Tear'a Laudermill scored 22 of her career-high 27 points and made six of her seven 3-pointers in the first half, and No. 16 Nebraska defeated eighth-ranked Penn State 94-74 to stay alive in the Big Ten race on Monday night.
The Cornhuskers (21-5, 11-3) 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 blistering first-half shooting performance. The Huskers made 11 of 14 3-pointers the opening 20 minutes, a 78.6-percent clip that was the best by a major-conference team this season and second-best in Division I behind Alabama State's 81.8 percent (9 of 11) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Nebraska finished with a season-high 16 3s on 22 attempts. The school record for 3s in a game is 17.
Jordan Hooper added 19 points, Rachel Theriot had 17 and Emily Cady added 14.
Ariel Edwards led Penn State with 24 points, Maggie Lucas had 17 and Dara Taylor had 10.
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 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. She turned around, head down, as she went back to play defense. 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.
Penn State had beaten Nebraska in their previous three meetings, scoring no fewer than 80 points and winning by an average margin of 19 points.
UConn taking care of business: UConn just doesn't lose often to teams that it shouldn't. While the Syracuse men's team suffered its first defeat of the season at home to lowly Boston College last week, the Huskies haven't fallen to a team under .500 since losing to Villanova on Jan. 27, 1993.
UConn has only lost once since that season to an unranked team, a span of more than 200 games. That defeat was to St. John's on Feb. 18, 2012.
New conference, same result: Notre Dame accomplished a rare feat on Sunday, winning a conference titles in consecutive seasons in different leagues. A year after taking the Big East crown, the Irish won the ACC title by beating Duke on Sunday. That capped off a busy week with three victories which kept Notre Dame unbeaten.
Prior to this season that hadn't been accomplished since TCU and Louisiana Tech did it over the 2000-01 and '01-02 seasons according to STATS. Middle Tennessee, which entered the poll this week at No. 23, could also do that this year. The Blue Raiders won the Sun Belt East Division last year and are on pace to win Conference USA this season.
Kayla McBride scored a career-high 31 points in the victory over the Blue Devils.
"We definitely enjoyed that," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of beating the defending conference champion Blue Devils.
Mid-poll shuffle: While the only change in the top 10 was Penn State and Maryland flipping spots at No. 8 and 9, only one team in the rest of the poll stayed in the same place as the week before. California remained 18th while the rest of the teams in the poll changed spots.
Welcome back, and farewell: Middle Tennessee and Iowa re-entered the AP Top 25 this week at No. 23 and 25 while St. John's and LSU fell out. It's the first time this season that the Lady Tigers have fallen out of the poll. They've lost four straight games and host No. 10 Tennessee on Thursday. Middle Tennessee has won five straight games since its lone conference loss to Southern Miss on Feb. 5.
Duke's Alexis Jones tears ACL in left knee: Duke sophomore guard Alexis Jones tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee on Sunday and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Jones, who was averaging 13.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds, will have surgery Thursday after an MRI on Monday confirmed the injury. She hurt the knee in the second half of the loss to No. 2 Notre Dame.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils had already lost senior Chelsea Gray for the season on Jan. 12 with a knee injury.
Duke (24-4, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Wake Forest on Thursday.