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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Opens Big Ten Play With Road Win Over Michigan State

by Dec 9, 2023Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Cornhusker center Alexis Markowski (40) walks to the lockerroom after the win over  the Alcorn State Lady Braves during the basketball game on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by John S. Peterson.
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska women’s basketball opened Big Ten play Saturday with an 80-74 road triumph over Michigan State.

The Huskers led for over 36 minutes against a Spartan team that entered the game with a 7-1 record and one of the best offenses in the nation. The hosts shot an uncharacteristic 4-for-27 from beyond the arc while Nebraska drained 10 threes.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Alexis Markowski Dominates in Second Half

After Alexis Markowski picked up a second foul early in the second quarter, Husker head coach Amy Williams opted to sit her on the bench for the rest of the half. As a result, she entered the locker room scoreless with two turnovers and having missed her first two shot attempts.

She responded in the second half, to say the least. The junior center had 10 rebounds in the third quarter alone to go along with five points on 2-for-4 shooting. Eight more points in the fourth helped the team build a 17-point lead with 2:17 to go.

Overall, Markowski scored all of her 13 points and grabbed 15 of her 17 rebounds in the second half to lead her team to the win. Even through her early struggles, where she missed easy layups and committed unforced turnovers, she made an impact on the defensive end. She deflected passes throughout the game and ended with three steals.

Saturday marked her fifth-straight double-double, and sixth on the year. This has been the most consistent start to a season Markowski has had in her three-year career, scoring double-digits in all 10 games. She’s averaging 16.8 points per game on 53.4% shooting. Her 3-point shooting has fallen off, but she’s still scoring at a high level.

Postgame on Big Ten Network, she said she knew she’d be able to “come alive” after halftime.

Husker Depth Shines

Markowski wasn’t the only one to struggle early. Guards Darian White and Jaz Shelley combined for two points on 1-for-5 shooting in the first quarter.

That little contribution from three of a team’s top four scorers doesn’t typically result in success. Regardless, Nebraska led 21-19 after 10 minutes. Natalie Potts and Maddie Krull, the other two starters, each had contributions, but 12 of the team’s 21 first-quarter points were scored by the bench.

Freshman forward Jessica Petrie scored six points in the period on 3-for-3 shooting, while Kendall Moriarty and Kendall Coley both hit threes. Moriarty was blocked on a deep three late in the quarter, but kept the possession alive and found Coley for a buzzer-beating make from deep to take the lead.

Petrie ended the first half with 11 points, and Coley added eight. They’d finish the game with those numbers, but the bench contributions were a major part of the win. All five reserves scored, combining for 34 of the team’s 80 points.

The Huskers appear to be a deeper team than they were last season, and still await Annika Stewart’s return from injury and Maggie Mendelson after the volleyball season. In the meantime, Callin Hake, Logan Nissley and Jessica Petrie have all averaged at least six points per game off the bench.

Big Win Despite Late Concerns

A spot for disappointment was the fact that the win could have been a far more decisive one.

The Huskers led by 17 with 2:17 to go, but fell apart from there. In the last 137 seconds of game time, they turned it over three times, shot 0-for-2 from the field and missed three free throws. In that time, Michigan State went on a 14-1 time to cut its deficit to four with 11 seconds left.

Jaz Shelley eventually halted the comeback effort with two made free throws followed by a missed Spartan layup, but it was an ugly end to an otherwise strong game. The Huskers had 24 turnovers overall, 14 coming in the second half.

The turnovers were not debilitating for most of the contest, and Michigan State leads the conference in forcing giveaways. Still, that’s something the team will look to fix before conference play really gets into full swing.

That shouldn’t take too much away from a good Nebraska win. Michigan State entered the day in the top 10 of the NET rankings, and had dominated some respectable foes. The Spartans were a WNIT-quality team last year before declining the postseason bid, and appear to be at least that caliber of a squad this season.

Nebraska is 8-2 through 10 games, a mark the team can be happy with despite losses to Creighton and TCU. It’ll return home to take on a struggling Southern team before finishing nonconference play on December 20 with another tough road contest at Kansas. The 2023 WNIT champion Jayhawks are 4-4, but three of those losses were decided by single-digit margins against currently ranked teams.

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