Photo Credit: John Peterson

After Maryland Upset, Huskers Return Home to Face Wisconsin

December 06, 2022

Nebraska women’s basketball will play its first home game in over two weeks on Wednesday against Wisconsin.

The game will kick off a five-game home stand, with the final three nonconference matchups sandwiched between a pair of Big Ten contests.

The Huskers are 6-3 and went 3-1 over the recent stretch away from Lincoln. That included two wins in Puerto Rico and their first true road win of the season, a 23-point win at No. 20 Maryland.

That victory over the Terrapins Sunday was the first time Nebraska had ever beaten Maryland, and an important win considering the Huskers had started the year with three double-digit losses in opposing arenas.

“I think the best thing that our team has been able to do is just really learn from the losses,” head coach Amy Williams said at Tuesday’s press conference. “It’s not easy, and it’s not fun. But we’ve had some tough challenges against ranked opponents on the road, and a couple of those did not go the way we wanted them to. But to dig deep and find ways that we could improve and then have that pay off and really commit to that for 40 minutes at Maryland and have that pay off was huge.”

The women’s team wasn’t the only one to come with a big win on Sunday. Nebraska’s men’s basketball team took down No. 7 Creighton on the road as well. Williams and men’s basketball head coach Fred Hoiberg exchanged congratulations for their upsets, and the women’s team even had the chance to watch part of the men’s game during a refueling stop on their flight back to Nebraska.

“It was pretty incredible,” she said. “We were originally not super excited about the fact that we had a refueling stop on the way back, but we landed in Columbus just in time to be able to pull up about the last four-and-a-half minutes of the ballgame and be able to watch it. It was just a an eruption of excitement from our team, being able to see the guys have a huge win like that.”

The women’s team took down two power conference opponents in the last four games, beating Mississippi State in Puerto Rico along with the win over Maryland.

A major factor in both of those victories was the performance of Jaz Shelley. Against the Bulldogs, she scored 14 consecutive points in overtime to tie her career-high of 32 points and push the Huskers to a win. She scored 29 against the Terrapins, including 16 in the third quarter.

The junior guard shot under 50% in each of the first five games, but over the last four, she’s shot exactly 50% from the field and 51.7% from beyond the arc. Williams said her recent jump in offensive production has been a result of an increased aggressiveness, which has opened things up for both Shelley and the rest of the team.

“She’s become a lot more difficult to defend off ball screen action,” Williams said. “They don’t have the time to figure out how they’re going to navigate and get through quite as easily when she’s playing that way and playing with pace.”

Shelley played 81 of 85 possible minutes between the Mississippi State and Maryland wins. A load like that likely won’t be expected every game, especially when the team adds injured guards Trinity Brady and Sam Haiby back into the mix, but she’ll still play a major role through the rest of the year.

Wisconsin, the upcoming opponent, has struggled early this season. The Badgers are 3-7 after an 8-21 campaign last season, most recently losing 71-102 to No. 10 Iowa. Still, Williams had plenty of praise for the team the Huskers beat twice last year.

“Wisconsin is outstanding at executing their offense and they run just really good stuff and they’re versatile and they are deep,” Williams said. “… They have a lot of weapons and are putting it together and piecing it together, and they’re gonna be a force to be reckoned with in Big Ten play.”

The Badgers have been led by Julie Pospisilova through 10 games. The senior guard averages 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and a block per game. In losses to VCU and Florida State, she had 27 and 32 points, respectively.

Behind Pospisilova, two freshmen starters are the other double-digit scorers. Redshirt freshman guard Maty Wilke is a 3-point threat that also leads the team in steals, while 6-foot-4 true freshman forward Serah Williams is Wisconsin’s top shot-blocker and shoots 55.6% from the field.

Williams also made note of Sydney Hilliard, who has returned to Wisconsin’s lineup recently after missing the first eight games of the year and a significant portion of last season. In 2020-21, she was an all-conference honorable mention.

The Huskers will look to keep the positive momentum going and win their sixth straight game against Wisconsin. For a preseason top-25 team, they’ve had some struggles through a tough early schedule, but Williams said its prepared them for what’s ahead.

“I know that my team is comfortable with stumbling a little bit early, finding some things out, learning a lot about ourselves and really crescendoing at the right time,” Williams said. “We feel like this is a good path to give us a chance to do that.”

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