Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

After Loss At No. 6 Indiana, The Husker Women Get Another Shot At Caitlin Clark, Iowa

January 15, 2022

The rematch is on.

One week after Iowa hung on to escape Lincoln with a 95-86 win thanks in part to Caitlin Clark’s monster 31-point, 12-assist performance, Nebraska gets its chance to beat the Hawkeyes on their home court.

Nebraska visits Iowa City to play Iowa on Sunday at 5 p.m. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Head coach Amy Williams’ Huskers, who started 12-0 with wins over 11 non-conference opponents, have had their ups and downs since fully diving into Big Ten play. Nebraska is 1-3 in it last four games, with the lone win being a really good one against then-No. 8 Michigan. But the Huskers have also fallen on the road to both Michigan State and No. 6 Indiana. Nebraska has kept all its games against conference foes close—the three losses have come by an average of 6.3 points.

In the losses to Iowa and Indiana, the Huskers put themselves in position to get the win, but key mistakes happened. Against the Hawkeyes, it was slip-ups in transition defense during a key stretch in the fourth quarter after Nebraska had taken a lead.

“We did not defend the way we need to defend in order to do that against a high-powered offense like Iowa,” Williams said after the Iowa game. “I thought they really came in and made big shots, big plays.”

On Thursday night, the Hoosiers were able to go on runs of 8-0 and 9-0 in the first half that helped them gain a 44-31 lead at halftime. The Huskers wound up clawing back to make things interesting in Bloomington, but the hole was too deep to climb out of. Shooting 11-of-18 at the free-throw line didn’t help matters. Neither did committing 16 turnovers.

“We competed, we fought, we scratched, we put ourselves in a position to be back in the ball game. I’m pleased with that,” Williams said after the Indiana game. “But in this league, it’s so brutally competitive, and you’re going to have to play for 40 minutes, and we did not do that here today.”

After a 77-69 loss to Northwestern, Iowa has won its last two games. The Hawkeyes defeated Purdue on the road Thursday night, 79-66, behind 27 points from Monika Czinano (on an efficient 12-of-14 from the field) and 24 points and nine assists from Clark, who got to the foul line early and often, going 14-of-16. Czinano, a 6-3 forward, rarely misses—she’s third in the country in field-goal percentage at 65.8% (98-of-149).

The last time Clark was playing the Huskers, she had a little fun with the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd. The 6-foot guard and preseason Big Ten Player of the Year—voted by the conference coaches—motioned “bring it on” before taking a couple free throws with under a minute remaining when the game was all but won by the Hawkeyes. That move drew boos, but after the game Clark said that’s what women’s basketball needs—passion.

“I enjoy playing here, I knew the crowd was going to be pretty good, and I love that,” Clark said after the Nebraska game. “I was kind of getting into it with them a little bit, but I think for women’s basketball, that’s exactly what you need. I love that. I love when we went to Iowa State. I love when we went to Duke. Those crowds were incredible. And I’m a competitor, I love playing in front of people. I think that’s what brings out the best and I think that brings out the best in our team.”

Clark is averaging 25.15 points, which ranks second in the nation, right behind Jasmine Dickey of Delaware (25.2). The Hawkeyes’ playmaker is also fourth in the nation in assists with 7.2 per game.

One question heading into Sunday’s game centers around All-Big Ten guard Sam Haiby. The Moorhead, Minnesota, native was forced to leave the game at Indiana with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter with an injury. She watched the rest of the game on the bench with her right shoulder wrapped in ice. The fourth-year guard is leading the team in scoring against Big Ten foes with 14 points per game.

If Haiby can’t play on Sunday, that might mean more minutes for true freshman guard Allison Weidner. The Humphrey St. Francis product gave her team strong minutes off the bench against the Hoosiers and finished with seven points and five rebounds while going 5-of-6 at the free-throw line. Against Iowa the first time around, Weidner played well with nine points, four rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes.

While her jumpshot comes along, Weidner has done well aggressively driving to the hoop where, if she’s not connecting on layups or dishing the ball off to a teammate, she can get to the free-throw line.

“I feel like that’s kind of my strength, and I feel like that’s my role on this team, to be a spark,” Weidner said after scoring 10 points in a win over Drake on Dec. 19. “So that’s just how I try to spark the team.”

Weidner and another true freshman, forward Alexis Markowski, were key to the Huskers almost knocking off Indiana on Thursday. The two combined to score 13 of the final 16 points, and Markowski, a Lincoln Pius X grad who was recently named the national freshman of the week, had nine of that 13. Markwoski, who has started the last three games in place of the injured Bella Cravens, is averaging 13.2 points and six rebounds in Big Ten Play.

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