Nebraska women’s basketball will take on Minnesota on the road Wednesday, looking to get back on track after a pair of close losses.
The Huskers led in the second half of both of their most recent two games, blowing a double-digit advantage against Illinois and temporarily pulling ahead against Michigan. They trailed for most of the latter matchup, coming back to take a six-point lead in the third quarter before losing it quickly. Either way, the two-game skid is made up of games where Nebraska had chances to get wins against tournament-level opponents.
The next matchup doesn’t fit into that category, as the Golden Gophers sit at second-to-last in the Big Ten. They’re 2-12 in conference play with both wins coming against Penn State. Minnesota has lost its last six games, most recently falling to Wisconsin in overtime. Its only real team strength is its rebounding, where it ranks atop the conference. The Gophers are second in offensive rebounding as well.
Their effort on the boards is led by the forward pair of Alanna Micheaux and Mallory Heyer, who combine for 15.5 rebounds per game while also each scoring in double-digits. Micheaux is the top offensive rebounder in the conference, while Heyer is No. 7.
Minnesota has a young starting lineup, with their current first unit featuring three freshman and two sophomores. There’s more experience on the team’s bench, including former Husker Mi’Cole Cayton, but the majority of Minnesota’s production comes from its starters and third-year guard Katie Borowicz.
Mara Braun is the Gophers’ top scorer, averaging 14.8 points per game. The freshman guard has struggled in conference play, averaging 12.6 points on 31.5% shooting.
Nebraska will need to take care of business against this struggling foe. The team has had some issues with Big Ten opponents its been expected to beat, losing by double-digits to Rutgers and having a large lead dwindle to single-digits on the road against last-place Northwestern.
Taking care of the ball could be a major factor. Against Northwestern and Michigan State, they gave it away over 20 times, helping the opposition lead a comeback attempt. During Illinois’ 20-0 run that shifted a 10-point deficit into a 10-point lead in the second half, Nebraska turned it over five times. Michigan took advantage of 18 Husker turnovers in the most recent game.
Alexis Markowski will look to continue her strong play against the Minnesota frontcourt. The Husker center has recorded five consecutive double-doubles, coming off an 18-point, 18-rebound performance against Michigan. Markowski and three other starters — Jaz Shelley, Isabelle Bourne and Sam Haiby — have all been double-digit scorers in each of the last three games.
As far as postseason outlook goes, this is a game Nebraska can’t afford to lose. The Huskers remain projected by ESPN to be one of the last teams into the tournament bracket, so a loss to one of the worse Big Ten squads would not reflect well.
Winning this game likely won’t give them a large boost, and the next two matchups against No. 7 Iowa and Illinois would go much further in that department. However, Nebraska can’t get caught looking too far ahead, and Wednesday’s night game has a chance to serve as momentum for the team going into Saturday’s major matchup with the Hawkeyes.