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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Padding the Stats: A Missed Opportunity in Omaha

November 16, 2022

A record 2,306 fans crowded into D.J. Sokol Arena on a cold Tuesday night to witness a showdown between two top-25 teams in a cerebration of women’s basketball in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, the No. 22 Cornhuskers forgot to show up to the party. No. 20 Creighton took control early and ran away from Nebraska for a 77-51 blowout win.

The Bluejays are coming off the school’s first Elite Eight run and returned eight players form that team including their top four scorers. Coach Jim Flanery put together a brutal schedule for his squad which opened with road games at a top-25 team in South Dakota State and another team coming off an Elite Eight run in South Dakota. Creighton went 2-0 in those games, though they faced nine-point first-half deficits in both games.

Nebraska, on the other hand, opened the season with two buy games against low-majors, outscoring Omaha and Houston Christian a combined 179-84. Though Nebraska brought plenty back from last year’s NCAA Tournament qualifier, the Huskers did not appear prepared for what waited for them in Omaha.

Whether it was the opener, the quality of opponent or some combination of the two, Nebraska looked sped up all night long. The Huskers shot 31% from the field (including 11-of-27 on layups) and turned the ball over 18 times (including four travels). Nebraska had five turnovers (including three of those travels) before the game’s first media timeout.

Tuesday was the first time where the Huskers really felt Sam Haiby’s absence. Nebraska needs a lot more from Alexis Markowski and Isabelle Bourne (19 points on 7-of-17 shooting and 3-of-7 free-throw shooting, one assist, eight turnovers between them) on the offensive end. Paint points plus free throws was a wash (34-34), which should be considered a negative for the Huskers who looked to pound it into the post all game with a size advantage.

After two big outings against lesser competition, Tuesday was Allison Weidner’s first game against a good team as the No. 2 backcourt option. I thought she had a few really nice plays, and Nebraska looked its best when Weidner was making plays for herself or others off the bounce. However, she finished with just five points on 1-of-3 shooting, two assists and four turnovers after scoring 45 points in the first two games. Three shot attempts (and four free-throw attempts) simply isn’t going to be enough in a big game. Haiby’s injury means Nebraska needs the sophomore from Humphrey to grow up in a hurry, because she has the talent to form a dynamic backcourt with Jaz Shelley.

The Huskers got the best of the Bluejays last season, but Creighton has now won six of the last seven.

Nebraska will have to learn from its failures quickly as the Huskers will hit the road again to face a Drake team that took No. 4 Iowa to overtime recently.

Other thoughts from Tuesday night:

>> It’s always fun to see local players involved in an in-state rivalry, and their were five total Nebraska natives in Tuesday’s game — three for Nebraska (Markowski, Weidner and Maddie Krull) and two for Creighton (Morgan Maly and Jayme Horan).

Krull and Horan are good friends and played together at Millard South. Markowski and Horan both played for the same summer ball organization as well in the Nebraska Lasers, though Many is a year ahead of Markowski. The shared history provides just a little bit more juice to an already exciting matchup.

>> Tuesday provided a terrific uniform matchup as Creighton opted to wear its blue jerseys against Nebraska’s road reds. More color-on-color matchups, please.

>> Though the game itself didn’t quite live up to expectations, the Creighton-Nebraska game was one of just two in men’s or women’s Division I basketball that featured two ranked teams. The other was Duke-Kansas on the men’s side in the Champions Classic.

Duke-Kansas was on ESPN. Creighton-Nebraska was on… FloSports?

If you’re unfamiliar with FloSports, it’s a streaming outlet with which the Big East contracted out much of its coverage of women’s basketball and olympic sports as part of a multi-year deal. It costs $29.99 a month for a subscription, which is a pretty steep price, especially if you’re just looking to watch one game (for comparison, you get access to Hail Varsity Magazine and all of our online content for just $6.99 per month).

I heard from a lot of Nebraska fans who would have loved to sit down and watch the game on TV, but couldn’t, and that’s a shame. This game had a chance to put a big spotlight on women’s basketball in this state, but no one stepped up to the plate.

Let me first state that I haven’t spoken to anyone about the logistics behind picking up games for television or how all of that works. I don’t know what was and wasn’t possible on Tuesday night.

Tuesday was obviously a home game for the Bluejays, so the rights to the game fall to Creighton and the Big East. That takes Big Ten Network off the table.

Nebraska Public Media has picked up both Creighton and Nebraska sporting events to show locally in the past (including a pair of Nebraska women’s basketball games last January), but it apparently had no interest in doing so here.

Meanwhile, FS1 was airing the third installment of this year’s Gavitt Tipoff games between two teams expected to be near the bottom of their respective conferences in Northwestern and Georgetown. That game produced this monstrosity of a sequence before the Wildcats pulled away in he second half.

This bit of criticism loses some of its bite with the women not producing the classic clash many expected, but then again, watch that clip above again. I’m sure there are TV obligations tied into the agreement to create an interconfertnce challenge like the Gavitt Tipoff Games, but it till would have been nice to see two talented women’s teams get the spotlight it deserved, either locally or nationally.

It feels like a missed opportunity.

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