LINCOLN, Neb. - Tear'a Laudermill and her Nebraska teammates had good reason to be motivated for eighth-ranked Penn State's visit to Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Lady Lions had beaten them three straight times by an average of 19 points, and the Big Ten championship is still up for grabs.
Also, Laudermill had a surprise waiting for her when she got to the arena Monday night. The junior guard's brother, Theron, was in town from California to watch her play for the first time as a collegian.
"Oh, my goodness, it's on and cracking now," Laudermill said of her thoughts as she ran onto the floor before tipoff.
Laudermill scored 22 of her career-high 27 points and made six of her school record-tying seven 3-pointers in the first half, and No. 16 Nebraska defeated the Lady Lions, 94-74.
Yes, things were rolling for the Cornhuskers (21-5, 11-3), who 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 3-point shooting performance that was best in Division I this season, according to STATS. The Huskers finished 16 of 22 from beyond the arc, a 72.7-percent clip. The school record for 3s is 17.
The Huskers made 11 of 14 3-pointers in the first half. The 78.6-percent accuracy was best by a major-conference team in a half this season and No. 2 in Division I behind Alabama State's 81.8 percent (9 of 11) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
"I made a brazen comment before the game that we needed to make some perimeter shots," a smiling Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "Our players didn't need coaching tonight. They just needed to go out and play. If you hit shots like that, it makes the game easy."
Jordan Hooper added 19 points, Rachel Theriot had 17 and Emily Cady had 14 for the Huskers. Ariel Edwards led Penn State with 24 points, Maggie Lucas had 17 and Dara Taylor had 10.
The 94 points were the most points allowed by Penn State in a non-overtime game since a 96-81 loss to Iowa in February 2002.
"They were just clicking on all cylinders tonight, and when you meet up a team that's having one of those nights where everybody is having a good night, it's tough to beat them," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said.
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 and Laudermill 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. 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.
"Stop her from getting hot. Don't let Maggie Lucas catch the ball," Laudermill said, describing the defensive plan against Lucas.
The game had been circled on the Huskers' calendar since their win streak put them back in contention in the Big Ten race.
"They kind of had our number for two years, and we couldn't really do anything against them," Hooper said. "Finally, we came out with more fire in our eyes and more focus, so we were ready."
It was Penn State's most lopsided loss of the season.
PENN ST. (21-6): East 1-3 5-6 7, Edwards 10-13 0-0 24, Waldner 0-5 0-1 0, Taylor 5-11 0-0 10, Lucas 5-18 4-4 17, Agee 1-2 3-6 5, Sevillian 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 2-7 1-1 5, Whitted 3-4 0-1 6, DeGraaf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 13-19 74.
NEBRASKA (21-5): Sample 3-5 0-0 6, Cady 5-8 4-6 14, Hooper 6-9 3-4 19, Laudermill 10-17 0-0 27, Theriot 6-10 2-2 17, Tvrdy 1-1 0-0 3, Ramacieri 0-1 1-2 1, Jeffery 1-3 2-4 5, Murren 1-1 0-0 2, Havers 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 33-58 12-18 94.
Halftime-Nebraska 52-30. 3-Point Goals-Penn St. 7-18 (Edwards 4-5, Lucas 3-8, Taylor 0-2, Mitchell 0-3), Nebraska 16-22 (Laudermill 7-10, Hooper 4-6, Theriot 3-3, Tvrdy 1-1, Jeffery 1-2). Fouled Out-Cady. Rebounds-Penn St. 40 (East 12), Nebraska 30 (Hooper 12). Assists-Penn St. 11 (Taylor, Waldner 4), Nebraska 26 (Theriot 8). Total Fouls-Penn St. 23, Nebraska 19. A-7,253.