Feb. 28, 2010

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska cut down the nets three nights after winning its first Big 12 title.

The third-ranked and unbeaten Cornhuskers made merry with their fans after dispatching last-place Missouri 67-51 Saturday.

"Everybody was feeling a bit of pressure knowing there was a little celebration here tonight if we were to win so it's good to get that out of the way, and hopefully we can play a little better on Wednesday," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said.

Confetti and red and white balloons fell from the Devaney Sports Center ceiling as the players and coaches accepted the championship trophy on the court shortly after the final buzzer.

The Huskers ran off with their 22nd win by a double-digit margin after Missouri looked early on as if it might try to ruin the party.

As the final seconds ticked off, the crowd of 13,595 -- the first sellout in Nebraska program history and the sixth straight home crowd of more than 10,000 -- chanted "Go Big Red, Go Big Red."

Following the trophy presentation, players and staff cut down the nets as "We Are the Champions" blasted over the loudspeakers. Nebraska's last conference title came in the Big 12 in 1988.

The Huskers (27-0, 14-0) clinched the championship with Wednesday's 80-64 win at Oklahoma. They're trying to become the second team in the Big 12's 13-year history to go unbeaten in conference play. The 2005-06 Sooners went 16-0.

Nebraska finishes the regular season against Kansas at home on Wednesday and at Kansas State next Saturday.

"We still have to realize what we've accomplished, and we haven't gotten to that point yet," Yvonne Turner said. "We have a lot more work to do. We still have a lot of goals we have left to accomplish."

Kelsey Griffin scored 19 points, with a school-record 17 coming from the free-throw line, and she pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds.

Turner added 15 points and Dominique Kelley 11 for the Huskers.

Missouri (11-16, 1-13) got 21 points from RaeShara Brown and 13 from Jessra Johnson.

The Huskers were able to win convincingly, again, despite what appeared to be a mild hangover from the title-clinching win in Norman, Okla.

"We've got a pretty good team," Yori said. "There's a reason we're 27-0. This didn't happen by happenstance. It happened because we've got good players. Our guys play hard and do the right things. We didn't have our 'A' game, yet it was nice to see us win it still."

The Huskers had to come from behind late to beat Missouri 82-78 on the road Feb. 13 and looked like they might be in for another close game.

They scuffled along through the first 10 minutes against the last-place Tigers, who haven't won since upsetting Baylor on Jan. 23.

Lindsay Moore was called for charging and missed a point-blank layup. Cory Montgomery was whistled for a 3-second violation and Turner for traveling.

Missouri hung with the Huskers, and RaeShara Brown's jumper cut the Nebraska lead to 17-15.

"We fight and scrap every game," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. "We don't always get 'em, but our kids definitely haven't thrown it in the tank yet. This is one of the toughest places to play right now. When you can have a crowd like this every game, it puts an incredible amount of pressure on your team."

After a Nebraska timeout, Turner took a cross-court pass from Kelley and buried a 3-pointer. Missouri committed a shot-clock violation, then Moore passed to Montgomery out of a double-team for an easy layup.

Toy Richbow hit a jumper for Missouri's last field goal of the half with 3:53 left before Nebraska went on a 10-2 run to lead 40-27. Nebraska stretched the lead to 20 points in the second half.

Griffin, who matched her school record with 18 free-throw attempts, was 1 of 10 from the field. She also had a career-high five blocks and made three steals.

"I didn't realize my night was this bad," Griffin said, referring to her field-goal shooting. "I'm fortunate enough to play with four other scorers on the floor while I'm out there, so there's no need for me to play outside myself."

Yori addressed fans after the game, thanking them for their support, especially the ones who have stuck with the Huskers since she came to Lincoln eight years ago. Her first team, she recalled, won just one Big 12 game.

"Those fans back then gave us standing ovations despite the fact we would lose," she said. "Who does that but Husker fans?"