There was plenty that Nebraska women’s basketball coach Amy Williams learned about her team following last Thursday’s 72-69 loss at Michigan State.
One was that the Huskers need to find other ways to score the basketball when the outside shot isn’t falling. The 3-point shooting wasn’t good in the loss as they went 7-of-33. Another was being tougher on the glass—Michigan State outrebounded the Huskers by seven.
But Williams learned maybe the most important thing about the team when she came to work a day later on Friday. The sixth-year coach could hear her team working, even when Friday was an off day.
“I’ve learned that they don’t like to lose, and that’s a really good thing,” Williams said Monday afternoon during a chat with the media at Pinnacle Bank Arena. “That’s something that I’m really excited to learn about this group, is that I think they know there were a lot of things that were within our control that could have cost us that one-possession ball game on the road. So I’ve seen an increased attention to detail in the last couple days of practice, and the very next morning, before I even got into work, there were balls bouncing in the gym and people in the gym.
“It was a day off for us, but they were not satisfied with 21 percent from the 3-point line and missing a few easy layups, so I think they’ve taken some measures and those are good things to learn in times of adversity.”
With the loss, Nebraska dropped to 12-1. There’s little time to keep pondering what went wrong in East Lansing as the Huskers are set to host the No. 8 Michigan Wolverines on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. Michigan will roll into Lincoln with a record of 12-1 and is a confident group, Williams said. The Wolverines are 3-0 in conference play and have scored 90-plus points against two of those opponents, Wisconsin and No. 25 Ohio State.
In that win over Ohio State, Michigan nearly had three players score over 20 points, including reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Naz Hillmon (29 points), former Husker Leigha Brown (24) and Emily Kiser (18). Hillmon, a 6-foot-2 forward, poses one of the biggest challenges the Huskers have faced this season. She’ll come into the contest averaging 20.9 points and 9.2 rebounds.
“They obviously have a couple of the better scorers in our whole league on the same roster, so I think they’re very confident right now,” Williams said of Michigan. “It’s going to be a really tough task for our defense, but that’s what’s going to make us better, playing against challenges like that.”
Brown transferred to Michigan following a 2019-20 season in which she was the Big Ten’s Sixth Player of the Year after leading Nebraska in scoring at 14.4 points per game. The 6-1 guard was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season and is averaging 15.5 points for the Wolverines this year, which is second on the team.
Tuesday night’s game will mark the first time Brown will be playing at PBA in a uniform that isn’t Nebraska’s. The Huskers played at Michigan last season, but Brown didn’t suit up as she tested positive for COVID-19 prior to tipoff.
“One thing we feel like, we’re just at the point where we’ve moved past that and I know she has too,” Williams said of Brown’s departure. “She’s a great player and we’ll wish her well other than tomorrow night at eight o’clock, and we’re focused with this team moving forward with the piece that we currently have.”
The game will also be the first time that Sam Haiby plays against Brown. The two were teammates when Brown was a Husker. Haiby is coming off a 19-point, seven-rebound outing at Michigan State.
“Definitely had this game circled for a long time,” Haiby said when asked about playing against Brown and a top-10 ranked Michigan team. “We didn’t get to play her last year, but Leigha’s obviously a good player and Michigan is a really good team. So, just in general, if we can get this win on our home court, it’d be great.”