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Nebraska Women’s Basketball Survives Texas A&M Comeback, Advancing in NCAA Tournament

by Mar 23, 2024Nebraska Womens Basketball

Nebraska Cornhuskers bench reacts during a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at the Target Center in Minneapolis, MN March 7th 2024. Photo by Eric Francis
Photo Credit: Eric Francis
Nebraska women’s basketball held on.

The Huskers seemed to be cruising in their first-round NCAA Tournament game, building up a seven-point lead by halftime and extending it to as much as 17 in the third quarter. They were well on their way to winning their first tourney game since 2014, and their first under head coach Amy Williams.

Texas A&M wouldn’t allow it to come that decisively, though, despite being in an disadvantageous position. Their starting center was out with injury and starting forward Janiah Barker was in foul trouble. Leading scorer Aicha Coulibaly was quiet — until she wasn’t.

She scored all 26 of her points in the second half to lead a ferocious comeback. Most of those came in the third quarter, where she responded to Nebraska’s biggest lead with eight straight points to get it back to single-digits.

The Huskers kept clinging onto their advantage. Texas A&M’s Endyia Rogers sunk two free throws to tie the game at 56, and Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski scored in the paint to retake the lead with 43 seconds left. Rogers missed a three on the next possession, but Coulibaly soared in for a putback while taking contact from Markowski for the and-one. All of a sudden, the No. 6 seed Huskers trailed by a point with 17 seconds remaining.

“Lots of teams would cave in that moment,” Williams said postgame. “Our kids stayed locked in and focused.”

Nebraska’s most recent game had been the Big Ten championship, in which it couldn’t hold onto a late lead. There had been several occasions in which the Huskers couldn’t convert go-ahead chances, such as losses to Rutgers and Illinois. They needed to find a way to break through.

The way in which they did was anticlimactic — true freshman Logan Nissley was pushed down away from the ball with the Huskers in the bonus. Still, she nailed both shots from the line, putting her team back in front. A couple possessions later, a potential game-winning three from Rogers fell short, and Nebraska secured the victory.

“We found a way in the end,” Williams said. “Made some huge plays down the stretch… the plays that needed to happen to survive and advance.”

Nissley was a big part of that, turning in 16 points, three rebounds and two steals. Markowski had 16 points and six boards. Jaz Shelley did plenty of good, with five rebounds and six assists, but struggled shooting the ball (2-for-11) and had some uncharacteristic turnovers.

Texas A&M’s defense bothered the Huskers throughout the night. But the team kept attacking, getting to the free-throw line for 22 attempts and having nine different players score points.

Darian White was third on the team in scoring, putting up eight points, four rebounds and two assists.

The Huskers have plenty to sharpen up ahead of a round of 32 matchup against Oregon State. The Beavers are the No. 3 seed host in the region and beat Eastern Washington by 22 in their opening game. They’re a well-rounded squad, and All-American sophomore center Raegan Beers will give Markowski a test inside.

Williams was happy to earn this win, one that eluded her the past seven seasons at Nebraska and in the last two tourney appearances. Still, she’s got an eye on what’s next for a team that believes it can go further.

“It means a lot to me just because I just love coaching this team,” she said. “I’m so excited to get to continue to do that tomorrow and preparation for the next game.”

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