Photo Credit: John Peterson

Shorthanded Huskers Take Down Wisconsin Behind Another Standout Performance From Jaz Shelley

December 07, 2022

When Nebraska women’s basketball took the floor against Wisconsin on Wednesday, it found itself down another starter.

The Huskers were without Trinity Brady, who had started the first eight games in place of the injured Sam Haiby, against Maryland on Sunday. She remained out against the Badgers. This night, Isabelle Bourne was also unavailable, taking to the bench with her arm in a sling.

As a result, forward Annika Stewart made her first career start and guard Maddie Krull made her second for the team.

However, losing a starter once again didn’t end up hurting Nebraska’s performance against a conference foe. The Huskers took down Wisconsin 82-54, and Jaz Shelley lit up the scoreboard for a second straight game.

“Excited to start out Big Ten play 2-0 and felt great to be back home and playing in front of Husker nation and just this incredible fan base,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “We faced a little adversity over the last 24 or 48 hours and had eight available bodies tonight. I thought that all eight of them found ways to contribute and rise to the level and they really wanted to play hard for all the teammates that were not able to be out there playing and I thought they did a great job.”

Shelley scored 31 points, coming up a single point shy of her career-high and marking her third performance of 29 or more points this season. The other two both came within the last four games — a 32-point showing against Mississippi State and a 29-point output in the win over Maryland.

“I think I’m just playing more confident,” she said postgame. “I think our team needs my aggressiveness. I think they feed off that, and I’ve got more confident as the games have gone on.”

While the junior guard’s magic mostly came after halftime in the other two games, she came out firing in the first quarter this time around. Shelley scored 13 points in the opening period, including a halfcourt buzzer-beater.

But the Huskers as a whole didn’t start off particularly hot. Six minutes into the game, the 3-7 Badgers led 10-9. Each time Nebraska scored, there was an answer shortly after.

Coming out of the media timeout, that changed. Stewart scored her first points of the game, then Shelley followed it up with a floater after securing a defensive rebound. Wisconsin turned it over on the next two possessions, leading to a Kendall Coley and-one and Shelley 3-pointer. Another turnover led to a Shelley layup with 25 seconds left, and the last-second heave — a “heat check,” she said — capped off a 15-0 Nebraska run to put the team up 24-10.

At halftime, the lead had grown to 39-23 and Shelley’s point total to 18. Nebraska shot 15-for-30 in the first two quarters, replicating that exact mark in the second half as well, but the defensive end was arguably more notable.

The Badgers had 14 turnovers at the break, with only nine made shots on 24 attempts. Serah Williams and Avery LaBarbera each had six points, but Julie Pospisilova, Wisconsin’s leading scorer on the year coming into the contest, had only taken one shot and missed it. She finished the game scoreless, and the Husker head coach credited her top guard for that.

“With a player like that, who has hit eight threes in a ballgame and can get hot and put a 30 piece on you, you have to be so locked in early so the basket doesn’t just start getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Amy Williams said. “I thought Jaz just really embraced that.”

Shelley hit a pair of threes early in the third quarter to increase the lead to 24, and though Wisconsin made a couple of small pushes, it never got back within 15 points. LaBarbera and Serah Williams finished with 17 and 18 points, respectively, but the Badgers shot 35.7% from the field and turned it over 21 times.

Every available player besides Callin Hake played over 20 minutes for the Huskers, and each player scored. Allison Weidner added 13 points to go along with seven assists and five rebounds, while Stewart finished with 10 points in her start.

Bourne’s injury, suffered in Tuesday’s practice, was described postgame as one to the upper body. Her status is day-to-day, with no exact timeline for when she could return.

For the time being, Nebraska has five players unavailable. Along with Bourne, Brady and Haiby, Nailah Dillard is yet to play this season with an injury. Maggie Mendelson is finishing out Nebraska’s volleyball season, and the two-sport athlete will join the basketball team after the volleyball postseason run is finished.

The Huskers play Samford next at home on Saturday, then won’t have a game for over a week before taking on Wyoming on Dec. 18. Right now, the team is happy to have started conference play with a pair of wins.

“We’ll be back here Saturday for another nonconference game and then finals week,” Amy Williams said. “I think we wanted to be 2-0 heading into these last few nonconference games to end the Christmas break, and so it feels great to be in that position.”

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