Nebraska women’s basketball took down a power conference foe Saturday afternoon, winning 80-72 at home against Georgia Tech.
The Huskers controlled the opening quarter, but found themselves down double-digits at halftime and trailed by as much as 15 points early in the third quarter. After that, they stormed to a comeback win behind one of the team’s best offensive stretches of the season so far. Jaz Shelley led the way with 22 points and eight assists, while Alexis Markowski earned another double-double in a 15-point, 10-rebound performance.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Scorching Second Half
The shooting woes that have plagued Nebraska early this season were present in the first half, and particularly the second quarter.
After starting the period up 16-12, the Huskers ran into issues on both ends, but shooting 3-for-19 in a quarter will make it especially hard for any team to maintain a slim lead. They missed all eight attempts from three in that stretch and never got to the free-throw line.
As a result, the second half may have came as whiplash to the fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Huskers went from making three shots to only missing two, converting on 13 of their 15 third-quarter attempts. They cooled down in the fourth quarter to only shoot 9-for-14, sealing the win.
This efficiency — a second half featuring 58 points and 75.9% shooting from the home team — didn’t translate into a comeback right away. Nebraska allowed 10 points in less than three minutes to open the half, going down 15 at the 7:27 mark of the third. Georgia Tech made four of its first five shots, including a 3-pointer and an and-one after a Nebraska turnover.
The Huskers made their push after that, going on a 9-0 run, but the Yellow Jackets kept their foe at bay for much of the period. With 2:50 left in the third, they still led by nine before Nebraska finally broke through with a 12-2 run in the next few minutes. Shelley threw a long pass to freshman Natalie Potts to make it a one-point game, and the fifth-year guard hit a 3 herself to give Nebraska the lead heading into the fourth.
“I think we just played with more pace and were able to get the ball in the paint,” Shelley said postgame. “When we have inside-outside touches, our 3-point percentage goes up. [Markowski] did an incredible job finding the guards.”
Georgia Tech retook the lead early in the fourth, but Nebraska went on another big run, scoring 12 straight points to go up 10. It held the advantage from there, even as the Yellow Jackets cut their deficit as low as five points a few times.
Coach Amy Williams expressed disappointment with her team’s opening half, but was happy with how they came out of the break.
“When Lex huddled us out in the locker room at halftime, she said ‘respond,'” Williams said. “And I think everybody really did in a big way.”
Freshmen Come Through
Nebraska’s veteran stars may have been the main leaders of the comeback, but the contributions of the team’s three freshmen cannot be ignored.
Twenty-two of the 58 second-half points came from the first-year trio of forward Natalie Potts, guard Logan Nissley and forward Jessica Petrie. They combined to shoot 9-for-10 from the field and 4-for-5 from deep after the break.
Potts, a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, finished with 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. During the second-half effort, she ran out for an easy transition layup following a Georgia Tech miss, and she also contributed some tough finishes on drives through traffic.
Nissley put up 11 points for the second time in the past three games. She’s shooting 50% from 3 in that span, and hit back-to-back 3s to get the team’s big fourth-quarter run started. In the third quarter, she pump-faked from long range and dribbled in to hit a floater. While the recent sample size is small, she has appeared to settle in some after the slow start to the year offensively.
“She’s very vocal letting her teammates know where she’s at spotted up on the perimeter. and she should be,” Williams said. “That’s what we need from her and I thought she played her role well today.”
Petrie added five points, matching her average for the season. She made both of her two shot attempts in just seven minutes on the floor, continuing to be efficient off the bench for the team.
Each of the freshmen still have plenty of room for growth, but when the team has had success so far this season, they’ve been a significant part of the picture.
Jaz Shelley hits milestone
Shelley, in her third year of being a top player for Nebraska, dropped season-best numbers with 22 points and eight assists in the game.
She also hit 1,000 points in her Husker career late in the fourth quarter, and the moment was memorable. The situation was notable enough, as the team was holding onto a five-point lead with under two minutes remaining. The Husker offense struggled to find anywhere to go as the shot clock ticked down, so Potts handed the ball off to Shelley.
With just over a second to go on the shot clock, the guard threw up a one-handed, high-arcing prayer that banked in.
Shelley wasn’t aware of hitting the mark until hearing about it after the game, and expressed gratitude toward the program.
“It’s special,” Shelley said. “I’m so thankful that I came to Nebraska, wouldn’t come back for my fifth year if I wasn’t obsessed with it.”
She and the rest of the team will play another game at home Tuesday against UNC Wilmington before going on the road to open Big Ten play at Michigan State.