Photo Credit: John Peterson

Huskers Lose Close Game Against No. 12 Michigan 80-75

February 12, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball challenged No. 12 Michigan on the road Sunday, but the Huskers couldn’t finish the attempt at an upset.

The Wolverines won 80-75 by forcing turnovers and hitting big shots when they were needed. Former Husker and fifth-year guard Leigha Brown led this charge, scoring 23 points to go along with 10 assists and three steals. Michigan finished a season sweep of Nebraska with the win, and Brown led both games in scoring.

Still, this one didn’t come easy. The Huskers, having trailed for much of the first half, stormed back to take the lead early in the second half. They led by six points for a short time and were in front with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

“We saw some really good things and flashes where players were really stepping up,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said on her postgame radio show.

For the third game in the row, Nebraska’s four highest-scoring starters — Jaz Shelley, Alexis Markowski, Isabelle Bourne and Sam Haiby — were the only Huskers to finish with double-digit points. Shelley and Markowski had double-doubles. The former put up 14 points and 10 assists, while the latter recorded 18 points and 18 rebounds. They both still struggled in those showings, having five turnovers each and not scoring efficiently. Bourne continued a strong recent stretch of games, adding 18 points.

The junior forward kept Nebraska afloat in a poor opening period. Bourne opened and closed the team’s first-quarter scoring with 3-point makes, and the Huskers only made one other field goal. They turned it over six times in the first 10 minutes, which Michigan turned into 11 points. That was a major reason Michigan headed into the second quarter up 19-11.

“They’re very good in transition,” Williams said. “We talked about how, you know, aggressive turnovers where we’re making aggressive plays, we can live with. The passive turnovers, those are the ones that we really need to eliminate. We really need to get better in that area.”

Nebraska’s 18 turnovers on the game were often ugly. Players had the ball taken out of their hands a few times, there were backcourt violations due to a lack of awareness and passes that were just off the mark.

Even as giveaways only slightly decreased throughout the rest of the game, Nebraska’s offense picked things up starting in the second quarter. It had cut its deficit to five points by halftime, and four 3-pointers were a large part of that effort. Markowski went into half with 10 points and six rebounds, while Shelley had seven points and four assists.

The 3 continued to fall early in the second half. After being called for a three-second violation, Markowski grabbed a defensive rebound then hit a 3. She brought down another off a miss from Emily Kiser, and Shelley found Maddie Krull for a three to put Nebraska in front.

Following some back-and-forth, the Huskers went on a 7-0 run. Haiby threaded a pass to Bourne for an easy layup, Shelley made a corner 3 and Krull hit a short jump shot to make it a six-point advantage. Michigan scored the next six points, however, and continued its momentum to close the quarter up four points.

Nebraska continued fighting, and it was a two-point game with over seven minutes left. Maddie Nolan drove right at Krull, drawing a foul and knocking her over as she finished an and-one. Markowski then missed two good looks in the paint, Brown got to the line and made one of two free throws, and Nebraska’s center missed again on offense.

The Wolverines took their biggest lead of the game since the first quarter when Elise Stuck drained a 3 to put her team up nine points with less than five minutes to play. Nebraska couldn’t cut that deficit within five points until the final minute of the game, as its last-minute effort only gave the team an excuse to keep intentionally fouling.

A win over Michigan could have done wonders for Nebraska’s NCAA Tournament chances, although a loss shouldn’t change things drastically. The Huskers will need to take care of business against a struggling Minnesota team on the road Wednesday before returning home for a major matchup against No. 5 Iowa on Saturday.

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