Photo Credit: John Peterson

Huskers Shooting More Threes Than Ever Before, but Looking Not to Rely on It

January 18, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball is shooting more threes than it ever has before. 

Through 18 games, the Huskers are putting up 25.4 shots from deep per game. That’s a mark that leads the Big Ten, and just sneaks into the top 30 in the nation. It’s comfortably the most in program history as well, currently beating out last year’s team by 1.7 attempts per game.

However, this 3-point production has brought heavily mixed results for head coach Amy Williams’ team. Some of Nebraska’s best moments this year have come on threes — every player hit one to open the year against Nebraska-Omaha, Jaz Shelley hit four in a row to push the Huskers past Mississippi State in overtime and the eventual winning shot against Kansas also came beyond the arc.

There’s also been a few games recently where shots from long range haven’t been falling, playing a major part in losses. Against Rutgers, the Huskers missed their first 21 threes and finished with a season-worst showing of 2-for-25 from deep. In a loss to Ohio State on Sunday, they shot 18.5% on threes, making just five of their 27 attempts.

“Our team is going to have to figure out a way to not go as our 3-point shooting goes,” Williams said after the Ohio State game. 

As the coach’s quote may suggest, Nebraska hasn’t really been able to accomplish that so far. In six of the team’s seven losses, it has shot 30% or worse from three. Four of those contests have featured numbers of under 25%. 

Meanwhile, the Huskers are 9-0 when they make double-digit threes. They’ve had one loss while shooting over 35% from three — an overtime defeat against Indiana in which their nine threes were key to keeping them in the game.

There are some exceptions to these numbers, of course. The Huskers didn’t shoot exceptionally from deep in wins against Tarleton State or Wyoming, but shut down both defensively. They could’ve afforded worse 3-point shooting in a number of games, too. 

However, Nebraska’s significantly more reliant on threes. The total offensive production hasn’t been outstanding, as the team’s 70.6 points per game rank in the bottom five in the Big Ten. As a result, 36.1% of the team’s points have come on threes. The next closest Big Ten team, Michigan State, has gotten 30.3% of its points from deep on the year. 

Nationally, there are more reliant teams experiencing varying degrees of success, so the Huskers aren’t completely alone. With their recent struggles and a worse overall offense than most teams with similar 3-point production though, Williams seems interested in expanding what the offense can do. 

Nebraska hasn’t been particularly successful inside the arc, with a bottom-five 2-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten. The team also struggles with free throws, comfortably holding last place in the Big Ten in both makes and attempts from the line.

Part of this may be an issue of personnel. Allison Weidner had been leading the team in free throw attempts before suffering a season-ending injury against Kansas. Sam Haiby is also one of the team’s most frequent guests at the free throw line, but the guard has played in less than half of the team’s games and is still getting back to full strength after her offseason knee injury.

Still, some players simply haven’t gotten to the line at the same rate as last year. In more minutes this season, center Alexis Markowski is averaging nearly two less free throw attempts per game and shooting over 6% worse from the stripe. Shelley and forward Isabelle Bourne have seen slight drop-offs in volume as well.

Williams doesn’t necessarily have a problem with the team’s 3-point volume, and it’s not something that should change dramatically in the final stretch of the year. She wasn’t upset with the outside shots they took in horrid shooting performances against Rutgers and Ohio State, and this roster has shown the ability to do damage from deep.

However, when the looks — even good ones — aren’t converting, she’d like to see them have the ability to change things up and win without a barrage of threes.

“I don’t necessarily feel like there was a ton of bad shots out there for our team,” Williams said. “But we just need to know and understand that when we’re shooting 19 percent from the arc, then potentially looking for something maybe a little later in the shot clock.”

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