Photo Credit: John Peterson

Late Push Falls Short as Huskers Lose 80-76 to No. 10 Iowa

January 28, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball made a late comeback push against No. 10 Iowa, but it wasn’t enough.

The Huskers opened the final quarter down 17 points, having been comfortably outplayed in the two periods prior. They started the final 10 minutes with a 12-0 run, but the difference never got closer than four points down the stretch. Iowa avoided true danger in the last minutes, winning 80-76.

Hawkeye guard Caitlin Clark, one of the top players in the country who has lit up the Huskers over the last few seasons, scored 33 points to go along with 12 rebounds and nine assists. Her scoring was spread evenly throughout the quarters, but she scored 10 of the team’s 13 fourth-quarter points to seal the win.

In the first quarter, Nebraska accomplished its goal of avoiding a slow start like the ones which had plagued it in recent losses. The Huskers jumped out to an 8-0 lead and even stretched their advantage to double-digits later in the opening period. Two buckets from the Hawkeyes put a quick end to that, but Nebraska still was up 21-15 at the end of the quarter.

Clark started slow, scoring eight of her team’s first 15 points but taking 10 shots to do it. The rest of Iowa’s roster also shot 3-for-10 to start, as the team missed open looks and struggled with turnovers. Jaz Shelley got multiple deflections and blocked two shots, throwing out three assists as well. Isabelle Bourne led scoring in the quarter with six points, accompanied by four each from Alexis Markowski and Sam Haiby.

However, the Huskers’ offensive inconsistencies struck in a second quarter that ended up making the difference. Five points from Hawkeye guard Molly Davis with a Markowski basket in between cut Iowa’s deficit to three, and then Haiby threw a pass directly into the arms of the opponent. The ball found its way to Caitlin Clark in transition, and she made a deep three to tie it up.

Clark hit from a similar spot a minute later. She had just dished out an assist to Monika Czinano for a layup to take the lead, and an impressive Shelley pass to Bourne ended in a missed layup. The ball was thrown to Clark again running down the left wing. Shelley attempted to jump in front of it for a steal, but Clark caught it, dribbled behind her back and nailed another three. Heading back down the sideline, she gave a celebratory shrug to the crowd.

With less than three minutes left before halftime, Iowa was up 33-23, having gone on a 22-2 run and scored 15 straight. Markowski’s layup early in the second quarter was the only one Nebraska had scored in the period before Annika Stewart ended the drought. A three from Shelley brought Iowa’s lead back down to nine, but Clark found Czinano again to finish a quarter in which the Hawkeyes outscored the Huskers 26-9.

Nebraska picked up its offense again in the third quarter, scoring 20 points but still falling further behind. The team’s 17-point deficit seemed as though it may be insurmountable, but a run led by Haiby and Shelley changed that. The pair combined for nine unanswered points to start the final quarter, then Stewart hit a wide-open three to make it a five-point game. Clark responded, hitting a three and mid-range jumper on back-to-back possessions.

Still, the Huskers didn’t go away. Shelley assisted on a pair of Bourne layups and a Maddie Krull three to make it a five-point difference once again with a minute left to play.

That’s about where the comeback came to a close. With a chance to make it a one-score game, the Huskers missed back-to-back threes and Shelley turned it over trying to pass out of a baseline drive. Haiby hit a three to cut the deficit to four with 19 seconds left, but after Clark split a pair of free throws, Nebraska struggled to find a quick open three and Markowski missed a shot from deep with five seconds to go.

Shelley and Markowski both finished with double-doubles. The guard had 10 points and 11 assists, while the center put up 12 points and 11 rebounds. Haiby led the team with 16 points, while the other two starters, Bourne and Krull, finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Iowa won its sixth straight game, while the Huskers have now lost six of their last eight contests. Nebraska’s next matchup won’t be with a ranked opponent, but Michigan State may still provide a challenge when it plays in Lincoln on Feb. 2.

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