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Nebraska WBB Hangs On for 71-64 Win vs Northwestern

A conference standings update and postseason chances for the Huskers after back-to-back wins

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Maryland vs Nebraska Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time this season, the Husker women put together good games back-to-back. Yes, they nearly blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter of this one, but it still counts as a “W”.

Conference Standings Update

The two wins this week moved the Huskers to 8-8 in the B1G and 13-14 overall. In conference standings they went from 11th place to a tie for 6th with Minnesota, Purdue and Northwestern. I’m guessing they would be the 7th seed if the tournament started today as they beat the Gophers and Boilermakers head-to-head and split with Northwestern. I think the Wildcats would get the 6 seed because of their overall season record, but I admittedly didn’t look for the tiebreaker rules.

The Huskers sit one game behind Ohio State and two behind Michigan and Rutgers with two games remaining. The Huskers are likely to go 1-1 in their final two games (vs Iowa and @Penn State). Ohio State is likely to go 1-1 in their final two games keeping them ahead of the Huskers. As I scan schedules, it seems unlikely the Huskers will get any higher than the 6th seed unless they can upset a really good Iowa team. The 7 or 8 seed seems like the most likely landing spot for the conference tourney.

What if? If Nebraska can manage to move into a tie with Ohio State in the standings, they would own the head-to-head tiebreaker and could be the 5 seed. If things get really weird, I think the 4 seed (and double-bye for the tournament) is technically possible, but I’m not going to figure out what that would take. On the downside, the Huskers could still slide back to the 11 seed and a tourney play-in game if they lose both of their remaining games. The B1G is B1Ger than normal this season.

Postseason Chances

An NCAA bid is out of the question unless the Huskers manage to win the conference tournament. A WNIT bid is shaky but possible. Right now, Ohio State is the likely WNIT autobid for the Big Ten (highest seeded team not invited to NCAA) with Northwestern right on their heels. The autobid is the only way a sub-.500 Husker team gets into the WNIT. If the Huskers go 1-1 in their final games, they finish the season 14-15. That means they need to win at least two in the conference tournament (making it to the semi-finals) to bring their record to .500. Not impossible, but not great odds - and I’m assuming a .500+ Nebraska team even gets an invite. I really don’t know the WNIT landscape well enough to know if that is a good assumption or not.

Northwestern Recap

Hannah Whitish pumped in 19 points and Maddie Simon added 16 points on a perfect 6 for 6 shooting night from the field. Whitish, a 5-9 junior from Barneveld, Wis., led another three-point barrage by the Big Red by hitting 5-of-8 three-pointers while also dishing out five assists. Simon, a 6-2 senior forward from Lincoln hit a pair of threes of her own in one of her best all-around games of the season.

As a team, the Huskers buried 10-of-18 three-pointers (.556). Northwestern slipped to 15-12 overall and 8-8 in the league as Nebraska salvaged a season series split with the Wildcats. Over the last two games, Nebraska has hit 22-of-42 threes (.524).

Freshman Sam Haiby put three Huskers in double figures with 11 points, including five points in the final 1:16 to help Nebraska hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally.

Nebraska led 60-44 at the end of three quarters and extended its lead to 17 points at 63-46 after Whitish’s final three-pointer of the night with 9:17 left. The Wildcats responded with a 13-0 run in a span of just 2:11 to pull within 63-59 with 6:51 left in the game.

The Wildcats added a Sydney Wood free throw with 4:59 left to pull within a possession at 63-60, but Whitish hit a jumper 15 seconds later to push the Husker edge back to 65-60 with 4:44 left. The two teams then went scoreless for the next 3:28 before Haiby’s layup put the Big Red up three possessions at 67-60.

For the game, Nebraska hit 50 percent (24-48) of its shots from the field, while knocking down 72.2 percent (13-18) of its free throws. The Huskers were out-rebounded 34-30, and lost the turnover battle 13-10. The Northwestern defense had been holding teams to just 60 points in Big Ten play.

The Huskers held Northwestern to just 37.5 percent (24-64) shooting, including 5-of-17 threes (.294). The Wildcats also went just 11-for-17 (.647) at the line.

Nebraska returns to Lincoln for its final regular-season home game on Monday night when the Huskers take on No. 10 Iowa. Tip-off between the Big Red and Hawkeyes on Senior Night is set for 7:30 p.m. (CT). Nebraska will honor senior Maddie Simon with an on-court ceremony at Pinnacle Bank Arena following Monday night’s game.