While the basketball team did a lot of good on the court Sunday afternoon inside Pinnacle Bank Arena, the distraction off it overshadowed the Huskers’ 23-point win over Minnesota.
The women’s basketball program endured a Saturday that saw Chuck Love, an assistant under head coach Amy Williams for 10 seasons, suspended with pay while starting guard Ashley Scoggin, the team’s top 3-point shooter, was removed from the roster. Hail Varsity reached out to Nebraska’s athletic department on Saturday about Scoggin’s removal, but it declined comment.
Williams was asked about Scoggin in the Minnesota postgame press conference, but the sixth-year head coach declined to comment.
“I think it’s something that, there’s lots of people who have been involved, and we’re just going to keep it at that,” Williams said.
Williams was then asked if Scoggin was supported by NU’s athletic department. “Yes, Ashley is still supported by our athletic department,” the coach responded.
The off-the-court developments come in the middle of a strong season for the team, which is currently projected as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the latest ESPN bracketology. The Huskers are set to travel to Madison, Wisconsin, for a Wednesday matchup against a Badgers team that has struggled and is currently 7-19 overall and 4-12 in Big Ten play.
What does Scoggin’s departure mean for the team? Scoggin was NU’s top 3-point shooter (out of players with more than 30 attempts this season) and was making 40% against conference opponents. Her departure hurts the perimeter scoring as the two other starting guards, Jaz Shelley and Sam Haiby, are shooting 27% and 25% from behind the arc, respectively, in conference play.
Shelley and Haiby bring their own strengths to the floor, however. The play-making Shelley is averaging 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game while Haiby is a physical guard who’s averaging 10 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
After going 12-of-15 from 3-point range in January, Alexis Markowski, Nebraska’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year candidate who earned her seventh freshman-of-the-week honor from the conference on Monday, has gone 1-of-10 in February. The 6-foot-3 forward from Lincoln Pius X High School is still shooting a team-best 52% from deep this season and has been a force in the post as she’s averaging 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in the Big Ten. Another forward, the 6-2 Isabelle Bourne, is shooting 28% from 3 against conference foes, but has made at least one triple in the past five games.
Now NU will have two true freshmen in the starting lineup as Allison Weidner joins Markowski. Against Minnesota, the third start of her young career, Weidner, from Humphrey, Nebraska, continued her strong first-year campaign by scoring a career-high 23 points without recording a turnover.
The 5-10 Weidner has shown an ability to get to the paint with aggressive and physical drives. She’s been working on her 3-point shot as well, and the improvement has been noticeable as she went 3-of-3 from behind the arc against the Gophers and is shooting 42% (8-of-19) from 3 in the Big Ten.
While the makeup of the team has changed, Williams said her current coaching staff and players are coming together and leaning on each other. There are still big goals in front of the program as it tries to put Saturday’s news behind it. Making the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2018, which seems likely at this point, is one.
“We talked about leaning into each other. When you have a group of strong young women who can lean into each other and continue to be together, positive things can happen,” Williams said. “This group has goals in front of us, and that hasn’t changed. So we’re focusing on those goals and moving forward.”
Williams said the team’s chemistry is still in a good place despite all the attention surrounding the program right now.
“We’re going to continue to just foster the relationships that have been strong and that will continue to be strong moving forward,” Williams said. “I’ve been really proud of the way this team has leaned into each other and stayed unified and stayed together, and that will be what we’ll continue to do.”
The game with Wisconsin is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. tip. The Badgers will come into the contest on a two-game losing streak. Nebraska already has a win over Wisconsin under its belt, a 77-44 blowout in Lincoln on Jan. 27.