COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The shots were falling, the defense was working and Chattanooga seemed ready to spring the upset against Nebraska on Saturday night.
Turns out, all the Cornhuskers had to do was switch defenses and call some plays for Jordan Hooper.
Hooper scored 18 of her 21 points in the second half to help the Cornhuskers rally past the Lady Mocs 73-59 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Taylor Hall scored 13 and Alex Black had 12 for the 11th-seeded Lady Mocs (29-4), who had won 19 in a row. Chattanooga wilted when Nebraska went to a man-to-man defense midway through the second half.
"We tried to make a couple of calls that would prepare us for that," Chattanooga coach Wes Moore said. "I feel bad. I don't feel like I was able to get us enough offensive looks."
The Cornhuskers had planned to play a zone defense to force the Lady Mocs to shoot from outside and neutralize 6-foot-3 Ashlen Dewart, Chattanooga's leading scorer. Hooper noticed a heightened intensity when coach Connie Yori ordered the switch to man-to-man.
So did the Lady Mocs.
"A lot changed when they switched to man in the second half," Hall said. "In the beginning, we were knocking down 3s. But after they switched, we were forced to take tougher shots, so I think that had a lot to do with it."
Chattanooga trailed 58-57 with eight minutes left, then mustered only one field goal the rest of the way, a layup by Tatianna Jackson with 5:22 left.
"We needed to attack the basket more," Moore said. "It just comes back to the fact that they really turned up the heat and we didn't handle it well."
Chattanooga has lost six consecutive NCAA tournament games since a 74-69 upset of Rutgers in the first round in 2004. But the Lady Mocs matched the school record for victories in a season and put together the fourth-longest winning streak in school history.
"They have shown up every day and given great effort and played hard," Moore said. "I wish we could have gone a little further."
Hooper also grabbed 12 rebounds and Lindsey Moore added 13 points for Nebraska, which won for the 12th time in 14 games.
The sixth-seeded Cornhuskers (24-8) will play third-seeded Texas A&M (25-9) on Monday night. The Aggies advanced with a 71-45 victory over No. 14 seed Wichita State.
The Cornhuskers led the Big Ten in made 3-pointers during the regular season, but Chattanooga was the team connecting from long range for most of the game.
The Lady Mocs sank six 3s in the first half, nearly matching their per-game average, and Black added two more in the first five minutes after the break. Chattanooga opened the second half with a 15-6 run to go up 47-38.
"We were down nine, it's not looking good," Yori said. "We could have easily folded up the tent and headed back to Lincoln. But our players did a really good job when we switched defenses about the 11-minute mark. They did a really good job of responding and playing personnel."
The Cornhuskers attacked inside to slowly cut into the deficit. Emily Cady spun around a defender for a layup, drew a foul and sank the free throw to trim the gap to 47-44 with 13 minutes to go. Hall flipped in a bank shot over her shoulder before Rachel Theriot hit another 3 to pull Nebraska within two.
Then Hooper took control. Yori repeatedly called plays for her, and Hooper responded by sinking four 3-pointers in the final 10:28.
"That gives me a lot of confidence, that she has confidence in me," Hooper said. "If she's going to put me in that position, I'm going to shoot it. It doesn't go in, it doesn't go in. But if it does, that's pretty cool."
The Cornhuskers closed the game with a 15-2 run. Chattanooga finished 10 for 28 from beyond the arc, but made only four after halftime.
"We got frustrated," Moore said. "You have to give Nebraska a lot of credit, they were a lot more aggressive than we were."