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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Rolls to Double-Digit Road Win After Slow Start

by Feb 17, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Cornhusker center Alexis Markowski (40) reaches for the rebound against Purdue Boilermaker forward Caitlyn Harper (34) in the second half during a college basketball game on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by John S. Peterson.
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska women’s basketball completed a season sweep of Purdue on Saturday, winning 77-65 on the road.

The Huskers trailed by double-digits early, but bounced back to lead at halftime and carried that advantage throughout the first half.

Here are four takeaways from the game:

Huskers Overcome Slow Start

Purdue, which entered the game holding a record of 9-3 at home despite an 11-13 overall mark, started out hot.

Soon after gaining possession on the opening tip, the Boilermakers swung the ball to Madison Layden, who launched and hit a three for the first points of the day. That set the tone for what ended up being a strong opening quarter for their offense.

Nebraska still found a way to lead 10-9 at the media timeout, but the Boilermakers took off from there, going on a 12-2 run over the final three-and-a-half minutes of the period. Layden scored five more points in that stretch, and true freshman Rashunda Jones converted a short and-one jumper.

The Husker offense fell flat, starting the game 0-for-4 from three and turning the ball over three times. Purdue extended possessions with three offensive rebounds, even as they didn’t turn into points at first.

In the second quarter, the Huskers came roaring back. Jaz Shelley hit two free throws and then nailed a three to tie the game at 36 and cap a 14-4 run to begin the period. Purdue’s offense went cold against Nebraska’s defense, and a Logan Nissley three with two minutes until halftime gave her team the lead back.

“We did a lot of things [after the first quarter],” head coach Amy Williams said postgame on Huskers Radio Network. “Started to get a little more aggressive-minded offensively. I thought Logan Nissley gave us a really nice spark, but I thought Jaz Shelley did a great job of just getting in the paint, getting a few more paint touches, being aggressive off of ball screen action.”

Shelley drove to the rim more frequently than one might typically expect, shooting double-digit free throws for just the third time in her Husker career.

Nebraska finally broke free with a 12-0 run in the third quarter. It never quite became a blowout, but Purdue never cut its deficit back down to single-digits.

Markowski’s 20/20 Game

Alexis Markowski had a monster performance against the Boilermakers, pulling down a career-high 21 rebounds to go along with her sixth 20-point game of the season.

She grabbed 16 boards in the team’s recent loss to No. 2 Ohio State, and kept up that momentum in West Lafayette. She finished the opening half with nine points and 10 rebounds and kept up that pace through the rest of the contest.

“I know the team relies on my rebounding ability,” Markowski said postgame. “Just talking to [assistant coach Julian Assibey], he’s always like, ‘You’re gonna get every single board,’ and that’s just my mentality.”

She reached 20 points on a late and-one, but was ejected before she could shoot the free throw. In celebrating the play, her fist inadvertently connected with the face of Purdue’s Madison Layden. It didn’t start much of a conflict on the court, and Layden appeared to be alright, but Markowski was understandably assessed a technical foul and tossed.

Markowski became the eighth player to record a game of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds this season, and only the 12th Big Ten player to do so since 2010. Her 21 boards tied for the fourth-most in program history, with no one matching or exceeding that total since Kelly Hubert grabbed 23 in 1990.

Nissley Impresses in First Start

Two games after helping fuel the comeback against No. 2 Iowa, true freshman guard Logan Nissley made her first career start.

The two starting guard spots alongside Jaz Shelley have been up in the air as of late due to an injury to Darian White and presumably some of the struggles that Maddie Krull and Callin Hake have had when they’ve been in the opening group. Williams cited the matchup as the reason for this game, which is also an understandable justification. Purdue starts three six-footers and a bigger guard in 5-foot-11 Jeanae Terry. Moriarty and Nissley in the starting lineup meant four six-footers for Nebraska.

Regardless, Nissley sure made a great first impression in that group. She tied her career-high with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting, this output more crucial than the one she produced in a blowout win over UNC Wilmington. Nissley scored four points early, faking a three and driving for a short pull-up jumper. On the next possession, she shook a defender off the ball for an easy layup.

She scored seven more points in the second quarter, helping Nebraska move into the lead. Her next six points were back-to-back threes in the third quarter to spark the 12-0 run. Finally, she finished off her day filling in for an ejected Markowski on an and-one free throw.

Nissley has had plenty of notable performances this year, but has become more comfortable as an all-around player. Her 3-point shooting is the main draw, but she was willing to drive, pass and defend in this game as well.

“I’m so proud of the way she took advantage of this opportunity,” Williams said.

Big Ten Implications

Nebraska, now 9-6 in Big Ten play, controls its own destiny as far as the conference standings go.

A top-three league finish is out of reach, but the fourth seed and a double-bye in the conference tournament is there for the taking. After this weekend, the Huskers will be at least a half-game ahead of every other team in contention for that spot. If they win out, they’ll be the fourth seed.

There are a handful of teams within reach, but Michigan State is the top challenger as the only other one in that group with six losses. The Spartans do not own the tiebreaker over Nebraska, which beat them in December. They do have one of the more favorable schedules to end the regular season, making winning out more of a necessity for the Huskers.

Nebraska’s next game comes against Northwestern at home. The Wildcats have been abysmal, ranking outside the top 200 in the NET rankings. The Huskers can’t afford a letdown like they had against Rutgers in that one.

After that comes a home matchup with Minnesota, which beat Nebraska once, but isn’t the same team. Star guard Mara Braun has been out with injury, and the Gophers went on a six-game losing streak as a result before beating Northwestern on Saturday.

The Huskers close the year on the road at Illinois. They beat the Illini in January, but that has potential to be a tough contest. After an 0-4 start to league play, Illinois has gone 6-4 against Big Ten teams, having a good win over Penn State but also a loss to Purdue.

Nebraska reaching 20 wins at the end of the regular season and securing the fourth seed in the Big Ten would be a great spot for the team. It would have a shot to make it to the conference tournament semifinals by playing just one game against a team that isn’t Iowa, Ohio State or Indiana.

Of course, even with a favorable situation, it might not be easy.

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