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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Loses to Penn State on Road

by Jan 21, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Cornhusker head coach Amy Williams reacts to the action on the court against the Michigan Wolverines during a college basketball game on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by John S. Peterson.
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska women’s basketball dropped to 5-3 in Big Ten play on Sunday, losing to Penn State 82-73 on the road. 

The Huskers have now lost three of their last five games. They trailed by as much as 21, making a late push before eventually falling short. 

Here are three takeaways from the contest: 

Huskers Can’t Keep up With Nittany Lion Offense

Nebraska entered this game having held four of its last five opponents to 62 points or less, including an average of 51 points allowed over the last three games. 

Continuing those trends was going to be a difficult task Sunday, however. Penn State was averaging 87.2 points per game coming into the day, a mark which ranks fifth in the country and higher than any other Husker opponent so far this year. The Nittany Lions have six players averaging double-digit points, including Ashley Owusu — who had only played the last two games in returning from injury.

Through five minutes, it seemed Nebraska was up to the challenge. It opened on a 7-0 run, holding its foe scoreless until Makenna Marisa hit a three at the 5:06 mark. Penn State finished the opening quarter with 12 points and six turnovers. 

Things changed from there, however. The Nittany Lions put up 52 points between the second and third quarter, shooting over 60% from the field in that stretch. 

That meant Nebraska’s offense was tasked with keeping up, a challenge that it couldn’t meet. Jaz Shelley shot 0-for-6 in the opening half, and Nebraska shot 29.4% while turning the ball over 11 times. 

The Huskers didn’t necessarily play poor defense at points, but let up easy transition buckets and turned the ball over against a full-court press. Their problems worsened in the third quarter, as their four made shots and five turnovers allowed Penn State to take a 19-point lead into the final period of play. 

Nebraska did make a legitimate late push, making it a two-possession game with 2:26 to play. Shelley converted an and-one and two threes as part of a 21-5 run, while Kendall Moriarty made a layup through contact to cut the deficit to five. 

Moriarty missing the ensuing free throw was the start of Penn State regaining control, however. Owusu knocked down a stepback jumper on the next possession, and Darian White missed one of two free throws in response nearly a minute later. 

Shelley picked up her fifth and final four playing tough defense on the sideline soon after, and a dagger Ali Brigham and-one followed, extending the lead to nine with just over a minute remaining. 

Nebraska kept fouling and tried to fight back, but never got back within two possessions. Owusu led Penn State with 20 points, while Shay Ciezki and Leilani Kapinus also scored double-digits. 

Even with the fiery fourth quarter, the Huskers finished shooting 36.8% from the field. 

Markowski a Bright Spot

Nebraska’s most consistent player showed up yet again in the loss. 

Alexis Markowski scored all of Nebraska’s points on its opening 7-0 run, earning a layup off of an offensive rebound, hitting a three and knocking down another long jumper. 

She finished the game with 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. It wasn’t a perfect performance — she shot 2-for-10 after hitting her first three shots — but she got to the free-throw line multiple times and led the team in scoring and rebounding. 

Her consistency continues to be a positive for a team which is still looking to have less overall game-to-game variance.  

A Missed Opportunity

For Nebraska, this isn’t all that bad of a loss.

Penn State was ranked at one point this year, and with Owusu in the lineup, it has an argument for being the fourth-best team in the Big Ten behind the league’s current top-25 squads. Its only home loss came without Owusu and other leading scorer Makenna Marisa. 

Still, the Huskers missed a big opportunity, both within the scope of the game and in the big picture. They weren’t able to extend their early lead beyond 7-0 while Penn State struggled, and the offense didn’t show up until it was time to try and dig out of a huge hole. 

Nebraska’s now 5-3 in conference play, but is only a half-game ahead of the four-team group of Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State in the standings. Had it won this game, it could’ve kept a little more distance. 

Instead, either Maryland or Michigan will equal Nebraska’s league record when the two teams play a midweek game against each other. Penn State and Minnesota both play teams closer to the bottom of the standings as well. 

The Huskers don’t have a midweek game, instead taking the floor next on Saturday against No. 2 Iowa. The Hawkeyes lost their first Big Ten game on Sunday, falling in overtime to No. 18 Ohio State.

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