The contributions came from everywhere on Sunday afternoon as the Nebraska women’s basketball team improved to 11-0 on the season with an 89-68 win over the Drake Bulldogs at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers had five players score in double figures as they topped 80 points for the sixth time this season. Ashley Scoggin tied for the game-high with 16 points and went 4-of-10 from 3-point range. Both Sam Haiby and Alexis Markowski scored 15 points, and Markowski, a true freshman, recorded her second-consecutive double-double with 10 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass. Another first-year player, Allison Weidner, and Annika Stewart each added 10 points, too.
Nebraska’s defense held Drake’s high-scoring offense 15 points below its season average of 83.2 and forced 27 turnovers, which the Huskers turned into 44 points for themselves.
Drake came out and punched the Huskers in the mouth with perimeter shooting. The Bulldogs came into the game shooting 36.9% (87-of-236) from 3, which ranked 29th in the country. They hit 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc in the first 10 minutes and trailed just 28-22 heading into the second quarter. But Drake cooled off from deep once the Huskers settled into the game and went a combined 2-of-9 in the final three quarters.
Williams said the Bulldogs’ backdoor cutting was beating Nebraska’s defense early on, creating opportunities at the basket and the 3-point line. But that didn’t last.
“Once we got a little more comfortable with the pace of the game and how things were going to go and where they were going to be finding their shots, I thought we did a better job of really getting out and contesting and getting our hand up,” Williams said. “We knew they were dangerous from behind the arc, so that was something we were going to have to shore up, and I think we did a better job in the second half.”
With Nebraska’s leading scorer, Jaz Shelley, having an off night shooting the ball (she finished with seven points on 2-of-7 from the field), veteran guard Sam Haiby stepped up in a big way. Haiby, a second-team All-Big Ten selection last year, scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half and had an answer every time the Bulldogs had momentum. She missed just two of her seven first-half shots.
“I thought she played with great confidence and we needed every minute that,” Williams said of her fourth-year player from Moorhead, Minnesota.
Haiby came into the game just 1-of-12 from 3-point range. But she got 3-of-4 to fall behind the arc in the opening two quarters. Those were big shots in a big moment for her team. She also dished out four assists in the win.
Before the game, Haiby joked with teammate Isabelle Bourne that she’d get at least one 3 to go.
“They haven’t been falling, but I’ve been working on it, so just having that confidence,” Haiby said. “She (Bourne) believed in me, too, so just to see a few of those go in was really good.”
Markowski gave her team energy and was tough to handle in the paint for Drake. At one point she scored nine points and hauled down six rebounds in 6 minutes off the bench. Her and-1 layup gave Nebraska a 36-31 edge with 5 minutes before halftime. Markowski now has back-to-back double-doubles as she recorded the first of her career in last week’s win over Indiana State when she had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“Really, my role is to rebound and go after every board that I can. A lot of the offensive boards I can get a putback, and I just feel very comfortable out there,” Markowski said.
Markowski has been putting in the work and is seeing the benefits. Williams said the Lincoln Pius X grad is spending a lot of time outside of practice with assistant coaches Chuck Love and Tom Goehle working on individual skill development.
That work has helped Markowski be more comfortable finishing over both shoulders and helping her slow down so she can shoot a higher percentage. In the past two games, Markowski is shooting a combined 78% (11-of-14) from the field.
“She’s just been relentless on the boards and she continues to work, and that’s why we’re seeing such great growth out of her,” Williams said of her freshman post.
Nebraska gained a 45-39 lead at halftime thanks to a Bourne 3 and a fast-break layup from Scoggin. That duo connected again to start the third quarter. A drive-and-dish from Bourne to Scoggin for an open corner 3 gave the Huskers a 48-39 lead with 8 minutes remaining in the third.
Contributions from another true freshman, Weidner, helped the team grow its lead. The Humphrey St. Francis product picked the pocket of a Bulldog at the top of a full-court press and got an and-1 layup to give her team a 57-44. Weidner’s 10 points was her best point production since the Nov. 11 win over Prairie View A&M when she had a career-high 11.
While she works on her jumpshot, Weidner is more than willing to take the open lanes to the hoop when they’re there.
“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. “So that’s just how I try to spark the team.”
Drake did make things interesting in the second half. The Bulldogs cut their deficit to 64-58 with 8 minutes left in the fourth, but a Shelley-to-Markowski pick and roll stopped that momentum. Then Shelley drilled her first and only 3 to give Nebraska a 71-58 lead w/7:04 left in the game.
Up next for the Huskers is a home game against Wyoming (4-4) on Wednesday at noon. It’s the last of the three-game non-conference stretch before Big Ten play begins with a road game at Michigan State (7-4) on Thursday, Dec. 30.