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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Blows Out Minnesota On Senior Day

by Feb 24, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Women’s Basketball Blows Out Minnesota On Senior Day
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska women’s basketball beat Minnesota decisively in the final home game of the season, taking down the Gophers 70-51.

The Huskers jumped out to a strong lead early and never let it go as four players scored double-digit points. The team also honored its four seniors — Jaz Shelley, Darian White, Annika Stewart and Maddie Krull.

Huskers Set Tone, Cruise to Win

Minnesota scored the first points of the game with a short jumper on its opening possession, but it was essentially all Nebraska from there.

A 7-0 run put the Huskers in front and they led 20-8 at the end of the first quarter. Their defense stood out early, harassing Gopher guards and forcing tough shots. Six Minnesota turnovers led to nine Husker points. Callin Hake and Jaz Shelley combined to earn three steals in a span of four possessions, though only one of those ended in points on the other end.

“We feel really good about the 35 to 37 minutes of really good team defense and being locked into our defensive gameplan and personnel and just proud of the team effort here today,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame.

The other three-to-five minutes the coach referred to likely came at the end of the blowout, when Minnesota ended on a 10-0 run. Otherwise, the Huskers were locked in. Out of halftime, they earned four steals in three minutes to help extend their lead to 18. The Gophers shot 3-for-17 from three in the contest, missing their first 14 tries.

On the offensive end for Nebraska, it hit 11 threes. In particular, the bench trio of Callin Hake, Annika Stewart and Maddie Krull combined to knock down six of their 12 deep attempts. Shelley, Natalie Potts and Alexis Markowski finished with double-digit points. It was Shelley leading that charge with 16 points and four threes.

Senior Day Celebration

Thankfully for the team, the game was in hand late.

That allowed the Huskers the opportunity to check each of their seniors out of the game one at a time, each to a standing ovation. Maddie Krull and Annika Stewart both contributed six points in the game, with the former hitting two threes early and the latter draining a couple late. Shelley did what she does best in her final game at PBA, hitting threes and finishing with seven assists and a couple steals.

“It’s definitely, like coach said, special,” Shelley said postgame. “Husker nation, literally, they do it different. Like it’s really cool to be a part of this and they’ve really embraced me and I’m very thankful to have played three years here.”

Darian White was not expected to have the chance to see the floor, having suffered a setback with her knee injury and listed as out coming into the contest. In the final minute, though, the graduate transfer appeared in uniform, walking around on the court through the final couple of possessions.

“She’s meant so much to this team and the culture that we’ve built this year,” Williams said. “… But for us to still have an opportunity for her to have kind of a last curtain call from Husker nation was pretty special.”

The coach said that she’s hopeful that White will return as the team finishes out the regular season and moves into postseason play. All four seniors will play key roles in the team’s efforts in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Big Ten Standings Update 

Nebraska, holding an overall record of 19-9 and an 11-6 mark in Big Ten play, may have an NCAA Tournament bid locked up at this point.

Still, the Huskers have a lot to play for in their final regular season game and the conference tournament.

They’re fourth in the league standings, half a game ahead of Michigan State. Staying there would mean a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. To do that, they need to either win their final game, or the Spartans need to lose one of their last two. Nebraska has the tiebreaker, but it still may not be easy.

The final game of the regular season comes at Illinois, a team which the Huskers beat in January at home. That game dropped the Illini to 6-8 overall and 0-4 in Big Ten play. Since then, Illinois has looked more like the team that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago, winning seven of its last 11 games. Most recently, it took down a ranked Indiana squad.

Michigan State hosts Illinois next week, meaning it also will face that challenge. The Spartans then close the season on the road against a Wisconsin team that is feisty but still just 6-9 in league play.

The safest bet will be for Nebraska to just win its final game of the regular season after a week off. That’s what the team is focused on, too.

“We’ve kind of just talked about how it’s a puzzle, and there’s there’s four pieces to it. And we have three,” Markowski said, referring to the current three-game winning streak. “And we just need one more to go on the road and get a win at Illinois… I just feel like we’re peaking at the right time.”

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