The Nebraska women’s basketball team had nearly everything going its way for the first four-and-a-half minutes of the second half.
The Huskers, up seven at halftime against Tarleton in part due to a long field goal drought, came out firing in the third quarter. They opened the third quarter on a 14-3 run in just four minutes, taking an 18-point lead.
Sam Haiby checked into the game after the Huskers forced a turnover. She played six minutes in the first half, her first game action of the season. Just two months ago, she had been ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Less than a month ago, the team learned the injury wasn’t as serious as originally thought. On Tuesday night, she returned to the court.
However, her second-half stint didn’t go as planned. She planted at the free throw line on the ensuing possession, pivoted and dished the ball to Maddie Krull. Haiby fell down as she passed it, and after Krull’s shot bounced out of bounds over the backboard, Haiby limped toward the sideline. She struggled to sit down on the bench, and grimaced as she was helped off to the locker room.
Callin Hake subbed in, and Tarleton drove to the rim on the freshman right away for a layup. That was the start of a 16-3 run for the Texans that cut the Nebraska lead to just five points at the end of the third quarter.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Nebraska lost its momentum scoring the ball, and Haiby and starting guard Allison Weidner had both left the game with injuries. Coming off two double-digit road losses, the Huskers were in danger of taking another at home.
Instead, they bounced back to dominate the final quarter and win 71-53. Alexis Markowski and Jaz Shelley in particular made plays down the stretch to help the team pull away.
“Our leaders really kind of stepped up and found ways to make plays in that moment,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “When you go to a five-point lead all of a sudden, it’s very easy to get really tight in those moments, but I thought Alexis Markowski made a couple big plays, I thought Jaz Shelley found Issie down the floor for easy transition layups, I thought Jaz went to the bucket a couple times, finished a tough shot when the game was tight. Those leaders stepped up and made plays that gave our team confidence and our ability to kind of punch back in that moment was what ultimately allowed us to come out on top.”
Markowski was the leader in that punch all game. She scored 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting, also pulling down 18 rebounds and coming up with three blocks and three steals. In the second half alone, she had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“Alexis was really, really good tonight,” Williams said. “Her defense tonight was probably the best that I’ve seen her play in a Husker uniform, and that was really good to see and critical in this win.”
Her and Shelley each had six points in the final quarter. The latter added three assists in the period, giving her 12 on the game.
Even beyond the third quarter troubles, the win wasn’t pretty for the Huskers. Shelley and Markowski each had five turnovers, while the team had 21. Nebraska shot 17.4% from beyond the arc. It struggled offensively in the first quarter, scoring 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting. Shelley missed all of her four shots in the opening period, while Hake shot 1-for-7. Weidner exited early with an injury to her left eye, which happened after she fought for an offensive rebound and scored the first points of the game.
Williams didn’t have any specific updates on Weidner or Haiby postgame, but hopes that both will be alright.
The coach had praise for how Tarleton played defensively, along with guard Teresa Da Silva. Da Silva had 24 points on 25 shots for the Texans, but scored 10 each in the second and third quarters to keep the Texans in range. She shot 9-for-14 in those quarters, but shot 2-for-11 in the first and last periods.
The Huskers are 3-2 now, and their next two games will be in Puerto Rico at the Puerto Rico Clasico. They plan on leaving at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Williams said it’ll provide an opportunity for the team to have fun and bond further, but their main focus stays on winning games. She said the team hasn’t felt that they’ve played up to their standard, and Markowski echoed that sentiment.
“It is a business trip,” Markowski said postgame. “It is Puerto Rico and we’ll do some fun things, but we’re going down there to go 2-0 and play together as a team.”