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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Struggles Against Ohio State Pressure in Blowout Loss

by Feb 14, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Cornhusker guard Jaz Shelley (1) dribbles the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers in the first 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 lost in a blowout at No. 2 Ohio State on Wednesday night, turning the ball over 30 times and scoring a season-low 47 points.

The Huskers couldn’t replicate the magic that pushed them to an upset win over No. 2 Iowa just days ago. Jacy Sheldon led the way with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists while Cotie McMahon added 20 points and 10 boards. 

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Husker Offense Suffocated

There is not all that much to talk about from this game beyond the fact that Nebraska had no answer for Ohio State’s full-court pressure. 

The Huskers had numerous possessions where they were unable to advance the ball beyond halfcourt. They had 10-second violations, travels, passes thrown out of bounds or stolen by Buckeyes for easy buckets. 

Early in the third quarter, Nebraska had 21 turnovers and just 19 points. Ohio State scored 29 points off of Husker giveaways, 24 of those coming through the first three quarters. 

“I thought our team was confident and ready to handle the pressure and then we got out here today and we just were not,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame on Huskers Radio Network. “I thought we got rattled early, and it led to just not very confident ball-handling. And it looked to me like their defense just picked things up a notch because they could kind of smell the blood in the water.”

Nebraska has had struggles with the full-court press in recent seasons. One of the most notable occurrences came in the team’s Big Ten Tournament loss last year, when the Huskers gave the ball away on their first four possessions in helping Michigan State open up a 7-0 lead.

Even when they were able to get beyond halfcourt against Ohio State, it often wasn’t pretty. They shot 29.2% in the first half, with Alexis Markowski and Jaz Shelley combining to shoot 2-for-11. 

Nebraska’s record books don’t list a single-game team record for turnovers, but the 30 tonight were comfortably the most under Williams, per HerHoopStats. 

No player finished with double-digit points, meaning Markowski was held below 10 points for the first time all season. She still put up a solid performance, finishing the game with nine points on 50% shooting and 16 rebounds. 

Huskers Can’t Fully Shake Up-and-Down Reputation

Asking Nebraska to take down another top-two team, this time on the road with a short turnaround, might’ve been an unreasonable ask. 

Ohio State is atop the Big Ten currently for a reason, with a stellar, well-rounded starting lineup. The Huskers aren’t quite in the range of the top teams or expected to be. Williams expressed postgame that she would’ve liked more time to prepare.

However, it’s fair to have some disappointment with this result. Nebraska seemed completely overwhelmed throughout the contest. Ohio State earned its season-high in forced turnovers, beating out the 28 it coaxed Rutgers and Northwestern into. 

This Nebraska team is undoubtedly improved from a year ago, but a close loss to Rutgers and Wednesday’s dismantling are the type of results to surface lingering doubts about the team’s ability to bring some consistency into postseason play. 

Favorable Stretch to End the Year

Nebraska now has four regular season games left as it looks to hang on to the fourth seed in the Big Ten.

It’s about as favorable of a stretch as the Huskers can ask for, too. Their next matchup is at Purdue (11-13 overall, 4-9 Big Ten), a team they beat by 14 two weeks ago. The Boilermakers have only lost home games to the Big Ten’s ranked teams, though that’s partly a scheduling quirk as of now — they haven’t hosted a team between fourth and eighth in the league standings.

After that comes a home game against Northwestern (8-16, 3-10), where Nebraska must avoid a letdown like the one it had against Rutgers. The final home game of the year is a matchup with Minnesota (14-10, 4-9). The Golden Gophers beat the Huskers once and still linger around NCAA Tournament projections, but are on a six-game losing streak with star player Mara Braun out indefinitely. 

Finally, Nebraska travels to Illinois (11-12, 5-8), which lost to the Huskers by eight in January at Pinnacle Bank Arena and could certainly play a close game again. 

All four of those teams currently rank in the bottom six of the Big Ten standings. There’s plenty of potential challengers in that group, but it’s a stretch where Nebraska should hope to go undefeated. That would get the team to 20 wins heading into a conference bracket where it would likely be the fourth seed. 

Perhaps the Huskers could take a loss to one of the better opponents in that stretch and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes intact, but they surely won’t want to take any chances. 

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