Maddie Simon picks up where she left off in Huskers’ win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LINCOLN — Maddie Simon stood outside the Nebraska locker room cradling a big bag of ice and beaming.

The ice was for her right ankle, which she sprained Nov. 19 warming up for the Creighton game. The smile was in reaction to her return to the court Saturday in a 73-52 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The junior from Lincoln Pius X contributed 10 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes.

“I am so happy,” she said.

The 6-foot-2 forward, also a state champion hurdler at Pius and the 2015 girls state athlete of the year, got off to a strong start this season after a bumpy sophomore year. In the Huskers’ first three games — all victories — she averaged 9.3 rebounds with 6.7 points. She was thriving in the 4 spot after shuttling from inside to the wing last season, when she averaged 4.1 points and shot 32.5 percent from the floor.

Then she stepped on a teammate’s foot before the Creighton game, had to be helped off the court and watched the ankle balloon in size.

“That was just unlucky after we had a great start to the season,” she said. “I’m just happy to put that in the past and be back out there.”

As the Huskers added Simon on Saturday, they subtracted Taylor Kissinger. The freshman guard from Minden, the team’s leading scorer, sat out after tweaking a knee Thursday night in a one-point loss to Clemson.

The Huskers (5-3) got off to a strong start against the undersized and overmatched Lady Lions, who dropped to 2-4 overall and 0-4 against Division I teams.

The Huskers raced to leads of 22-4 in the first quarter and 37-12 at halftime.

They stretched the lead to 45-15 midway through the third quarter before hitting an extended rough patch. They finished the quarter 6 for 22 from the field with five turnovers.

Pine Bluff closed to 64-50 with 2 ½ minutes left in the game before coach Amy Williams reinserted her starters.

“We didn’t feel like we really strung 40 minutes together,” Williams said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to complete games. But we’re happy to walk away with a bounce-back win after a really tough loss here Thursday.”

Freshman center Kate Cain produced her second double-double, scoring 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 11 rebounds.

Williams sees great potential in the 6-foot-5 New Yorker, a fundamentally sound player who keeps the ball high and can shoot and pass. Williams said she’ll be better with more work in strength and conditioning.

“We think she’s got a chance to be really, really special,” the coach said.

Sophomore forward Nicea Eliely contributed 13 points and harassing defense as the “pirate” applying pressure to the ballhandler entering the front court. Sophomore guard Hannah Whitish had eight assists. And senior guard Emily Wood contributed 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

Wood returns to her home state when the Huskers visit Kansas on Wednesday night.

“I’m excited,” Wood said. “I grew up going to camps and playing at Allen Fieldhouse. So it’ll be a good trip back home.”

Arkansas-Pine Bluff……….4  8 18 22—52

At Nebraska……………….22 15 12 24—73

APB: Ohanta 3-7 4-8 10, Muhammad 1-7 6-6 9, Daniel 0-0 0-0 0, Bryson 2-5 0-0 5, Hatter 1-4 0-0 2, Murdock 0-2 0-0 0, Richardson 0-1 0-0 0, Totten 2-4 0-0 5, Hassan 0-2 0-0 0, Taylor 6-12 0-1 12, Shavers 1-3 2-2 4, Harris 1-5 3-4 5. Totals 17-52 15-21 52.

NU: Whitish 3-7 2-2 9, Eliely 5-9 2-4 13, Wood 4-10 0-0 12, Cain 7-10 2-3 16, Cincore 0-4 0-0 0, Morton 1-5 1-2 3, Mitchell 1-2 1-2 4, Stallworth 0-4 0-0 0, Simon 4-9 1-1 10, Blackburn 2-6 0-0 4, Washington 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-67 9-14 73.

3-point shots: APB 3-14 (Bryson 1-1, Totten 1-1, Muhammad 1-4, Ohanta 0-2, Murdock 0-2, Richardson 0-1, Hassan 0-1, Taylor 0-2), NU 8-26 (Wood 4-8, Mitchell 1-1, Eliely 1-2, Whitish 1-4, Simon 1-4, Cincore 0-2, Stallworth 0-2, Morton 0-3). Rebounds: NU 50 (Cain 11), APB 28 (Ohanta 8). Assists: NU 24 (Whitish 8), APB 10 (Muhammad 3). Fouls: APB 17, NU 16. A: 3,781.

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