Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Beats Northern Iowa 77-57 to Advance to WNIT Super 16

March 19, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball once again advanced in the WNIT with a 77-57 second-round win over Northern Iowa.

After a slow start, the Huskers outscored the Panthers in each of the last three quarters, dominating the second and third periods. Isabelle Bourne and Jaz Shelley led scoring with 17 and 16 points, respectively, but nine of Nebraska’s 10 available players scored.

The win came in front of a crowd of 6,478 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, by far the largest of the WNIT so far and the team’s third-best attendance mark of the season.

“Lots of people jumping in and contributing, so that’s outstanding to see this time of year,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “A great quality win over a great quality opponent that we have a ton of respect for. So, just thrilled with that, and probably the best thing about the day was just the amazing crowd that showed up to support us.”

The opening minutes of the contest were rough for both sides. Nebraska missed its first four shots, while Northern Iowa was off target on its first three and turned it over twice. Alexis Markowski’s layup nearly two minutes in marked the first points of the game, but the Panthers were the first team to get their offense going.

Northern Iowa was one of the best 3-point shooting teams in its conference this season, and that showed in the middle of the quarter with the team down 6-2. The Panthers hit three straight threes to go on a 9-0 run and take an 11-6 lead, then another later in the quarter put them up 16-8. Maya McDermott and Emerson Green accounted for all of those 16 points with eight each.

Nebraska took control after that, however. Sam Haiby scored five points to help lead a quarter-ending 8-1 run, capping it off with just her ninth made 3-pointer of the season. Bourne then scored the first five points of the second quarter to put the Huskers back in front.

“I was pleased with the way we responded,” Williams said. “I thought they did get up early, and we had a couple of huge baskets. [Haiby’s] three that she hit right before the end of the first quarter I thought was a really big shot and, just had some great response.”

Northern Iowa called timeout in response to Bourne’s back-to-back buckets, and the mood in PBA shifted soon after play resumed. Haiby drove to the rim, missed a tough layup and successfully fought for an offensive rebound that went off an opposing player before bouncing out of bounds. The Husker guard fell to the ground, however, holding her lower right leg. She was helped to the locker room with the injury, and returned to the bench later on crutches.

Following that stoppage, Nebraska’s offense slowed down, missing the next six shot attempts.

“I definitely think it took us a little bit to get into the game after she went down,” Shelley said postgame. “Just playing a little bit out of position and me coming into the point guard [role], it took me a little bit to get a feel with their changing defenses.”

The Huskers did eventually get back on track, and never lost their lead. They went on a 13-3 run in the final minutes of the half to stretch the lead to 12 before a Northern Iowa three made the score 38-29 at the break. Backup guard Callin Hake, who could enter the starting lineup should Haiby be unavailable moving forward, scored six points in the final minutes through a 3-pointer and converted and-one.

Nebraska shot 50% in the third quarter to extend the lead to 19, as Kendall Moriarty scored eight points on 3-for-3 shooting in the period. The Husker defense continued to frustrate the Northern Iowa offense, which shot 16-for-45 after the first quarter and turned it over 18 times in the game.

“They’re big, they’re long. They have great size and they shot well,” Northern Iowa head coach Tanya Warren said postgame. “They shot it extremely well, but their size and their length really bothered us.”

The Panthers never got their deficit closer than 14 points in the final quarter, even as Nebraska cooled down offensively. The Huskers didn’t turn it over in the first half and finished the game with seven total giveaways, tying a season-best.

Now, Nebraska advances to the round of 16, called the Super 16 by the WNIT, and awaits the winner of tomorrow’s game between Kansas and Missouri.

Haiby’s availability will be worth watching in the next week. Without the fifth-year guard, Nebraska would be down to nine available players. Haiby and Allison Weidner made key plays in the team’s triple-overtime victory over Kansas back in December, and Weidner suffered her season-ending knee injury in that contest.

The next round will take place between March 22-24, but the date, time and location for the Huskers’ matchup is to be announced.

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