Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Looking to Build On Last Season, Starting Against UNO

November 03, 2022

After Nebraska women’s basketball’s first round NCAA Tournament loss ended a successful season last year, the offseason was filled with talk from the team on how it could not only maintain, but build on that success.

The opportunity to do so on the court comes for the first time next week, as the Huskers will open the regular season at home against Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 7. 

When Nebraska takes the floor for tipoff, it’ll feature four returning starters from last year’s tournament team. The most notable will be the team’s two second team All-Big Ten selections from 2021-22, guard Jaz Shelley and center Alexis Markowski. The two represented the Huskers at Big Ten media days and will both be in their second year with the team, as Shelley transferred from Oregon and Markowski was a true freshman a season ago. 

Shelley led the Huskers in points, assists, steals and blocks last year, along with being second in rebounds. She recorded a triple-double against North Carolina Central and her nine 3-pointers in the opening game of the conference tournament were a program and Big Ten Tournament record. Now in her fourth year of college basketball, she was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Watch List, an honor given to the nation’s best shooting guard each season.

Markowski is right there with Shelley in terms of success, coming off a season in which she was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She’s one of 20 centers on the Lisa Leslie Award Watch List and was the only Husker on the preseason all-conference team. In Nebraska’s exhibition against Washburn, she recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

“We saw somebody that’s wanting to establish herself as a huge presence for our team and and I thought she did that,” head coach Amy Williams said of Markowski after the 70-27 exhibition win.

She’ll be joined in the frontcourt by forward Isabelle Bourne, who is entering her third straight season as a starter for the Huskers. While she may not be as talked about as much as Shelley and Markowski, she’s consistently made an impact, being an all-conference honorable mention the last two years. Bourne also is the most efficient returning scorer for Nebraska, having shot 51.5% last season. 

Allison Weidner also returns to the starting lineup, although the sophomore has less experience in that spot than the players already mentioned. She started nine games last year, including the last eight after Ashley Scoggin was dismissed from the team.

For most of the offseason, Nebraska was set to have all its starters from last year on the court, That changed when the team announced that fifth-year guard Sam Haiby would be out for the year due to injury. After the Washburn exhibition, it was revealed that Haiby had surgery and the injury may not have been as severe as originally thought. There’s no timetable for her return still, but it’s now a possibility.

“If there is any opportunity that she’ll be able to return and play with this team, that’s pretty exciting for everybody involved,” Williams said.

Haiby would be a major addition back to the lineup, as she’s been a key player all throughout her four seasons with Nebraska. She was a second-team all conference selection two years ago, and an honorable mention last year. Haiby averaged 11 points in 2021-22, along with 17 points over Nebraska’s last two conference tournament games and the NCAA Tournament loss.

In the meantime, it looks as though Trinity Brady might fill that spot. While Williams didn’t want to set that role in stone publicly, Brady started in the exhibition game. She’s in her fourth season with the Huskers, but missed all of last year and played in just two games in 2020-21 because of injury. She had five points, four rebounds and two assists in the exhibition, her first game action since December of 2020. 

“Trinity does a lot of things that don’t always show up in the stat sheet,” Williams said. “Just understanding when to go down and you know dig or double in the post and tie up balls and create jump balls and loose balls and just things like that I thought she did a great job of those types of things for us and just played solid and steady.”

Outside of those five, the Huskers return three bench contributors from last season. Annika Stewart, Kendall Coley and Kendall Moriarty all played around 10 minutes per game last year, and all may have roles once again. Nebraska added three newcomers as well in Maddie Krull, Callin Hake and Maggie Mendelson. Mendelson is a two-sport athlete, so she’ll join the team after the volleyball season concludes.

Nebraska started 12-0 last year, going undefeated in nonconference play, but this year’s slate may be a bit more challenging. The Huskers face off with No. 21 Creighton on the road, and also have matchups against No. 13 Virginia Tech and Kansas, both NCAA Tournament teams last year. 

Before those games, Nebraska will focus on the team it plays next, which is Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks went 7-19 last year, but bring in eight newcomers. That game will tip off at noon, marking the start of a Husker season which carries high hopes.

“We have a lot of goals we want to achieve this year and it just starts with prior to Big Ten,” Markowski said at media days. “And we have a tougher schedule this year, so we’re just really excited and hopefully make a run in the Big Ten Tournament and in postseason.”

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