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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Blows Out Michigan Behind All-Around Contributions

by Jan 17, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Women’s Basketball Blows Out Michigan Behind All-Around Contributions
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska women’s basketball earned a strong bounceback win on Wednesday, beating Michigan 62-43.

The two teams entered the day with identical overall records, though the Wolverines were 3-2 in Big Ten play while the Huskers stood at 4-2. Nebraska is now one of four teams in the Big Ten with a conference record above .500, sitting in fourth behind the league’s three ranked teams.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Defense Shuts Down Michigan

Nebraska’s defense was stellar all night, holding the Wolverines to a season-worst 43 points.

The visitors struggled from the start, only having three points on the board over eight-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter. Five points in the next two possession helped things look a tad better, as Michigan trailed by single-digits despite scoring eight points in the opening period.

The Huskers kept up that intensity, however, never allowing more than 12 points in a quarter for the rest of the game. They outrebounded their foes to 32.6% shooting and outrebounded them 46-28 in the game.

“I thought we played a solid 40 minutes of defense tonight and I thought that we got into the passing lanes we don’t let them get paint touches, post touches,” freshman forward Natalie Potts said postgame. “I thought we stayed really solid today.”

Laila Phelia, Michigan’s leading scorer on the year, was held to nine points and shot 1-for-8 from the field with five turnovers. That can be partly credited to the work of Jaz Shelley, who also played a role in slowing down Mara Braun in the team’s last game.

“I think Jaz has really set the tone for that,” head coach Amy Williams said. “I thought she’s done a great job of really being smart and playing high IQ and playing to tendencies. And I think it just shows you what an incredibly high-IQ, well-rounded basketball player that Jaz Shelley is.”

In the past five games, the Huskers have also held Illinois below 50 points, Wisconsin below 60 and Minnesota to 62. Of course, Nebraska lost to the Golden Gophers, but there’s still been a lot to like on that end of the floor.

Kendall Moriarty, Darian White Break Out of Slumps

Nebraska’s expected top contributors showed up, but some players unexpectedly had big games as well.

Kendall Moriarty dropped a season-high 11 points off the bench on 4-for-7 shooting, converting a three and an and-one during Nebraska’s 17-3 run to open the game. She also came up with two steals.

“I thought Kendall gave us a huge spark and I’m so proud of her, we’ve been telling her that, you know, ‘There’s going to be a time where we really need you to come in and make game-winning plays,'” Williams said. “And I thought tonight was her night to do that.”

Williams praised the work Moriarty had been putting in in practice, and Potts said she knew that it’d eventually translate to a game scenario.

Meanwhile, Darian White put up 13 points, sharing the team-high in scoring with Potts. It was her first time scoring in double-digits in Big Ten play, and the 5-foot-6 transfer guard made defensive plays throughout the night.

“I can’t lie, it’s been hard,” White said of the adjustment to the conference. “But very good, it’s been challenging me in a lot of ways but I have amazing teammates that continue to push me every day in practice, out of practice.”

Her one steal came as she came up under a Michigan player looking to receive a post entry pass. She then went coast-to-coast, beating out every other player on the floor for the transition layup.

Nebraska’s depth has been an important piece of its success this season, and White and Moriarty will look to continue to make strides in their respective roles.

Huskers Deliver in Important Game

Nebraska is now 5-2 in Big Ten play, and that’s not a mark propped up by easy wins.

Including Michigan, the Huskers have three wins over Big Ten teams ranked in the top 45 of the NET rankings. The middle of the conference is packed with tournament-quality teams, as the league has recently been projected to land nine bids.

That may be a difficult thing to actually achieve, so it’s best that Nebraska put out strong showings in these types of games. It did that Wednesday night, decisively winning. That’s especially important coming off a close loss to Minnesota, which is also in the aforementioned group of potential tourney squads.

Next up, the Huskers play Penn State on the road. The Nittany Lions are No. 33 in NET rankings, recently welcoming former Maryland star Ashley Owusu to the lineup as well. A win in that matchup would bolster Nebraska’s resume even further for the postseason.

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