This weekend, Nebraska women’s basketball faces yet another tough opponent on the road to close out January.
The Huskers will travel to Iowa City to take on No. 10 Iowa on Saturday, the first of two matchups between the teams this year.
This Nebraska roster should be more than familiar with its opponent, and not just because the two are in the same conference. The Hawkeyes, led by star guard Caitlin Clark, beat the Huskers three times last year — twice in the regular season and once in the conference tournament — accounting for a third of Nebraska’s losses on the season.
Both regular season meetings were decided by less than 10 points. Now, with both teams returning their key players, the Huskers will look to avoid losing a seventh straight game to Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have won five straight, holding the No. 10 spot in the AP Top 25. They’ve recorded possibly their two most impressive wins this month, taking down No. 13 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State on the road.
Nebraska has been no stranger to tough matchups this season. Iowa will be the ninth top-25 opponent the Huskers have faced. They’ve played six games against teams currently in the top 15, going 1-5 in those matchups.
Almost all of the team’s losses to high-quality opponents have featured slow starts. Most recently, they scored a season-low 14 points in the first half against Maryland.
“We know that our best chance to win is to string together 40 minutes, so our focus is going to be getting off to a great start,” Husker head coach Amy Williams said on her radio show Thursday. “But our team is really confident that we can go to Iowa and get a victory.”
The opening quarters may be especially important against Iowa, which ranks second in the nation in scoring offense and leads the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes average 86.7 points per game and have yet to be held under 80 points in conference play, although Michigan State held them to 70 in regulation before losing in overtime.
Clark, averaging over 26 points per game for a third straight season, is coming off of a triple-double against Ohio State. She’s also second in the nation in assists per game. Fifth-year forward Monika Czinano and senior forward McKenna Warnock join Clark as double-digit scorers for the team.
Throughout the game, Nebraska will likely either need to match Iowa’s offensive firepower or significantly slow down the Hawkeyes. Nebraska’s scoring is among the worst in the Big Ten, although it owns the conference’s second-best defense. The team has only allowed over 80 points twice this season, and all but one of Nebraska’s wins have featured an opponent being held under 70. The lone exception is Nebraska’s 85-79 win over Kansas in triple overtime.
If the Huskers can’t hold Iowa under 80 or even 70 points, They’ll need to find some offensive production. The Hawkeye defense is among the bottom five in the Big Ten, but Nebraska’s issue has at times been an inability to get out of its own way. Williams didn’t believe her team was taking bad shots in losses to Rutgers and Ohio State, despite the Huskers shooting a combined 7-for-52 from three in those games.
Production from top scorers Jaz Shelley, Alexis Markowski, Sam Haiby and Isabelle Bourne has been inconsistent this season. The Huskers will likely need at least a few from that group to have big games. Newcomers like Maddie Krull and freshman Callin Hake have shined at times recently, and that trend continuing would be a welcome sight for Nebraska.
Plenty will be watching as the Huskers look to break their six-game losing streak to Iowa. Both regular season matchups between the teams brought in over 8,000 fans last season, and this game will be aired on FOX. Tip-off is set for noon.