Haiby Wisconsin 1.28.2021

Nebraska's Sam Haiby (4) goes up for a shot during the game against Wisconsin at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It was a wild four weeks for Nebraska. After leaving the year 2020 with an upset victory over Northwestern, the Huskers started 2021 strong as well. They started 3-1 in the new year, taking down two ranked teams and nearly beating another. 

Despite these major victories, Nebraska’s last two games have been rougher. It lost to Minnesota, which had come into the contest with a 2-7 record, and barely edged out a win over an Illinois team that is winless in conference play. With the month of January nearing its end, the Huskers wrapped up their last game of the month with a massive 84-66 win against Wisconsin. 

This is the second highest scoring game of the season for Nebraska, with the first being the 90-61 victory over Oral Roberts in the season opener. Nebraska’s largest conference win coming into the game was only by eight points.

“We took care of business,” head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “We know that any Big Ten game is a dogfight so any win in the Big Ten is a good quality win.”

Five players for Nebraska hit double-digits in scoring, led by junior guard Sam Haiby’s fifth 20-plus point game of the season. Behind Haiby’s 24 points was senior center Kate Cain with her third double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Junior forward Bella Cravens also had her first double-double of season, securing a team-high 11 rebounds to go along with 13 points. 

“Bella [Cravens] and Kate [Cain] took great shots tonight,” Williams said. “They were shot ready, when they had opportunities they were confident and they also did great defensively.”

The final two Huskers to hit double digits were freshman guard Whitney Brown with 13 points and freshman forward Annika Stewart with 11. As a team, Nebraska shot 34-of-63 from the field, but 5-of-21 on 3-pointers. On the defensive side, the Huskers held the Badgers to 34.3% shooting and blocked 10 shots. 

“We’ve won a lot of games this season thanks to our defense,” Cain said. “Whether it’s Sam [Haiby] or Bella [Cravens] having a monster block, we know that in order to win these games we have to play defensively.”

Wisconsin started the game off staying within reach of the Huskers as the score was tied 7-7 with just over four minutes left to go. The Badgers finished the quarter with 11 points, just as many points as Haiby scored herself in the period. 

Nebraska entered the second up 20-11, which soon grew to 28-15 just under three minutes into the quarter. Wisconsin slowly tried to claw its way back, closing the gap to 30-23, but the Huskers didn’t let up. Over a four-minute stretch in the back half of the quarter, Nebraska went on a 13-1 run to go into the locker room up 43-27. 

After the lead grew to 20 by the end of the third quarter, Wisconsin gave Nebraska a scare in the fourth by cutting a 74-48 gap down to 78-64. However, the advantage was simply too large, as the Huskers closed out the game on top 84-68. Despite the decisive victory, Williams knows the fourth quarter slump couldn’t be ignored.

“We are disappointed we didn’t put together a full 40 minutes,” Williams said. “We had a big lead and that affected us mentally in the fourth. We gave up too many offensive rebounds and free throws, which is something we need to work on.”

Wisconsin had 18 offensive rebounds in the game and 29 free throw attempts, with the majority of each coming in the second half. 

With this win, Nebraska moves to 9-5 on the year and 7-4 in conference play, which has moved it up to sixth in the Big Ten standings. 

“We need to make growth,” Williams said. “This is the time of year where it’s easy to fall into fatigue and routine so we need to be focused. We need to ask ourselves how can I get 1% better, break down each game and focus on what we can individually.”

The next game is on the road at Penn State on Feb. 4. Tipoff for the game is at 5 p.m. Penn State is currently 5-7 on the season and 2-6 in the conference, but the Minnesota game proved that every opponent can’t be taken lightly.

“In the Big Ten, every single game is a dogfight,” Williams said. “There’s ranked opponents in this conference and some quote-on-quote bottom half teams. We know we need to stay locked in on the next game and not focus on records or rankings.”