It wasn’t the smoothest or prettiest basketball game ever played, but for the Nebraska women, it didn’t need to be. A win is a win, and the Huskers’ 67-62 victory over the Bluejays was the sweetest yet this season.
Wednesday night’s win at Pinnacle Bank Arena for head coach Amy Williams’ Huskers improved their record to 4-0 and snapped a five-game losing streak to their in-state neighbors to the east. And they did it with a few of their best players—Isabelle Bourne, Sam Haiby and Jaz Shelley—shooting a combined 22% (6-of-27) from the floor.
“There was a lot of outside noise around this ballgame,” Williams said after the win. “I think for us, our goals are big, and this is just one step to kind of teach us that, if we lock in to certain gameplans, we can play different styles, different players, different lineups to match up with different teams. And I think we showed that our versatility is a little deeper this year and that we can adjust. I’m proud of our team for remaining undefeated and finding ways to continue to improve.”
Nebraska struggled to make shots down the stretch and finished just 2-of-14 in the fourth quarter. Creighton, which dropped to 1-2 with the loss, had cut its deficit to 63-58 with 40 seconds left, but Shelley came through for the Huskers by sinking both free throws after being fouled. Those makes—along with Haiby’s two clutch free throws with 4 seconds left in the game that turned a three-point lead into a five-point win—were huge.
According to Williams, Creighton came into the game making 85 assisted shots and 15 unassisted baskets. Not letting the Bluejays catch and shoot, and instead forcing them to put the ball on the deck, was crucial.
“They had nine assists and 17 turnovers—that was a big key to our victory,” Williams said.
The game never really got in a good flow. There were 50 fouls called. Creighton shot 33% from the field and Nebraska 32%. What was the difference? The Bluejays went 15-of-26 at the free-throw line and only made 10 of its 19 layups. On the flip side, Nebraska made more shots at the foul line (22-of-31) and was a bit better on the layups, making 11 of 16. Creighton also turned the ball over 17 times, which resulted in 12 Husker points.
Haiby, who was honored before the game as the 35th Husker to score 1,000 career points, led Nebraska with 15 points—nine of which came at the free-throw line—but also had five rebounds and a team-high five assists and three steals. Haiby’s a veteran. This is her fourth season in Lincoln. She knew if her shot wasn’t falling, you need to get to the foul line—and that’s what she did.
“Shot wasn’t falling too well I guess, especially to start the game,” Haiby said. “But they were being aggressive and the refs were calling a lot of fouls, so just finding myself and trying to get to the line. That’s what I try to pride myself in doing, and being able to finish on the other end too and knocking down free throws when we needed them.”
With Bourne (2-of-11) and Shelley (1-of-6) being held in check offensively, Nebraska got a boost from a couple in-state freshmen.
Allison Weidner, a Humphrey St. Francis product who finished with four points, three rebounds and two assists, got a layup to fall through traffic and then dished an assist to Bella Cravens, who converted an old-fashioned 3-point play. Not long after that, Weidner hauled down an offensive board that turned into a second-chance Kendall Moriarty 3. Here’s Weidner’s hustle play to get the offensive board:
— Nebraska WBB (@HuskersWBB) November 18, 2021
Then it was Alexis Markowski’s turn. The 6-foot-3 Lincoln Pius X grad went on her own personal 6-0 run—two points at the foul line and four more off a couple post moves—that pumped her team’s edge to 25-14 with five minutes left before halftime.
Markowski came up big again in the third. Creighton started the second half on a 6-0 run, but Markowski scored five straight to stop the Bluejay run and preserve her team’s lead.
“I was trying to get the best positioning, but shoutout to the guards for giving me the ball in the right position for me to finish,” Markowski said. “I just felt a lot of energy and I felt the team did, too. Just to come in and do that was exciting and really fun.”
Williams said the best thing about Markowski is her competitivness. And she showed that in the win.
“I just love having her on this team. I thought she really sparked us with a presence in the post. She’s very difficult to move off that block,” Williams said.
Next up for the Huskers (4-0) is a home game against winless North Carolina Central (0-3) at noon.