Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Survives Another Late Comeback Attempt, Beats Northwestern 78-66

February 06, 2023

For the second game in a row, Nebraska women’s basketball found itself hoping to hang on late to what was once a blowout-worthy advantage.

The Huskers started a road matchup against Northwestern up 20-3, then carried that double-digit lead through most of the next two quarters. Entering the fourth, they had extended the lead to 22 points with back-to-back threes — two of their 10 makes from deep in the game.

However, the Wildcats, last place in the Big Ten, climbed back in the final 10 minutes. They scored 32 points in the fourth quarter after putting up 35 through the first three, and Nebraska turned it over 11 times in the period. A 14-1 run made it a seven-point difference with four minutes left.

They never got closer than that, unlike Michigan State’s late effort last week. Thanks in part to 12 consecutive made free throw attempts to end the game, the Huskers won 78-66.

In the opening quarter, Nebraska built the foundation for the lead that lasted it the entire contest. Isabelle Bourne, the game’s leading scorer with 18 points, hit two free throws and made a three to bookend a 7-0 opening run. After Northwestern scored from beyond the arc for its first points, Bourne caught a pass from Jaz Shelley for an easy layup then scored again a few possessions later off an offensive rebound, giving her nine first-quarter points.

After that, Sam Haiby, Annika Stewart and Maddie Krull each hit threes consecutively off assists from Shelley to make it a 20-3 lead five minutes into the game.

The rest of the period was a bit more even. Northwestern responded with a 7-0 run, then the Huskers scored five straight before conceding five to keep the differential at 10 points. Stewart made two free throws and hit another three in the final minute, however, pushing the lead back to 15 and giving Nebraska a 30-point first quarter.

Inconsistency began to really show in the next quarter. Bourne started it off with a layup, but Northwestern went on an 8-0 run over the next five minutes to bring the game back within single-digits. Haiby snapped that streak with two free throws, and a late three from Shelley made it a 12-point halftime lead. Still, the Huskers scored just seven points, turned it over five times and made two field goals in the second quarter.

Out of halftime, third-quarter scoring was mostly slow until Nebraska scored eight points in the final 70 seconds of the period. While the offense had mostly trailed off, its defense held strong. Northwestern entered with one of the Big Ten’s worst scoring offenses, and was struggling to make significant dents into its deficit.

Change in the final quarter started slowly for that exact reason. As the Wildcats started a full-court press against Nebraska, the Huskers couldn’t deal with it. In the first six minutes of the period, they scored four points off an Alexis Markowski layup and two trips to the free throw line where Shelley made one and missed one. When she made the latter of those shots, Northwestern had scored 10 points in five minutes and still trailed by 16. It was a respectable offensive output, but the Wildcats hadn’t taken enough advantage of their opportunity, especially given six Husker turnovers in that stretch.

That changed after Shelley’s free throw. The trip to the line came off a technical foul, and the guard turned it over on the additional possession. Sydney Wood converted her team’s steal into a layup. Bourne then turned it over, and Wood made another layup, this one an and-one. A Krull turnover turned into two Courtney Shaw free throws, and another giveaway from Krull led into Wood hitting a jumper.

In the span of a minute, Nebraska turned it over four times and had a 16-point lead cut down to seven.

However, that was when the team’s top scorers stepped up. Sam Haiby broke the press and drove all the way to the rim for a layup, grabbed a rebound after the next Northwestern miss, and got herself to the free throw line to put the Huskers back up 10. The Wildcats didn’t go away, cutting it back to single digits multiple times in the next few minutes, but Nebraska cleaned up its turnovers and instead drew fouls from Northwestern’s physicality.

In the final three minutes and six seconds of game time, the Huskers shot 20 free throws, starting with the aforementioned Haiby trip. Each member of the starting lineup contributed, and the last 12 all went in. The Wildcats didn’t make enough shots to draw any closer throughout that span.

Given how the fourth quarter unfolded, the contest finished as another ugly win for Nebraska. The Huskers have now turned it over 50 times over the last two games after 24 total giveaways against Northwestern. There are plenty of positives in the box score — Nebraska shot 10-for-21 on 3-pointers, Markowski landed her 11th double-double of the season and four starters ended with double-digit points — but the team may have some things it wants to correct before Thursday’s matchup at home against a tough Illinois team.

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