Nebraska (1-1) scored 87 points Sunday afternoon and head coach Amy Williams was annoyed. Not with the offense, that was fine, Nebraska was pretty consistent offensively against USC Upstate (0-3). The issue was the defense; Nebraska gave up 64 points to a team that got 55 of those points from four players.
“We’re happy to walk away with a win but we feel like there are some areas for us to improve moving forward,” Williams said after the game. “We’re continuing to try to learn about ourselves as a team and hopefully we advance to practice next week with a different sense of urgency.”
That was really the message after the game from Williams to her team: bring a higher sense of urgency to every play. Close quarters, box out, finish defensive possessions.
“We just weren’t overly thrilled to give up 64 points in this basketball game,” Williams said. “I thought there were way too many possessions where we did not carry out our game plan or adjust or shift to what we were wanting to do or finish defensive possessions with box outs or rebounds.”
Nebraska won the rebounding battle 42-27, so it’s not like the Huskers are 0-2 in that department this season (they lost it 44-40 to Drake last Wednesday). But the Huskers had a significant size advantage over the Spartans. Winning it was to be expected. Williams wants more.
Nebraska now has 28 offensive rebounds on the season and only 15 second chance points to show for it. They had 12 and seven Sunday. “We’re pursuing rebounds okay right now but we’re not really making the other team pay with it and that’s something that we’ll continue to focus on,” Williams said.
Both sophomore wing Taylor Kissinger and sophomore center Kate Cain spoke postgame before Williams. They used the same keywords as their head coach. It was clear phrases like “sense of urgency” and “finish” have been used a bunch in recent days.
“Finish plays, crash [the boards], keep getting rebounds and basically just keep playing with a sense of urgency the entire game instead of just part of possessions or only certain possessions,” Cain said of what the Huskers need to do better moving forward.
But the 64 points shouldn’t overshadow the offensive performance the Huskers had.
Better put, it shouldn’t overshadow the offensive performance Kissinger had.
The Nebraska native hit more 3s without a miss than any Husker in program history. Kissinger went 6-for-6 from beyond the arc on her way to 22 points. She missed just one of her nine shots and added four boards and three assists.
“I was just mainly focused on just trying to get good looks for our team and I wasn’t going to shoot it unless I was wide open,” Kissinger said. “We were all passing the ball really well.
“She has this very unique skill, she has a very high release and she sets her feet quick,” Williams said of her sharpshooter. “She’s extremely confident in her shooting. … She works at it very, very hard. She spends a lot of time in the gym working with [assistant coach Tandem] Mays.
“She’s earned the right to be confident in that 3-point shot. It’s fitting for it to be someone like Taylor who gets that record because she’s a fabulous shooter.”
Williams said it’s sort of like when you have a pitcher working on a no-hitter; just leave them alone and don’t ruin the rhythm. Williams didn’t have much reason to coach Kissinger up either, she said, because almost every one of her looks came within the flow of the offense. For someone that looked as on-fire as Kissinger did Sunday, there were no heat checks.
Kissinger’s outside shooting meant Nebraska’s plan to play inside-out worked to near perfection. Cain went for 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting with the bulk of her damage coming near the restricted area in the paint.
“We obviously knew we had a height difference, so if we were able to feed it in, it would be able to open up a lot of stuff not only for the post but for the guards too,” Cain said. “It was working pretty effectively with Taylor hitting 3s, everybody was hitting shots and I think offensively we were pretty successful.”
Nebraska will have some time during the upcoming week to work on the defense. The Huskers don’t take to the hardwood again until a road contest next Friday with Washington State (0-1). Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. CT.