Entering the month of February, things were looking up for the Nebraska women’s basketball team.
The Huskers held a 9-5 record overall and a 7-4 record in the conference. With this record, it appeared that Nebraska was heading into the final five weeks of the regular season with a chance to be ranked, and thenceforth earn a high seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
However in the last three weeks, the Huskers have lost four straight games. Their recent 95-73 home loss to No. 9 Maryland was the biggest defeat of the skid, and Nebraska now has to travel to Evanston, Illinois to face No. 24 Northwestern on Wednesday night.
The last time these two teams met, junior guard Sam Haiby and the Huskers shocked the then-undefeated No. 15 Wildcats on a buzzer-beater to win 65-63 on Dec. 31. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Nebraska and gave it positive momentum entering 2021.
The Huskers began a massive run in the month of January going 5-2, taking down then-No. 23 Michigan State, No. 15 Ohio State and falling by just two points to then-No. 15 Michigan.
Then the month of February began, and things haven’t been as successful.
Through the four game slide, Nebraska is averaging 72.5 points per game but is conceding an average of 86.5 points per game. To head coach Amy Williams, defense is the area where the Huskers need to get back on track. Going into February, Nebraska was only giving up 61 points per game.
“Once again I feel like a broken record, but in the last few ballgames, our point total needs to be enough to win games,” Williams said after the Maryland game. “Our transition defense is not where we need it to be to be able to win games in this type of a tough stretch of the Big Ten play.”
Northwestern, meanwhile, has remained a top-25 squad since the teams’ last meeting. Much like the Huskers, the Wildcats have relied mainly on their defense through the season, as they give up an average of 62 points per game. Their offense, by comparison, is averaging 72 points per game.
In terms of individual performances, Haiby averages 17.4 points per game for Nebraska and is the only Husker to surpass the 300-point mark on the season. Sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne is behind Haiby with 13.4 points per game, despite missing four games due to injury.
Freshman forward Ruby Porter is also looking to continue contributing to the team’s scoring as she’s coming off her best game of the season. In the team’s loss to Maryland, Porter led the Huskers in scoring with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Northwestern has three players who average over 10 points per game. But after that, the Wildcats only have two other players who average more than 3 points per game. Due to Northwestern’s lack of bench depth, the Wildcats rely heavily on their starting lineup. In Northwestern’s loss to Rutgers on Feb. 11, every member of the starting five played at least 33 minutes, a significant part of the total share. The Wildcats’ bench, meanwhile, contributed just two points as four players saw only 16 of an available 200 minutes.
Nebraska, meanwhile, features a deep rotation under Williams. Of the 10 active players for Nebraska, only one player sees less than 10 minutes per game. That lone player is freshman guard Kendall Coley, who’s entering her fifth game of the season and has slowly been seeing more and more action. The Huskers’ depth could give them the ability to control the game with rested players.
If Wednesday night’s matchup comes down to the wire like the last one did, having fresh legs down the stretch might make the difference for Nebraska, snapping its stark losing streak.