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Jaz Shelley Leads Nebraska to Big Ten Tournament Semifinal Win With 30-Point Showing

by Mar 9, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Jaz Shelley Leads Nebraska to Big Ten Tournament Semifinal Win With 30-Point Showing
Photo Credit: Eric Francis
Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese was happy with a lot of what her team did against Nebraska in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.

The Terrapins had five of seven players score in double figures, another finishing with eight points. They held Alexis Markowski and Natalie Potts below their season scoring averages, limiting them being a goal coming in. The frontcourt duo shot 5-for-17.

“Jaz Shelley,” Frese said with an inflection that suggested she may end her answer there. “She was the X-factor that, as a fifth-year, determined this game.”

Shelley put up a season-high 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting, drilling six threes. She had an unbelievable run in the opening quarter, ending the period by going on an 11-0 run by herself.

She started it with a difficult driving layup to stop a short Husker scoring drought. The next possession, she crossed over against Maryland’s Shyanne Sellers twice, sending the guard to the floor before hitting the three. Sellers lost the ball on the next possession, and Shelley picked it up, made her way to the floor and sunk another three from the top of the arc.

One more Maryland miss gave the Huskers the time to get a shot off before the end of the quarter. Shelley took a deep heat check in the final seconds, and the result was the same as the last two threes.

“Unreal,” Markowski said of the run. “Honestly, I was speechless. It was after her third three, and I was just like, ‘You’re kidding me.’ Jaz is just such a special player.”

Shelley’s 17 points and four assists fueled Nebraska’s 48-point first half, in which the team shot 10-for-17 from three. The team led by as much as 13 and went into the break up seven.

“I kind of went unconscious for a little bit,” Shelley said. “I was kind of feeling it.”

While Nebraska’s shotmaking highlighted the first half, Maryland worked its way to a 28-point second quarter to stay in it. The Terrapins had reason to be happy going into the second half, shooting nearly 60% from the field on mostly 2-pointers and trailing by single-digits against a team that had made 10 threes.

That was justified further in the third quarter. Shelley returned to earth as a shooter, and the Terrapins cut their deficit down to a point entering the final 10 minutes.

Though they made it a battle, they never took the lead, and that was still because of Shelley. The fifth-year guard was responsible for all of the team’s points in the third quarter, making one shot and assisting on five others.

She made timely buckets and free throws in the fourth quarter, also grabbing a key offensive rebound that allowed the team to take more time off of the clock late.

“I’ve been saying this for a while, but Jaz Shelley, she is a very capable scorer, but she just does so much more for our team,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “…I think she’s matured so much, just learning how to impact games, whether she’s scoring, whether she’s assisting, whether she’s rebounding, whether she’s defending.”

No other Husker scored in double-digits, but eight others scored and made big plays. Callin Hake continued her strong tournament with seven points, five rebounds, two assists and a couple charges taken. Markowski secured 13 rebounds to go along with nine points, also finishing with a team-best plus/minus of +21.

Annika Stewart scored nine points, while Kendall Coley and Logan Nissley both hit two threes. A team defensive effort held Maryland to nine points in the final quarter of play.

All of that led to the Huskers making the conference tournament final for the first time in 10 years. They won it that year, beating Iowa in the title game. It’s perhaps fitting that they’ll face the same team this time around.

Iowa and Michigan played in the other semifinal, and Caitlin Clark’s Hawkeyes ran away in the second half for a blowout victory. The Huskers are 1-1 against Iowa this season, taking down a Clark-led team for the first time at home on Feb. 11. It’s a neutral site this time, but Target Center has been filled with Hawkeye supporters for their games. Nebraska is certainly aware of that, and Shelley showed some excitement for the matchup before it was even finalized.

“It’s always fun playing Iowa,” she said, answering a question about the potential championship matchups postgame on Big Ten Network. “Look at this many people in here, I think that’s what the people want. It’d be really cool to play against them.”

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