Nebraska women’s basketball is off to its strongest start in the Amy Williams era. The Huskers are 13-3, 3-2 in Big Ten play and find themselves in a tight race for their first-ever Big Ten title.
A part of the Huskers’ stellar start can be attributed to their much-improved play in the second half of games throughout this season. At this point last season, their record was 7-9 with six of those losses coming by less than 10 points.
The 2018-19 Huskers particularly struggled with adjustments throughout the second half of those close games. Nebraska led two of those six losses at halftime and was down by single digits in three other games.
Nebraska’s second halves were ones of failure to adjust as its offense either remained the same or its defense would suffer immensely. Games against Creighton and Iowa saw opposing offenses take over the third quarter, scoring 22 points each, while the Huskers scored just 12 and 15 points, respectively.
The Huskers were outplayed last season in the third quarter, which led to desperation setting in as they constantly played from behind through the entirety of the season. They limped through the rest of the season, but the second half struggles began to ease away.
Nebraska lost its last game of the season to Purdue, but had a 14-point second half comeback that fell through at the end. Still, the season ending carried over to the new season where the Huskers have become a force in the second half.
The team’s first test came on the road against Missouri and the game went down to the wire. Nebraska was up by as many as eight points during the fourth quarter, but a Tiger comeback forced overtime.
A year ago, Nebraska would likely lose a game when it loses its halftime lead. This time, the Huskers came out firing in overtime and won 90-85. The Huskers controlled overtime with great shooting and locked down the Tigers.
Missouri only shot 25% from the field in overtime and the Husker second half struggles faded away. In the next game, Nebraska scored 26 points in the fourth quarter to secure a 78-55 win against Morgan State.
Not every team is perfect and Nebraska regressed slightly against Creighton, when the Huskers lost 79-74 and gave up 14 3-pointers. The loss was surprising as Creighton shot better in the second half, shooting over 40% from the field and over 50% from 3-point range.
For Nebraska, the next challenge came with a game against Duke as it needed another way to stop a shootout.
The game came with great first half shooting, as both teams made at least 18 field goals, but Nebraska led 49-45 at halftime. The Huskers needed some stops to pull out another important win.
Nebraska’s fourth quarter saw two things happen: it hit its free throws and slowed down Duke’s offense. Duke went 0-for-6 from the perimeter and only had two free throws that quarter while Nebraska hit 9-10 free throws during the fourth, including four in the final 30 seconds from senior guard Hannah Whitish.
The Huskers won 83-79 and are continuing to close out big games at home. In fourth quarters against No. 22 Iowa and formerly ranked Minnesota, Nebraska has shot over 40% while both opponents have gone below the 30% threshold from the field.
A liability last season, the fourth quarter has become one of Nebraska’s biggest assets, even in the rare losses. Down 15 points in the fourth quarter against Rutgers, Nebraska came storming back and only lost by four points.
This great asset for the Huskers has been constantly maintained through their free-throw shooting, as the team is shooting 70% from the line this season. Coupled with a better defense, the fourth quarter is not as daunting as it was a season ago.