Photo Credit: John Peterson

Huskers Beat Northwestern 80-64 to Close Regular Season

February 26, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball closed its regular season with a win Sunday, taking down Northwestern 80-64 with the help of a 50-point second half.

On Senior Day, all three Huskers honored scored in double-digits, led by Jaz Shelley’s 19 points, 13 rebound and six assists. Sam Haiby put up 13 points, while Isabelle Bourne 11 points marked her ninth straight game of scoring 10 or more.

While Nebraska kept around a double-digit advantage for the entirety of the final quarter, the matchup against the Big Ten’s last-place team was not without drama.

The Huskers were in front for most of the first half as well, although a Northwestern layup with under a minute left in the second quarter made it a five-point game. Then, Jaz Shelley dribbled around a screen, running directly into a Northwestern defender. Arms flew as the Wildcat hoped to recover the ball that Shelley quickly pulled to her body, and it ended up in a jump ball despite some foul-worthy contact on the defense’s end.

Nebraska kept possession and inbounded the ball, but as Shelley drove toward the rim, another whistle blew. Head coach Amy Williams had been hit with a technical foul. Northwestern had brought physicality all half, and that jump ball ruling wasn’t the first the team and home crowd was upset with.

The Wildcats made both free throws, and closed the half with a three to tie the game. The head coach’s technical took her team from up five points with possession to even at the break.

“We talk a lot in our program about having each other’s backs,” Williams said postgame. “I’m really thankful to my team for having my back and coming back with 50-second half points after the way the first half ended.”

Nebraska still had plenty of struggles prior to the final stretch of the half, including 11 turnovers. Shelley and Haiby each had three, and while the former also had recorded eight points, eight rebounds and four assists, she had only shot 2-for-8. Sophomore center Alexis Markowski, coming off the bench due to a “coach’s decision,” was scoreless at halftime, with two fouls and a turnover of her own.

She ended up being a major part of the Huskers pulling back in front. Markowski turned things around in the third quarter, putting up 12 points and four rebounds in that period alone.

“Being in foul trouble tends to really affect me,” Markowski said postgame. “I play slower, I feel like, and more safe, and I kind of took that personally in the second half. And also it’s senior day, we weren’t going to lose that game and I was ready to lay it all on the line for my seniors and fifth-years.”

Northwestern took the lead to open the second half, but Nebraska retook control with an 11-2 run. That stretch was capped off by Markowski grabbing an offensive rebound and finishing an and-one. Later in the period, she scored seven consecutive points to make it a 12-point advantage. Shelley, Haiby and Bourne also combined for 15 points in the third to help complete a 30-point quarter for the Huskers.

Despite seven fourth-quarter Nebraska turnovers, this game didn’t feature the late dramatics that the last meeting between these teams did, when the Huskers had a 22-point lead cut down to seven. The Wildcats’ deficit never got closer than nine points.

The crowd was perhaps its loudest at three points in the fourth quarter. The first two came when Paige Mott and Sydney Wood both fouled out in the final minutes. Mott scored 18 points and was the other player involved in the aforementioned first-half jump ball, while Wood finished with two blocks and four steals.

Finally, the crowd of over 6,000 rose to its feet late as starters subbed out with around a minute remaining and the Huskers up 16. Players shared hugs with the senior trio on the court.

All three, along with Markowski, spoke with media postgame. Haiby, who tied the program record for career games played today as a fifth-year guard, said she got emotional as starting lineups were announced. It’s her second senior day, as she was honored last year while not having made a decision on whether to return for one more.

“Five years in one program isn’t the most common thing ever, but to be able to do that here at Nebraska is something really special to me,” she said.

Shelley and Bourne are in the same position now that Haiby was in one year ago, having the choice to return. Both said they are yet to make a decision, and it’s likely something that won’t be decided until after the season ends.

In the meantime, Nebraska will prepare for the postseason. As the eighth seed in the Big Ten, it’ll open the conference tournament against Michigan State on Thursday in Minneapolis. The Huskers beat the Spartans at home at the start of the month. If they win that game, they’ll move on to a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Indiana.

Nebraska’s projected to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble, meaning its performance in the Big Ten bracket could be crucial. Going into it coming off two straight wins helps, Williams said.

“Just a good team win,” Williams said. “We are excited to be carrying a little momentum with us into Minneapolis where we expect to go and win.”

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