Lincoln – Isabelle Bourne, Jaz Shelley and Alexis Markowski put together big games to power the Nebraska women’s basketball team to a 73-59 victory over Northwestern to close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 22-7 overall while tying the school record with its 16th home win of the year. The Huskers, who have won five of their past six games, capped the Big Ten regular season with an 11-7 record to earn the No. 6 seed in this week’s conference tournament in Indianapolis. A total of 15 of Nebraska’s 16 home wins were by double digits, including wins over top-10 Big Ten foes Michigan and Indiana.
Nebraska, which earned a first-round bye in the 14-team tournament, will take on the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between No. 11 seed Wisconsin and No. 14 seed Illinois. The Huskers will take the court in Thursday’s final game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, which will begin at approximately 7:45 p.m. (CT) [25 minutes after conclusion of the 5:30 p.m. CT game between No. 7 Northwestern and No. 10 Minnesota). All Nebraska games from the Big Ten tournament will be broadcast on KBBN 95.3 FM.
Bourne led all scorers with 20 points, including 14 in the first half to help the Huskers take a 30-27 lead to halftime. The 6-2 sophomore from Canberra, Australia hit 7-of-10 shots from the field, including all three of her three-point attempts on the afternoon. She added five rebounds and a pair of assists in arguably her best performance of the season.
While Bourne sparked the Huskers in the first half, Shelley helped carry Nebraska to a huge third quarter. The 5-9 sophomore guard from Moe, Australia, scored 13 points in the period, including a trio of three-pointers to help Nebraska outscore the Wildcats 28-14 in the quarter and take a 58-41 edge into the fourth quarter. Shelley, who finished with 17 points, hit 6-of-11 shots on the day, including 3-of-6 threes, while adding three rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Markowski, a 6-3 freshman from Lincoln, Neb., put together another big effort with her sixth double-double of the season. The front-runner for Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Year honors scheduled to be announced by the conference on Tuesday morning, finished with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while adding two blocked shots and an assist. She hit 6-of-10 shots from the floor, including a pair of first-half three-pointers. She was also instrumental in keeping Northwestern’s Courtney Shaw off the boards. Shaw, who entered the game averaging 10 rebounds, including five per game on the offensive glass in conference play, was held to just five total boards and did not score in the contest.
Fellow freshman Allison Weidner also played a big role for the Big Red in the third quarter, teaming with Shelley to split Nebraska’s first 10 points of the second half. The 5-10 guard from Humphrey, Neb., finished with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Junior guard Sam Haiby pitched in six points, five rebounds and a game-high seven assists along with two steals, while Bella Cravens contributed six points and five rebounds.
As a team, Nebraska hit 50 percent (26-52) of its shots from the field, including 9-of-18 threes. In the decisive third quarter, Nebraska went a sizzling 10-of-13, including 5-of-6 from long range, while holding the Wildcats to just 3-for-13 shooting and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc.
For the game, Nebraska’s Big Ten-best field goal percentage defense held Northwestern to just 27.1 percent (16-59), although the Wildcats did connect on 8-of-23 threes. However, Northwestern opened 5-of-9 from the arc before connecting on just 3-of-14 the rest of the way, including a triple on the final shot of the game from Hailey Weaver.
All-Big Ten guard Veronica Burton led Northwestern with 16 points and four steals, but Burton hit just 3-of-14 shots from the floor, while going 8-for-8 at the foul line. Laya Hartman was the only other Cat in double figures with 12 points. No other Northwestern player finished with more than seven points.
Nebraska won the rebounding battle with Northwestern, 43-31, to overcome an 18-11 disadvantage in turnovers. The Big Red dominated points in the paint, 32-12.
In a methodically paced first half, Nebraska led 30-27 thanks to 14 points from Bourne and 10 from Markowski. Although the posts did most of the scoring, it wasn’t necessarily from pounding the ball on the block, as Bourne and Markowski combined to go 4-for-4 from three-point range in the half.
The duo combined to hit 9-of-15 shots, but the rest of the Huskers went just 2-for-12 and 0-4 from long range. Northwestern got 10 first-half points from Hartman, who scored all 10 in the second quarter to account for 10 of Northwestern’s 13 second-period points. Burton added five points in the half but missed four minutes of time after picking up her second foul with 6:06 left in the half.
Nebraska hit 40.7 percent (11-27) of its first-half shots, including 4-of-8 threes and 4-of-6 free throws. The Huskers also won the first-half battle of the boards, 21-15. Northwestern answered by hitting 32.1 percent (9-28) from the floor, including 5-of-11 threes and 4-of-6 free throws. The Wildcats won the first half turnover margin, 10-7, but both teams scored eight points off turnovers.
The Huskers finished February with a 7-3 record, matching NU’s second-highest win total in school history in the month. Nebraska went 9-3 from Jan. 27-Feb. 27.