Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Veteran Sam Haiby, In-State Freshmen Seal Win Over Michigan With Big Fourth Quarter

March 04, 2022

Leave it to the vet to get the job done.

When her team needed her the most, Sam Haiby, Nebraska’s fourth-year player, put the team on her shoulders. The Michigan Wolverines were the ones standing between the Huskers and a Big Ten tournament semifinal against All-American Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Behind 16 points from Haiby—nine of which came in the fourth—and game-clinching plays from two in-state freshmen in the final seconds, Nebraska pulled off a 76-73 win, its second over Michigan this season.

Now the Huskers will get Clark and the Hawkeyes for the third time. Iowa and its high-powered offense won the first two contests. Tip for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 5 p.m.

After throwing a punch with a dominant first quarter, then taking one itself in the second from the Wolverines, the Huskers trailed 36-32 at halftime. But the Huskers never quit, even when the fouls piled up and referees made an appearance. Jaz Shelley, fresh off breaking the school record for most threes in a game with nine against Illinois Thursday night, scored seven of her 12 points in the third to help Nebraska regain the lead, 56-52, heading into the fourth.

But Michigan’s Laila Phelia and Naz Hillmon turned up the heat in the final 10 minutes. Those two combined to score the Wolverines’ first 15 points of the fourth—eight of which came at the free-throw line thanks to Michigan being in the bonus—and had them leading 67-61 with 5:39 left in the game.

But then Haiby flipped the switch.

Back-to-back layups from the Moorhead, Minnesota, native cut the lead to 67-65 just like that. When Michigan got its lead back to 71-67, Nebraska answered with a knock-out 9-2 run. That stretch included five points from Haiby and four from Allison Weidner, a freshman from Humphrey, Nebraska.

After Alexis Markowski, the Huskers’ Big Ten Freshman of the Year, stole an inbounds pass under Nebraska’s own hoop, it was Weidner who was fouled with the ball and sent to the line with four seconds left. She drained both, all but sealing the win.

“I just thought it was a really gritty performance, tough,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said after the game. “We faced a lot of adversity and we overcame. I thought they stayed focused and locked-in and together and with each other. Big free throws from a freshman (Weidner) to seal that game.”

Weidner ended her night with 16 points, three assists and three rebounds. She went 2-of-5 from behind the arc.

“She’s huge. She stayed aggressive, she got herself to the basket, we got some run-out layups there in the fourth quarter to keep us in the game,” Williams said. “I’m just so proud of all of them, Allison in particular.”

Markowski was held to four free-throw makes and was 0-of-3 from the field. But defensively the 6-foot-3 Pius X grad made a difference—she hauled down nine rebounds and three steals. Her play under her own hoop was one of the most crucial plays of the game.

“It’s like this is what we’ve been training for—these defensive stops, these defensive possessions,” Williams said of the play. “To get a defensive stop right there, I’m really proud of us.”

The Huskers were aggressive and attacked the Wolverines from the opening tip. They outscored Michigan 26-14 during that stretch and got a combined 15 points from Annika Stewart and Weidner. Stewart, who’s been battling a back injury and hasn’t played more than six minutes since December, scored eight points and went 2-of-2 from 3-point range. Weidner put her head down and took her defender to the rack for seven points.

“We’ve been missing her and she’s really not even 100 percent healthy, but she gutted it out and found a way to come out there and just contribute, gave us some much points when we needed them,” Williams said of Stewart. “Just played a huge role for us with the foul trouble we had today.”

But the momentum clearly shifted in the second stanza—it was all Wolverines.

Michigan outscored Nebraska 22-6 in the quarter and held the Huskers to 3-of-12 shooting. After turning the ball over twice in the first 10 minutes, the Huskers had seven in the second. With Big Red struggling, the Wolverines made up ground. Hillmon, last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year, and Leigha Brown, a former Husker who transferred to Ann Arbor, both sunk six points.

While different players stepped up throughout the game, like Weidner, Markowski, Stewart, even though in Mi’Cole Cayton with her energy and five points off the bench, Nebraska will head into Friday’s game with Iowa led by its tough vet, Haiby.

“We can play with anyone,” Haiby told the Big Ten Network after the game. “We’re going to go out here every single day and compete and give it our all and fight till the end. We showed it again her tonight.”

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