more than 20 points a game. Coach Connie Yori knew it was a mirage.
The 10th-ranked Cornhuskers’ perimeter defense was exposed in a 76-72 loss to Washington State on Saturday night. The Cougars (4-4) made a season-high 12 of 25 3-pointers while beating a Top 10 opponent for the first time in program history.
"Right now we’re playing defense like we hope they miss as opposed to let’s make them miss," Yori said. "We knew that defensively we had a lot of work to do, and I thought they hit shots, but we’re just not able to take a lot of things away from opponents right now."
Nebraska (6-1) came into the game off easy wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern and Massachusetts-Lowell. The Huskers trailed a Washington State team picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 by 19 points with 13 minutes to play. They closed within a point but couldn’t finish the comeback.
Jordan Hooper led the Huskers with 24 points but was 6 of 27 from the field. Emily Cady had 13 points, Hailie Sample added 11 and Rachel Theriot and Tear’a Laudermill 10 apiece.
"We weren’t efficient enough offensively to beat a team that’s a good offensive team," Yori said. "We knew we would have to score some in order to beat them. They go 12 for 25 from the 3-point line and we have the same shots and go 4 for 18. There you go."
The Cougars made 9 of 17 3s in the first half, most against Nebraska’s zone defense, while getting out to a 45-38 lead. It was 58-40 early in the second after Lia Galdeira and Sage Romberg combined for three more early in the second, and the Cougars’ lead was 19 points with under 13 minutes.
"A lot of our girls had never played in an arena this loud, so for us to keep our composure and poise when they came back on us showed that we can hang with some of the top teams," said Tia Presley, who scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half.
Galdeira added 14 points and reserve Taylor Edmondson and Dawnyelle Awa had 13 apiece for the Cougars.
Cady scored 10 points during a 16-0 spurt that got the Huskers within 63-60 with 8 minutes to play, and it was a one-point game after Laudermill’s left-handed scoop putback.
The Huskers were still within 71-69 after Hooper hit a 3-pointer, and three times in a row they had chances to tie or go ahead.
Presley made two free throws to make it a five-point game with 14 seconds left. Hooper hit a 3 to cut it to 74-72, but Shalie Dheensaw made two free throws with 4.6 seconds to play for her only points of the game.
"They’re a really good shooting team, and we knew that coming in," Hooper said. "We just didn’t find them quick enough. When we found them, unfortunately, they already had shot the shot and made it."
The Cougars, who came in shooting 28 percent on 3-pointers, made six shots from beyond the arc in the first 10 minutes to open a double-digit lead that grew to 15. Yori called a timeout, and after that the Huskers went on a 16-0 surge that produced a brief lead. But Brandi Thomas and Sage Romberg made 3s in the last 1:23, and Washington State led 45-38 at half.
"We reminded them that it’s a game of runs and they’re a great team ranked 10th in the country for a reason and undefeated," WSU coach June Daugherty said. "We’re going to make our runs, too. That was the same message the second half. Courageous effort by Nebraska, and they played really, really hard. Hooper and Co., they’re a very good team. They certainly didn’t back down."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)