Thursday night in Indianapolis was the Jaz Shelley show.
Behind Shelley’s record-breaking game, the No. 6 seed Huskers defeated the No. 14 Illinois Fighting Illini, 92-74, to advance to the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals where they’ll meet the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines Friday night.
Shelley broke Nebraska’s school record for most threes in a game with nine. The Moe, Australia, native went 9-of-13 from behind the arc and tied her career-high of 32 points. The nine 3s isn’t even Shelley’s personal best—she connected on 10 against UC Irvine in 2019 as a member of the Oregon Ducks.
Shelley’s final stat line: 32 points (11-of-16 from the field, 1-of-1 at the free-throw line), seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Nebraska improved to 23-7 overall and 12-7 in Big Ten play.
“I thought we shot the ball pretty well from behind the arc, hit 15 threes today I think,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams told Huskers Radio Network after the game. “Just a team effort. I thought we did a good job of hunting the paint and then getting some inside-outside touches. Lots of good performances.”
Nebraska shot 48% from the field and 47% from 3-point range, going 15-of-32. The 15 makes from deep is the most in a game this season—they had 14 against both N.C. Central and the Jan. 16 game against Iowa—and the most ever by a team in a Big Ten tournament game.
Nebraska took control from the opening tip and was never threatened. Big Red led 26-17 after the first quarter and 44-29 at the half. But the second half is where Shelley, who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors on Monday, really shined as she scored 21 points while going 6-of-7 from deep.
“My teammates were finding me in incredible spots tonight,” Shelley told the Big Ten Network. “The way that Sam Haiby and Allison Weidner and Mi’Cole Cayton were facilitating the ball was incredible, and I’m very thankful for those passing guards.”
Shelley said she didn’t feel like it was going to be a record night in pregame shoot around. But that changed coming out of halftime.
“Not until the second half is when I really started to think, ‘OK, I should put some more shots up right now, I’m kind of feeling it,'” she said.
Williams said Shelley makes the entire team better. While the points and threes and assists are great, it was Shelley’s all-around game that really impressed her head coach.
“She gets a lot of attention for the made threes and the assists,” Williams said, “but the impact she makes on the defensive side of the ball, and I thought really early in the game she did a great job of taking Aaliyah Nye, who had a bunch of threes last night in Illinois’ game, kind of out of the game.”
Fresh off her Big Ten of the Year award, Alexis Markowski continued her strong play with 22 points and nine rebounds. Isabelle Bourne, an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection, scored 15 points, had five assists and went 2-of-3 from 3-point range, which stretches her streak of at least one made triple to nine games. Sam Haiby, another All-Big Ten honorable mention, chipped in with 10 points and six assists.
Along with outrebounding Illinois 43-32, Nebraska dished out 24 assists on 33 makes—Williams really liked that part.
“We’re our best when we’re sharing the basketball and making the extra pass, so for us to be able to see 24 assists, that’s Husker basketball,” Williams said.
Up next for the Huskers is a rematch with Michigan, which will tip off at around 8 p.m. It’ll be the second time this season the two teams have played—Nebraska upset the then-No. 8-ranked Wolverines, 79-58, on Jan. 4 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena behind 20 points from Markowski.
“It’s going to be a tough task, and we know that. It’s been a long time since we’ve played Michigan, so we’re not as familiar. We’ll have to go back and really take a peek. We have all day tomorrow to figure it out—another late ball game.”