In the aftermath of beating No. 8 Michigan at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday night, Nebraska women’s basketball coach Amy Williams did her best to respond to the numerous text messages that were flooding her phone.
“In the excitement of it, I was responding to a bunch of texts from people who had graciously reached out after the game, and then I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s nearly midnight,'” Williams said with a laugh during an appearance on ‘Sports Nightly’ Thursday.
The Huskers’ game with the Wolverines tipped off shortly after 8 p.m. and ended just before 10 p.m. While it was a late start, the team didn’t look sleepy or lifeless—they’re college athletes, after all—as it was beating a top-10 team by 21 points at home. Time of day won’t be a factor at all on Sunday afternoon when Nebraska hosts its second straight ranked opponent in the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes, who will come to Lincoln with a 7-4 overall record and a 1-1 mark in Big Ten play. The game is slated for a 1 p.m. tip.
Iowa lost its most recent game at home to Northwestern, 77-69, last Thursday. The Hawkeyes’ first conference win of the season came against Michigan State, 88-61, the same team that Nebraska suffered its first loss of the season to.
Iowa ranks in the top-20 nationally in five categories, including first free-throw percentage (85.2%), 11th in assists per game (18.5), 15th in field-goal percentage (46.7%), 16th in scoring offense (79.9) and 18th defensive rebounds per game (30.2%). Nebraska ranks top-20 in nine categories, including second in scoring margin (25.4), fourth in defensive rebounding (31.4), ninth in 3-point defense (23.4%), 10th in field-goal defense (33.6%) and scoring offense (82.1), 13th in field goal percentage (46.8%) and assists (18.2), 16th in assist-turnover ratio (1.27) and 19th in 3-point percentage (37%).
The Hawkeyes have one of the best young players in the nation in 6-foot sophomore guard Caitlin Clark, who led the country in points per game (26.6), total assists (214), field goals made (266), 3-pointers attempted (286) and 3s made (116).
Clark, a freshman All-American and native of West Des Moines, Iowa, is averaging 24.7 points and eight rebounds per contest this season and has a 44- and 30-point game under her belt. Clark has five double-doubles and two triple-doubles. It’d be wise for the Huskers not to foul her often on Sunday—she’s shooting 90% (67-of-74) at the charity stripe.
Nebraska and Iowa played twice last season with the Hawkeyes winning both games, 88-81 in Lincoln and 83-75 in Iowa City. Clark averaged 37 points and nine rebounds in those two games while shooting a combined 100% (17-of-17) from the free-throw line and 55% (11-of-20) from 3-point range.
While Iowa currently ranks as the best in the country at the free-throw line this season, it’s a different story from 3-point range. The Hawkeyes are shooting under 30% from behind the arc. Clark hasn’t gotten her 3-point shot down yet as she’s shooting just 24% (25-of-103). She shot 40% (116-of-286) last season as a freshman. The top 3-point shooters to watch for on Sunday are McKenna Warnock (41%, 17-of-41) and Gabbie Marshall (40%, 18-of-45).
Iowa will have a strong presence inside the paint on Sunday with Monika Czinano, a 6-3 forward who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season while leading the nation in field-goal percentage at 66.8%. She was also second in the nation in field goals made with 254. This season, Czinano is averaging 18.1 points and shooting a team-best 62% (76-of-121) from the field.
Nebraska’s defense is coming off a performance where it held Michigan to 15 points under its season average of 73.5 and the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Naz Hillmon, to 10 points under her 20.9 scoring average. The Huskers were still able to achieve that without one of their veteran forwards in Bella Cravens, who didn’t suit up after sustaining an ankle injury at practice prior to the game. During an appearance on ‘Sports Nightly’ Thursday, Williams said Cravens, as well as second-year freshman Ruby Porter, who has missed multiple games with an illness, are both day-to-day.
Another factor that made a difference in the win over Michigan was the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd, which wasn’t big in number, but made its presence known by being loud and engaged. Williams and her team want the same energy for when Iowa comes to town.
Let’s do it again Sunday Husker Nation!!
— Amy Williams (@gussowilliams5) January 5, 2022
True freshman Alexis Markowski started in place of Cravens and had the best game of her young career with 20 points (7-of-10 shooting) and seven rebounds. Isabelle Bourne, the Huskers’ 6-2 forward, did solid work defensively against Hillmon, especially early in the game which seemed to throw Hillmon off her game.
“Issie set the tone for our team on one of those first couple possessions when she played Naz’s reverse-face baseline drive, took a charge right there,” Williams said after the game. “It was just a great defensive anticipation play, and I thought that set the tone. The rest of our team just followed. I thought everybody who was asked to do a job did their job. It’s a great team win.”
Bourne didn’t just help out her team defensively, she chipped in on the other end of the court as well with 11 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting. She grabbed four rebounds and three assists, too.
More news and notes:
>> Maggie Mendelson, a highly-touted 6-foot-5 dual-sport athlete from North Ogden, Utah, committed to Nebraska to play both volleyball and basketball last fall. When she gets to Lincoln, will her scholarship count toward the volleyball or basketball team?
“There’s some things there that go with scholarship numbers and equivalencies, and generally speaking, a dual-sport athlete in basketball and volleyball usually counts against the basketball team’s scholarship,” Williams said on ‘Sports Nightly’.