Over 8,000 people were present at Pinnacle Bank Arena as the Nebraska women’s basketball team faced another high caliber opponent.
However, from the start, the Huskers were fighting from behind and, despite coming back multiple times, couldn’t pull out the win. At the end of the day, the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes were the victors with a 95-86 win.
Star sophomore guard Caitlyn Clark led Iowa, scoring for the third consecutive time in her college career over 30 points against Nebraska. Clark never left the court during play, going 11-of-24 from the field and 8-of-9 from the foul line.
Clark wasn’t the only one who had a big performance against the Huskers. Junior forward McKenna Warnock was deadly from beyond the arc, going 7-of-9 from 3-point range. All of this culminated in Iowa going 37-of-60 from the field and 11-of-19 from 3-point range.
“They’re great players and they got shots that they wanted,” Nebraska women’s basketball head coach Amy Williams said postgame. “Weren’t as tough, locked in, focused, gritty defensively as we wanted to be for this game.”
As for Nebraska, it was just 33-of-83 from the field, 9-of-34 from 3-point range and outrebounded the Hawkeyes 41-34. Leading the charge for the Huskers in scoring was junior guard Sam Haiby with 18 points. Sophomore guard Jaz Shelley and freshman center Alexis Markowski both had 14 points. Shelley also led the team in rebounds with 11.
Sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin was the only other player to drop double-digit points for Nebraska, delivering 13. Scoggin also led the team in 3-point shooting, going 3-of-7.
“I’m not disappointed with the way we played offensively,” Williams said. “Our team may have rushed a few shots, but we wanted to get points in the paint. We crushed the offensive boards, because we knew that would be critical. But, defensively, we gave up 95 points. You don’t win many ball games giving up 95 points.”
After a small back-and-forth bout from the tipoff, Iowa was able to take and hold onto the lead for a majority of the game. Despite some baskets from Markowski and a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Isabelle Bourne, the Hawkeyes’ tempo led to the Huskers being down 15-7 halfway through the first quarter. Following a Nebraska timeout, the score soon became 17-7. Then, the Huskers began a run. With three straight layups by Shelley, Haiby and Bourne, the score hit 17-13.
Then the Hawkeyes responded with a 3-pointer, pushing the score to 20-13, Nebraska countered it with two straight 3-pointers, making it a one-point game. Within the last two minutes of the quarter, a showdown between Clark and Shelley sparked, the two matching each other. Clark won the showdown, finishing the quarter with 13 points and giving her team a 27-24 lead heading into the second.
Freshman guard Ruby Porter wasted no time opening up the second quarter for Nebraska with an equalizing 3-pointer 20 seconds in. But even with their focus on Clark, the Huskers also had to deal with Warnock, who continued landing 3-pointers, keeping the Hawkeyes ahead. Nebraska didn’t let itself fall too far behind, as it kept things close. However, Iowa wouldn’t let the Huskers overshadow the tempo it had established early.
After the Huskers made their deficit 39-37, the Hawkeyes turned it into 45-37 within just over a minute. Following a media timeout, Iowa continued pushing its margin up going up as much as 50-39. In the final three minutes of the half, Nebraska was able to slow down the tempo and began chipping away at the Hawkeyes’ lead. When the teams headed into the locker rooms, the Huskers were now only down 52-46.
Following a layup by Clark, Markowski and Haiby tried getting Nebraska back into the fight, closing the gap to 54-51. But as it was doing all game, Iowa kept up its hold over the lead, pushing the margin to 60-53, then 65-58, then 67-60.
Once again, the Huskers climbed back into the fight as Scoggin bolted in for a layup, then a 3-pointer to make the deficit 67-65. After a scoreless minute, Haiby tied the game with a layup, before Clark responded with one of her own giving the Hawkeyes the 69-67 lead.
Haiby once again stormed down the court for a layup, which ended up sending her to the free throw line. Going 1-of-2, the Huskers were now down by one. As the clock wound down in the third, the score became 71-70, with Nebraska still looking to take its first lead of the game. But with just under a second left, Clark took a trip to the line and went 3-of-3, pushing the score to 74-70 heading into the fourth quarter.
The intensity only grew in the final 10 minutes of play, with the Hawkeyes once again trying to take off with the lead. With the score at 78-72, the Huskers slowed the tempo and brought the margin to 78-76 with a Shelley jumper and a Markowski layup.
Then, with a Scoggin 3-pointer, Nebraska got its first lead of the game. But Iowa immediately took the lead back with its own 3-pointer, making the score 81-79. With a Haiby layup, the game was tied yet again.
Despite this, the Hawkeyes just repeated their formula and expanded the margin. With a Clark layup and Warnock’s seventh 3-pointer, Iowa was now up 86-81 with under five minutes left. The Hawkeyes then seemingly started putting the game away with another layup making the margin seven points. Then, with just over two minutes left in the game, the score became 90-83. But with multiple trips to the foul line, Nebraska slowly brought the deficit to 90-86.
But just under a minute left, Iowa once again pushed the margin up and this time, didn’t let the Huskers come back. When the buzzer went off, Nebraska lost 95-86.
With the loss, the Huskers are now 13-2 on the season and 2-2 in conference play. The team’s next matchup will be its third straight clash against a top-25 conference opponent.
“We just have to flush this loss,” Williams said. “The thing I love about coaching this team is their mentality. Every game in the Big Ten is a big one, and the team looks at it as a positive opportunity to keep getting better. So, we just need to recover our bodies and get ready for the next one.”
Nebraska will be going up against No. 6 Indiana on Jan. 13 in Bloomington, Indiana. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. and can be viewed on Big Ten Network or listened to on Husker Radio Network.