Photo Credit: John Peterson

Jaz Shelley’s Overtime Showcase Lifts Huskers Over Mississippi State

November 26, 2022

Heading into overtime, the Nebraska women’s basketball team had lost momentum.

The Huskers had led for over 34 of the 40 minutes in regulation, including holding a six-point lead with under two minutes to go in the game. Then, they missed five of six free throw attempts down the final stretch, including two from Allison Weidner with 10 seconds to go. Either one of those would’ve made it a two-possession game, but instead, Mississippi State grabbed the rebound and freshman Debreasha Powe hit a tying 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

Nebraska’s struggles continued to start overtime. Alexis Markowski missed two free throws early in the period, then the Bulldogs took the lead on a layup. In a defensive battle, it looked like Mississippi State could be on the verge of pulling away.

Then, Jaz Shelley took over. She scored Nebraska’s first 14 points in overtime, including four consecutive threes, to help give the Huskers a 73-65 win. That stretch gave her 32 points, which matched her career-high.

The start to Shelley’s takeover wasn’t as glamorous as it was important. She dribbled around a screen from Markowski, and Jessika Carter switched off the center to pressure the ballhandler. Carter, Mississippi State’s leading scorer in the game and on the season, made light contact and was called for her fifth and final foul.

Shelley also made both free throws to tie the game, putting an end to the team’s drought from the line.

Mississippi State hit a mid-range jumper to retake the lead, and Shelley called for another screen from Markowski at the top of the key. The Bulldogs went under the screen, and Markowski’s defender backed off. Shelley took the shot and hit it. The Huskers were back in front, 62-61.

For the next shot, the guard and center went to work again. Shelley grabbed a defensive rebound, then dribbled to the left wing. Markowski set a screen on her right side. Shelley turned that way, then looked back toward the basket and shot it when her defender overcommitted.

The final two were heat checks. Mississippi State missed again, and Weidner grabbed the rebound to lead the team in transition. She turned to pass it to Shelley, who stood several feet behind the arc. The extra distance didn’t make a difference as the shot dropped in, and neither did a Bulldogs make on the next possession.

The junior stood in the corner as Weidner dribbled around opposing players. Eventually, Weidner passed out to Isabelle Bourne, and Shelley drifted out to the left wing, at a similar distance from the hoop as the last shot. Of course, the ball went to her, and she hit one more to put Nebraska up eight points with just over a minute to go.

As may be indicated by her 18 points in regulation, overtime wasn’t the only point where Shelley made big plays. She scored seven of Nebraska’s first nine points. She accounted for all of the team’s 11 points in the third quarter, scoring five points herself and assisting on three makes in the paint.

It was an important performance for the 2021 second-team All-Big Ten selection, who had struggled as a scorer this season prior to the trip to Puerto Rico. She shot 30.6% from the field and 18.5% beyond the arc in the first five games, but went 11-for-19 overall and 7-for-12 from three today.

Shelley also finished with eight assists in the game, although she turned it over six times as well. The Huskers struggled overall in that area with 22 turnovers.

Other than Shelley, Bourne had 18 points. Markowski was quiet in the scoring category with just six points on 2-for-8 shooting, but played strong defense and recorded 15 rebounds and four steals.

Nebraska will exit the Puerto Rico Clasico 2-0, just as the team intended.

“It is a business trip,” Markowski said after the Huskers beat Tarleton earlier this week. “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.”

Nebraska will play its next two games on Thursday and Sunday next week. Those contests will provide more challenges for the Huskers, as they travel to face No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 14 Maryland on the road.

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