Basketball vs. Wisconsin Photo No. 18

Nebraska’s Sam Haiby (4) passes the ball in the game against Wisconsin at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

With eight seconds left, No. 3 seed Michigan threw the ball into a sea of red on a baseline inbound play.

Nebraska freshman forward/center Alexis Markowski grabbed the Wolverine lob, putting the Huskers one step closer towards a shocking upset and an appearance in the semifinals of the 2022 Big Ten Tournament. 

Following the crucial defensive stop, fellow freshman guard Allison Weidner knocked down both free throws from the line to give the Huskers a three point cushion. Weidner’s clutch shots inched the Huskers one step closer to victory.

“I turned to my teammates. Sam and Alexis got me a little calmed down,” Weidner said postgame. “I just shifted my mindset and went to the line with confidence. Once I saw the first one go through I was pretty confident with my second free throw.” 

With two seconds left Nebraska slammed the door defensively, as Michigan launched a 3-pointer well-short of the basket, sealing a 76-73 quarterfinal victory for Nebraska. 

It was far from easy, though, as the Huskers had to overcome major adversity at multiple different stages of the contest.

That didn’t happen in the first quarter. Nebraska clicked offensively early in an eerily familiar start from Thursday night's win over No. 14 seed Illinois, with the offense rolling to 26 first quarter points. The Huskers shot the ball efficiently and, specifically, shot well from 3-point range, going 4-of-6. 

Nebraska controlled the first quarter, but not without a fight, as Michigan senior forward Naz Hillmon kept the game within reach with four first quarter points. With 4:10 left to play in the inaugural quarter former Husker and current Michigan senior guard Leigha Brown cut the deficit to four points. 

In response to Brown's driving layup, Nebraska freshman forward Annika Stewart drained a 3-pointer to push the Huskers up by seven. 

Stewart on Friday night ended with 12 points, due in part to a team-leading eight-point first quarter. Stewart’s eight points came on three consecutive baskets, going 2-of-2 from beyond the arc in the process. 

“Anni is no secret,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “She gave us eight points in a minute and a half stretch and really sparked us. She is a really capable 3-point shooter. Everybody on our team has confidence in her ability there.” 

The Huskers ended the first quarter with a 12-point lead. 

Despite Nebraska’s offense efficiency in the first, shooting 9-of-14 from the floor, the second quarter saw the two offenses swap offensive production. 

The quarter started with almost two minutes of scoreless basketball, with junior guard Sam Haiby starting the scoring with a driving layup to push the Huskers up by 14. Haiby's basket to kick-off the quarter would be one of just three successful shots in the quarter for the Huskers, though.

Nebraska shot an uncharacteristic 3-of-12 from the field in the quarter, only scoring six points, a season-worse mark. The Wolverines pounced on the opportunity to take momentum into halftime. 

Michigan went on to score 22 points in the quarter, flipping what was a 12-point deficit into a four-point lead going into the intermission. Of Michigan’s 22 second quarter points, Hillmon and Brown accounted for 12 points. 

Other than the scoring drought, Husker mistakes lingered. They turned the ball over seven times on top of being out-rebounded 10-6 by the Wolverines. 

“Going into the Locker room we knew that wasn’t Nebraska basketball,” Haiby said postgame. “We had to bounce back. Refocus and [Williams] came in and calmed us down. We knew what we had to do: stay composed, keep fighting, do the little things to keep ourselves in the game and give us a chance to win at the end. 

The Huskers came out of the half firing. Weidner splashed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one just over 10 seconds into the third quarter. She then went on to finish the quarter with five points. 

The 3-pointer from Weidner opened up the floodgates, Sophomore guard Jaz Shelley added a 3-pointer of her own, pushing Nebraska back into the lead by two. Shelley led the way in the quarter with seven points, ending the night with 12 points. 

The Huskers’ offensive woes in the second quarter did not carry over to the third, as they outscored the Wolverines 24-16.

Despite the Wolverines shooting 43.8% from the field and 20% from 3-point range, their efforts kept the game to within two points off of a pullup jumper from Brown. With each team battling back-and-forth, senior guard Mi’Cole Cayton connected from beyond the arc to lead the Huskers into the final quarter up 56-52. 

The Wolverines kicked off the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from freshman guard Laila Phelia, cutting the deficit to one. Phelia exploded in the fourth quarter for 13 points, shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, 1-of-1 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. With a strong effort from Phelia, Michigan pushed the lead to as many as six with 5:29 to go. 

With the Huskers facing adversity, they turned to their most veteran player in Haiby. In the fourth quarter, poetically donning number four on her jersey, Haiby scored nine points to close out the game for the Huskers. Haiby scored a total of 16 points in the game. 

Nebraska advances with the win to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament to face the No. 2 seed Iowa Hawkeyes, for a 5:00 p.m. tip. This will be the first time since the 2017-2018 season that the Huskers have made it to the semifinals round.

“Whatever happened in the past happened in the past,” Haiby said. “We are just going to go out there and take it game by game and give it our all.” 

Iowa has been a thorn in Nerbaska’s side this season, as the Huskers have dropped both games the two have played in the regular season. Slowing Iowa down centers around stopping sophomore guard Caitlin Clark, college basketball’s leading scorer with 27.5 points per game. Clark managed 31 points in each contest with the Huskers and will no-doubt be the focal point of Nebraska’s defense in the matchup.

Both Iowa and Nebraska enter the matchup with tons of momentum in what should be a thrilling, high-stakes third contest between the programs. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com