Photo: Craig Cappy Georgia Tech's Metra Walthour (5) drives against Nebraska's Tear'a Laudermill (11) during Wednesday's game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH -- After two tough losses to nationally ranked teams in a showcase last weekend in Puerto Rico, Georgia Tech women's basketball coach MaChelle Joseph was basically looking for two things out of her team in its game with Nebraska.
Effort and toughness.
The Yellow Jackets gave her plenty of both in handing the visiting Cornhuskers their first loss of the season in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with a 73-57 win before 1,025 fans at The Arena at Gwinnett Center on Wednesday night.
Ty Marshall had career highs and posted her first career double-double with game highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Tech (5-2) dominated the boards, outrebounding Nebraska (6-2) by a 54-32 clip, including pulling down 25 rebounds on the offensive glass.
"I'm really proud of the way our team responded (Wednesday) night," Joseph said. "You always find out about people's toughness and their character in adverse situations. And I felt like coming off those two tough losses (in Puerto Rico), especially the overtime loss to (Green Bay), I was really just pleased with the way we came out and jumped right at Nebraska and really took it at them the first five, 10 minutes of the game."
Defense was the key in the Jackets jumping out in front early and never really looking back.
They held Nebraska (6-1) to just 32.3 percent shooting from the floor for the game, including just 20.7 percent during the first half and forced 26 turnovers from the visitors.
And the lopsided rebounding margin only bolstered Joseph's happiness with her team's toughness on the night.
"Rebounding's about heart and effort," Joseph said. "I really challenged our team. ... One of the things I felt was going to be a weakness of this team was rebounding and toughness. That showed up in San Juan, but (Wednesday) night, we turned it around. We made that our strength."
Tech gained control with a 10-0 run near the midway point of the first half that included four points each from Marshall and Danielle Hamilton-Carter that left the Jackets with a 20-5 lead after Metra Walthour's jumper with 11:51 left in the half.
They held Nebraska to just two field goals until Jordan Hooper's layup with 7:29 left and just six in the half.
Still, the Cornhuskers managed to hang around, as a combined six straight free throws from Hooper, Hallie Sample and Kaitlyn Burke pulled them as close as 20-11 with 9:43 left in the half.
But a 14-5 run over the next 5:31, keyed by four more points from Marshall, gave Tech as much as a 19-point lead before taking a 34-20 advantage into intermission.
But after Nebraska opened the second half strong and pulled as close as 12 points at 41-29 after a Lindsey Moore 3-pointer with 14:59 to play, Marshall began to take over.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore scored nine points and pulled down three boards to lead a 15-4 run over the next 6:02, which gave the Jackets their biggest lead of the night at 56-33 following a Dawnn Maye free throw with 8:37 to play.
And even when the Cornhuskers made a late run, using a 13-2 run to pull as close as 12 points again at 64-52 with 2:50 left, Marshall was there to restore order.
Her two free throws with 2:22 left were followed by a layup 31 seconds later before she finished her night with her only 3-pointer of the game with 26 seconds left to help Tech put the game away.
"We kind of got a little stuck in San Juan," said Marshall, who shot 12 of 22 (54 percent) from the floor on the evening. "But we focused ourselves and we came out toughness.
"I just think I made myself a presence and ... ran the floor well. And I have great point guards. ... They found me in transition, and I just tried to help my team and take over so we could win the game."
While Marshall was the only Tech player in double-figure scoring and rebounding, the Jackets also got a strong effort on the night from Maye (nine points, six assists, three steals), Walthour (five points, five rebounds and eight assists), Sydney Wallace (nine points, three assists) and Sasha Goodlet (eight points, five boards).
It wasn't a perfect night for Tech, which committed 26 turnovers of its own.
But the only allowed Nebraska to convert those miscues into 15 points, while the Jackets cashed in on the Cornhuskers' turnovers for 28 points.
And, like Joseph, Nebraska coach Connie Yori said those numbers went the heart of the matter in Wednesdsay's game -- toughness.
"Our turnovers led to baskets, and their turnovers didn't," Yori said. "There and rebounding, we didn't have an answer. We didn't want to box out. They did a good job on the offensive glass. ... They were a little more ready to play than we were.
"We played too soft, but we're really, really young, and it's a great learning experience for us. The next time we see this type of team, hopefully we'll be a little more prepared."
Hooper led the Cornhuskers with a doube-double of her own with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Moore scored a team-high 16 points, mainly on the strength of 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, most of which came in the late minutes.