The biggest pregame news is that Alexis Markowski is not starting. She is available and will play, but Anni Stewart will start in her place. The radio guys emphasized multiple times that is was a “coach’s decision” for a minor reason.
Sam Haiby, Issie Bourne and Jaz Shelley will participate in Senior Day activities. Haiby is finishing her fifth season. Bourne and Shelley each have one season of eligibility remaining, but it is unknown if they intend to use it. Haiby did go through Senior Day last year and chose to return, FWIW.
Northwestern scored first with a three, but Jaz Shelley answered with one of her own. Shelley scored the first five Husker points (5-5 tie). Then the Husker went on a four-point run to open up a lead (9-5 Neb). Markowski picked up two fouls in the quarter and went to the bench. Northwestrn is being very aggressive on defense, in terms of contact that isn’t being called, and that is making the game choppy.
Both defenses held the upper hand as the quarter ended. Jaz Shelley is pulling down a rebound for every point she scores with five points and six boards in the quarter.
Nebraska 12 Northwestern 7
Maggie Mendelson gave Nebraska some very good minutes with Markowski in foul trouble (four points and four rebounds). It was also Issie Bourne stepping up as she attacked in the paint and racked up some key fouls on Wildcats to go with her seven points.
The big storyline was that the Huskers got out to as much as a 10 point lead only to see the Wildcats claw their way back. At one point, Jaz Shelley was hit across the face while dribbling the ball with no call. Amy Williams yelled at the refs, was warned, and decided she didn’t care. Coach was T’d up resulting in five points for Northwestern - two free throws and a three pointer to end the half.
Nebraska 30 Northwestern 30
Northwestern briefly took the lead, but after that, the Huskers took control of the game.
Okay, by “control” I mean, Alexis Markowski activated the cheat codes and Dominated (capital D intended). All she was missing was the cape as she did her best Superman impression. She poured in 12 points, including going 5-5 from the free throw line, and pulled down four rebounds. Jaz Shelley didn’t have a bad quarter either with seven points and two more rebounds tacked to her total.
Overall, the Huskers scored as many points in the third quarter as they did the entire first half (30). They outscored the Wildcats by 10 and Northwestern’s foul troubles creeped into orange alert territory.
Nebraska 60 Northwestern 50
Northwestern is a team known for forcing turnovers and they gambled that their press could help them get back in the game. The Huskers punished that decision repeatedly by breaking the press and scoring layups, including several “and-one” plays. Haiby and Krull especially thrived in that setting by scoring six points apiece.
Markowski scored four points in this quarter, but grabbed eight rebounds to join Shelley in the double-double column. Two Wildcat starters fouled out, which largely put an end to Northwestern’s hopes of making a comeback.
It wasn’t an easy quarter as the Huskers had to battle for everything, but battle they did. They closed out a determined and pesky Northwestern team that has a style of play conducive to upsets.
Final. Nebraska 80 Nortwestern 64
Stats and Thoughts
Shelley led the Huskers with 19 points. Markowski (16), Haiby (13), Bourne (11) and Krull (9) rounded out the top scorers for the Big Red. Markowski and Shelley each notched a double-double with 14 and 13 rebounds respectively.
I didn’t give much mention to Sam Haiby in the narrative above, but the senior (like always) made big plays when needed. She drew fouls, drove to the basket, and was in the right place at the right time. She will be sorely missed next season.
The Huskers shot 46% from the field (26-57) compard to 40% (26-64) for Northwestern. Nebraska turned the ball over 19 times; the Wildcats committed 15 TOs. The Huskers dominated on the boards 49-26.
Nebraska and Michgan State are the #8 and #9 seeds for the Big Ten Tournament and will meet Thursday, March 2 at 11:30 am. The winner of that game will be the lucky team that faces Big Ten champion and #2 team in the country, Indiana.