You couldn’t really have scripted it any better.
With 7:46 to play in the fourth quarter, Sam Haiby sat on the court underneath the basket, clutching her right calf, and getting looked over by the Huskers’ trainer. Haiby had drawn a foul on a drive but in doing so landed awkwardly on her leg and fell to the floor in pain.
Mind you: this is a Nebraska team that entered Thursday’s game with only eight available players, one of them just returning from an ankle injury that had held her out of the previous two contests. Haiby—the Huskers’ leader in minutes, shots, points, and assists—is indispensable. For a brief moment, panic had to set in within the mind of head coach Amy Williams.
Haiby was replaced by Ashley Scoggin, who took the injured guard’s two free throws. Scoggin made both, and Nebraska took a nine-point fourth-quarter lead over the unbeaten and 15th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats at home.
Haiby sat for the next 5:13, during which Nebraska was outscored 11-7, but managed to still hold a 61-56 lead.
“In the moment it was definitely very painful. My calf just cramped up a little bit,” the junior guard said after the game. “I want to be out there for my team, but I think they handled it well. They weathered some storms.”
With 2:33 to play, Haiby re-entered the game. Northwestern stiffened more defensively and forced the issue offensively, and eventually tied things at 61-all with 1:40 to play.
Then Haiby took the inbounds pass from the baseline and immediately raced coast-to-coast for a driving, foul-drawing layup. As was the case all day, Northwestern punched, and Nebraska had a counter.
At the end of the day, Williams thought that take was just as crucial as the one that would come shortly after.
Northwestern tied things again at 63-all with 52 seconds to play off a driving layup from Jordan Hamilton.
Both sides exchanged misses and with 21 seconds remaining, Haiby secured a defensive rebound and walked the ball up the court. Nebraska had the last possession.
Haiby rebounds her own miss and lays up the game-winner.
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) December 31, 2020
Haiby’s had clutch shots before, but “nothing like that,” she said.
“That’s definitely a shot everyone dreams of making as a little kid. That was pretty cool to experience here at Nebraska with my teammates.”
With 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Haiby powered the Huskers (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) to a 65-63 upset win over Northwestern (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten).
“What an exciting game-winner from Sam Haiby,” Williams said. “Contributions all over the place. … Just really proud of our team.”
Scoggin and forward Issie Bourne added 11 points each. All eight Huskers that played scored. Nebraska shot 44% from the field, hit a season-high nine 3-pointers, and got production from the bench.
For a short-handed team, Nebraska is fighting. “It’s pretty gratifying,” Williams said. She challenged Haiby early on to not just impact the game with her scoring, but guide the team in other ways, too. Lead the Huskers in rebounding, she told Haiby.
“She’s a warrior,” Williams said. “We just feel like she keeps getting better and keeps getting better. I think one emphasis we put for Sam this whole year is to not put a bunch of pressure on herself to have to score in order to be special for us, and I think she’s really embraced that.”
After a week off between the Huskers’ last road game and Thursday’s win, the next game on the schedule will come with a much quicker turnaround time. The Huskers host Rutgers (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) on Sunday. Tip is set for 2 p.m. CT.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.