Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Back Home After Three-Game Road Swing, Nebraska Gets Another Shot At Top-10 Indiana

February 13, 2022

Following a win over a Big Ten cellar-dwelling team, Illinois, on Saturday, the Nebraska women’s basketball team has one more game against a ranked opponent before it can play the final stretch of its regular season.

The No. 7 Indiana Hoosiers come to Lincoln for a Monday night contest at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Game time for the contest is 6 p.m. The Huskers gave them all they could handle when the two played in Bloomington in January. Now, Nebraska is looking for another shot to knock off the Big Ten’s best team.

After playing three games on the road in seven days, the Huskers were anxious to get back home. Following their game at Ohio State last Thursday, the team stayed on the road by going straight to Champaign, Ill., to play the Fighting Illini.

Once the Huskers dispatched the Illini, the team flew back to Lincoln. The trips after wins are usually much more enjoyable than the ones after losses.

“A road win in the Big Ten, they’re just hard to come by,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams told Husker Radio Network. “We’re thrilled to be going home with that, and I don’t think our kids are going to be sad about getting home at a reasonable time and sleeping in their own beds tonight and just having that opportunity. We’ll get together tomorrow (Sunday) and prep for a big game with Indiana on Monday, but we’re going to, for the rest of the day, get back to Lincoln and let them really crash, relax, rest and recover.”

It seems that Isabelle Bourne is starting to get back to her usual self, one that was a second-team All-Big Ten player last year. In her last four games, the Husker forward and Australian is averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Against Illinois, Bourne set the tone early by getting in a groove in the first half. She scored 14 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting from the field by halftime and stung the Illini defense by going 2-of-3 from 3-point range. She finished with 17 points and seven boards.

Having better starts to games has been at the top of the priority list for Nebraska lately. Bourne’s performance did just that as the Huskers blitzed the Illini, taking a 25-11 lead heading into the second quarter.

“The last couple of games we’ve sometimes been a little slow out of the gate,” Bourne told Husker Radio Network, “so we’ve been focusing on that and I’m just trying to do my part in that area, so come out with guns blazing and go as hard as I can, whether that’s scoring to rebounding. Just finding a way to contribute to make sure that we have a good start.”

Bourne is one of the leaders on the team and saw fellow Australian, guard Jaz Shelley, snap out of her shooting funk she had been in lately. Shelley went 5-of-13 from 3-point range and scored a team-high 21 points against Illinois. Prior to that, Shelley had only made more than one 3 in one of her last eight games.

What was the secret to success on Saturday? To Bourne, it was all about confidence.

“Focusing not directly on her shooting and finding other ways to get her mind off that, and just shoot the ball with confidence, and I think she did that today,” Bourne said of Shelley. “Having a positive mindset from the jump will help her continue to shoot like that.”

Indiana presents a much more difficult task than Illinois does. The Hoosiers will bring the best record in the conference to Lincoln at 18-3 overall with a 10-1 mark in Big Ten play. They’re riding a four-game winning streak.

Indiana is averaging 72.8 points per game and one of its top players, Grace Berger, is scoring 16.9 points per game against Big Ten teams. Berger is coming off a win over Michigan State where she scored 29 points and went 11-of-11 at the free-throw line. Another steady contributor has been Aleksa Gulbe, a 6-foot-3 forward from Latvia who’s pouring in 15 points per game and shooting 46% (18-of-39) from 3 against conference foes.

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