That is my very insightful analysis of how the Husker women came away with the 63-57 win against #23/25 Minnesota.
If you watched or listened to the game, you probably have a similar impression. The Huskers had very little offensive rhythm or flow. Nebraska didn’t make a three-pointer in the first three periods. They were getting owned in the rebounding department more than 2-1 for most of the game. Until the final period, the Huskers were committing more turnovers than the Gophers.
A few observations on the overall team before the breakdown of this game:
- The Huskers are quietly beginning to develop a lockdown mentality on defense. They are getting much better at keeping things in front of them. Early in the season Husker defenders were getting burned and the help defense wasn’t reacting fast enough. Both of those can be chalked up to a young, inexperienced roster. Amy Williams and her staff have been emphasizing this in practice (based on some pre- and post-game comments I’ve heard) and the results are starting to show.
- We’ve watched the Husker men use the 1-3-1 zone defense with great success this season. Tim Miles has the long rangy athletes needed to make that work Amy Williams deployed the 1-3-1 to devastating effect at the end of the game last night. The Husker women definitely have the athletes for that zone and I expect we’ll see it again more this season.
- The offense is still discombobulated. The two leading scorers for Nebraska are freshmen Sam Haiby and Leigha Brown. Both have a playing style in which they have the ability to create offense on their own. The Nebraska play-by-play announcer, Matt Coatney, said something earlier this season along the lines of “Sam Haiby gets to the rim more than someone who works at a tire shop!” If these two especially can develop more offensive discipline early in the shot clock, I think the opportunities for backcutting, post-ups and open threes (i.e. what we normally recognize as offensive flow) will increase. And woe to any defender staring down either of those Huskers in a late shot clock situation.
Hannah Whitish and Taylor Kissinger combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter, while Nicea Eliely swiped five steals in the final period, as Nebraska stormed back from a nine-point deficit with less than eight minutes to play for a 63-57 win over No. 23 Minnesota.
Freshman Sam Haiby, a 5-9 guard from Moorhead, Minn., capped Nebraska’s 25-11 fourth-quarter outburst with the game’s final four points in the last 20 seconds to seal the win over the Golden Gophers. Haiby matched Minnesota’s first-team All-Big Ten senior point guard Kenisha Bell for game-high scoring honors with 16.
Nebraska improved to 4-3 in the Big Ten and 9-9 overall while Minnesota slipped to 2-5 in the conference and 13-5 overall.
Nebraska, which trailed 46-38 at the end of three quarters, got its first three-pointer of the game from Kissinger to open the fourth quarter. The Huskers, who averaged 7.5 threes per game coming into the contest, were 0-for-7 from long range against the Gophers in the first 30 minutes.
However, Minnesota answered with baskets from Jasmine Brunson and Kenisha Bell to take its biggest lead at 50-41 with 7:47 to play. Haiby finished a layup to cut the margin before Whitish trimmed the lead to 50-45 with 6:24 left and force a timeout by Minnesota.
The Gophers then got their second three-pointer of the game, a right wing triple from Destiny Pitts to regain a 53-45 margin with six minutes left. That was the last field goal of the game for Minnesota, as Nebraska’s 1-3-1 defense shut down the Gophers the rest of the way.
In fact, in the final six minutes Minnesota only got a missed three-pointer from Brunson with 3:52 left to the rim, as the Huskers forced five Minnesota turnovers and blocked two shots down the stretch. Eliely got four of her career-high six steals during the final six minutes, while Kissinger and Ashtyn Veerbeek both recorded big blocked shots.
Meanwhile, the Huskers answered with a three-point play from Kissinger with 5:48 left, followed by two three-pointers from Whitish and another three-pointer from Kissinger to tie the game at 57 and force another timeout by Minnesota with 3:03 left.
In the final three minutes, Minnesota got no shots to the rim while Whitish and Haiby combined to go 4-for-4 at the line, and Haiby all but clinched the Husker victory with a strong drive and finish with 19.5 seconds left. If I remember correctly (and I may not) Minnesota was trying to foul and Haiby evaded the Gophers to get the layup. Nebraska closed the game on a 12-0 run.
It was Nebraska’s second fourth-quarter comeback to victory in Big Ten play, joining a 30-13 fourth-quarter outburst after trailing Michigan in the conference opener.
”Our team keeps fighting and they have shown their commitment to stick with it even when things might not be going that well,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams. “We know we can play a lot better basketball than we played today, but it was exciting in the fourth quarter when we hit some shots and the crowd got going. It was like a wave of excitement that everybody got caught up in.”
While Haiby finished with 16 points to lead the Huskers, Whitish scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth period and Kissinger got all nine of her points in the final period. Nebraska’s leading scorer coming into the game, freshman Leigha Brown, also produced nine points in the first three quarters to keep the Huskers within striking distance. Veerbeek pitched in six points, five rebounds and a career-high-matching three blocks.
Nebraska held Minnesota to just 37 percent (20-54) shooting, including just 2-for-9 (.222) from three-point range. The Gophers also hit just 65.2 percent (15-23) of their free throws while committing 17 turnovers in the game.
The Huskers finished at 44 percent (22-54) shooting, including 8-for-13 (.615) in the fourth quarter. The Huskers went just 4-for-16 (.250) from beyond the arc, but 4-for-9 in the final period, and knocked down 83.3 percent (15-18) of their free throws. Nebraska committed 13 turnovers in the game, but just two in the decisive fourth quarter.
Nebraska’s fourth-quarter eruption allowed the Huskers to overcome a season-worst 43-24 (-19) rebound margin. It was NU’s first negative double-digit rebound margin of the season.
Nebraska returns to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, as the Huskers play host to Northwestern. Tip-off between Nebraska and the Wildcats is set for 7 p.m.