After suffering its first loss of the season, the 12-1 Nebraska women’s basketball team returns home for the new year with yet another challenge ahead.
The Huskers will start January with their biggest test of the season so far as they battle No. 9 Michigan.
Head coach Amy Williams’ team is coming off its first loss of the season, a 72-69 loss to Michigan State last Thursday. Nebraska was playing from behind for a majority of the contest and was down as many as 13 against the Spartans. After Nebraska clawed its way back into the game, sophomore guard Jaz Shelley had back-to-back 3-point attempts in the waning seconds to potentially tie the game.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, neither shot went in.
As a team, the Huskers were just 24-of-73 from the field and 7-of-33 from 3-point range, both of which are their second-lowest shooting performances on the season.
Despite the loss, Nebraska has been dominant through the first 13 games of the season, sitting No. 9 nationally in scoring, averaging 82.4 points per game. Defensively, the Huskers are No. 59 nationally, holding their opponents to 56.7 points per game. Leading the charge for the Huskers is Shelley, who is averaging 13.8 points per game. Shelley also leads the team in total rebounding, assists, 3-pointers made and steals.
Junior guard Sam Haiby is Nebraska’s second-leading scorer with 10.6 points per game. Sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne is third with 10.2 points per game and sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin is averaging 9.2 points. Though these averages are low compared to other teams, it shows the depth that the Huskers have. Of the 13 players for Nebraska, seven of them are averaging at least seven points per game.
The Wolverines on the other hand are coming into the game off of two big wins. A 74-68 overtime victory over then-No. 5 Baylor on Dec. 19 followed by a 90-71 win over No. 25 Ohio State on New Year’s Eve. In the win over the Bears, one of the traditional powers of women’s college basketball, Michigan was in a neck-and-neck battle for a majority of the game. When overtime rolled in for the teams, the Wolverines scored eight crucial points at the free throw line, which ended up being the difference in Michigan’s win.
In the win over the Buckeyes, Michigan only led by four heading into the second half, but quickly took off and eventually ran away with the 19-point win. The Wolverines were led by the trio of senior forward Naz Hillmon, senior guard Leigha Brown and senior forward Emily Kiser who combined for 71 points in the win.
The only loss for Michigan came to then-No. 10 Louisville in a brutal 70-48 defeat. Michigan, with its 12-1 regular season record and 3-0 Big Ten record, has outscored opponents 956-770 on the season while averaging 73.5 points per game. Defensively, the Wolverines have held their opponents to just 59.2 points per game, putting them at No. 97 nationally.
Hillmon is the Wolverines’ leading scorer, averaging 20.9 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. Hillmon’s points per game ranks No. 15 nationally. Nebraska previously struggled to contain one of the country’s best scorers in Michigan State senior guard Nia Clouden last Thursday, allowing her to explode for 32 points in the Spartans’ victory. Behind Hillmon is Brown, a Nebraska transfer, who averages 15.5 points per game and Kiser, who averages 10.5 points per game.
While the Huskers have been battle tested so far this season, Michigan has faced more challenges compared to Nebraska. Tuesday’s matchup will be the Wolverine’s fourth conference game of the season. Michigan has also gone toe-to-toe with four ranked opponents and is 3-1 in those games.
In terms of Tuesday’s matchup, this’ll be the only showdown between Nebraska and Michigan for the regular season. The last time the Wolverines and Huskers faced off, Michigan took down Nebraska in an intense 64-62 bout in early January 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Tuesday’s tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m. and the game can be viewed on Big Ten Network and listened to on the Huskers Radio Network.