For so many games this season, I said the Huskers need to get off to a better start. Nebraska was really really good in the fourth quarter, but sometimes dug themselves into a hole.
The past two games, they have gotten a great start, but then needed duct tape and bailing wire to hold on for the win.
Which team will we get tongiht?
Alexis Markowski and Issie Bourne were the early scoreres for the Huskers (5-3 Neb). The Illini went on an eight point run to take an 11-5 lead at 5:50. Sam Haiby broke the run with a layup and foul (free throw was good) to close within 11-8 at 5:07. Issie Bourne connected on her second three point shot of the game to tie it up at 11-11 and then blocked a shot right before the media timeout. Anni Stewart will shoot free throws after the timeout.
Stewart made both shots to re-establish the lead at 13-11. The next few minutes found both offenses struggling a bit but the Huskers held a 16-15 lead with under 30 seconds left. A Markowski layup finished scoring for the quarter.
Nebraska 18 Illinois 15
The scoring came fast and furious with three baskets in the first minute (22-17 Neb). A minute-long stalemate was broken by the Illini and answered by Haiby, as the shot clock expired, to maintain the five point lead at 7:10 (24-19 Neb). Nebraska’s defense forced a turnover that led to a Markowski cleanup play (26-19 Neb). She has eight points and six rebounds so far. Guess what folks?!? She is on track for ANOTHER double double. Issie Bourne beat everyone down the floor (assisted by Stewart) to enter double digit scoring (28-21 Neb) at the second media timeout.
Issie Bourne was fouled and she made one to increase the lead to eight (29-21) at 4:12.
I walked away for three minutes of game time and Nebraska increased the lead to double digits behind Jaz Shelley free throws (35-25 Neb) at 1:21. Jaz Shelley registered a block and then drew the third foul on an Illini starter. She made both free throws. The Huskers are playing really sound basketball right now. An Illini basket ends the quarter.
Nebraska 37 Illinois 29
Illinois scored first with free throws (37-31 Neb) in the first 30 seconds. The Illini continued to cut into the lead with a layup that was answered by Markowski (39-33 Neb) at 7:26. After Nebraska missed a bunny shot, the Illini were fouled and made one (39-34 Neb) at 7:14.
A Haiby free thow and Maddie Krull three pointer extended the Nebraska lead back out to nine (43-34 Neb) at 6:18. Illinois is rebounding as hard as they can right now, even if those result in fouls.
Markowski has achieved YET ANOTHER double double with her 10th rebound (14 points). Jaz Shelley scored her fifth and sixth points (all free throws) to give Nebraska a nine point lead (45-36 Neb) at the media timeout.
Nebraska briefly took an 11 point lead but the Illini answered with a five point run (47-41 Neb). That score held for a minute or so until Amy Williams was able to get three starters back in the game. Jaz Shelley made both free throws (49-41 Neb; 1:52).
The Husker lead grew back to double digits (51-41 Neb) within a few seconds as Maddie Krull drew the fourth foul on an Illini starter. Illinois went on an eight point run to close within two (51-49 Neb).
Nebraska 51 Illinois 49
Illinois scored on a jumper to tie the game at 51 less than a minute into the quarter. Markowski was fouled (but missed both) to maintain the tie. Illinois took advantage by grabbing the lead at 54-51 behind an old-fashioned three-point play. The Illinois run has reached 13-0...make that 15-0 as the Huskers cannot buy a point (56-51 Neb). Amy Williams used a timeout to regroup her team.
The Illinois lead only increased as they continued the run ahead by 10 (61-51 Ill) at 5:06. The Illini run has reached 20-0. We are watching the same Husker collapse as the past two games. yuck.
Another Illini starter collected her fourth foul. The Huskers continued to attack and were awarded two free throws after the next foul (the third on that Illini starter). Haiby made both (61-52 Ill). The teams traded points to give us a 63-55 Illinois lead at 3:59.
The Huskers are giving up layups, but making free throws to keep the game within striking distance...oh never mind...Illinois hit a three to extend their lead to 11 at three minutes (68-57 Ill).
Nebraska is scrapping hard, but still down by six (68-62 Ill) at 2:17.
Haiby! 68-64 Illinois at 1:21
Illinois layup. 70-64 Illinois at 35 seconds.
The Nebraska late game meltdowns finally come home to roost.
Final. Illinois 72 Nebraska 64
Stats and Thoughts
I don’t have many thoughts left. The Huskers blew it. They have been trying to lose games and finally did. I know there have been injuries and adjustments, and I am not an expert. But this team should be able to play a consistent game by this point of the season. The injured players have been out for a while and the game plan should be settled with the new starters. Nebraska is not getting blown out whistle to whistle. They are fading down the stretch. This team is losing confidence in themselves and unsure where to turn when the chips are down. The Huskers have plenty of good players, they just need to figure out their role in elevating the team.
The Huskers were led in scoring by Haiby (15), Markowski (14), Shelley (12) and Bourne (11).
Markowski pulled down 11 rebounds while Haiby and Shelley grabbed eight each.
The Huskers play a ranked Michigan team on Sunday at noon.