Once the final buzzer sounded, giving Gonzaga the 68-55 victory, it marked the end of the road for the Nebraska women’s basketball team.
With a first round exit in the 2022 NCAA Tournament to the Bulldogs, the Huskers will now ponder on what this season really accomplished. Despite a disappointing ending, the Huskers have a lot that they should be proud of in one season.
A semifinals appearance in the Big Ten Tournament and a 2022 NCAA Tournament appearance helped achieve the best record under six-year head coach Amy Williams’ tenure. The accolades that the Huskers collected along their 2021-22 campaign is nothing to glance at.
In the beginning of the season, the Huskers’ newcomers were still trying to get adjusted. In the starting lineup, the newest addition was Oregon transfer and sophomore guard Jaz Shelley. Shelley, who was eighth in scoring for the Ducks in the 2020-21 season, didn’t take her opportunity with a new team for granted.
The Moe, Australia native in just her second start for the Huskers exploded for a 22 point, 11 rebound double-double. Shelley’s performance also collected the second consecutive game that the Huskers eclipsed the century mark.
Shelley throughout the season displayed her playmaking abilities as her scoring wasn’t the only facet of her game. In the 76-61 victory over Penn State on Feb. 3, Shelley collected her fourth double-double of the season by securing 12 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists.
The sophomore guard’s finest game came in the Big Ten Tournament, where she finished with 32 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Shelley’s 32 points came from a blistering 9-of-13 from 3-point range and 11-of-16 from the field. Her nine made 3-pointers broke a single-game record held by former Husker Natalie Romeo.
The dynamic guard finished the season as the leading scorer, averaging 13.1 points per game, as well as leading the team in steals, assists and blocks.
Shelley was not the only newcomer that would cement herself with a predominant role for the Huskers. A pair of freshmen also turned into huge contributors for the team as the season progressed in forward/center Alexis Markowski and guard Allison Wiedner.
Markowski, a Lincoln local, made herself no stranger to the bright lights of Pinnacle Bank Arena. The freshman forward/center was nothing more than a role player when the season started.
The Huskers were 12-1 and had their first matchup against then-No. 8 Michigan. Before the game, junior forward Bella Cravens was scratched from the lineup. Markowski’s first start as a Husker was against Michigan, a squad that eventually reached the Elite Eight.
Markowski, in her first start, finished the night as the leading scorer with 20 points coupled with seven rebounds. Nebraska demolished the Wolverines 79-58. Markowski never left the lineup after that start, displaying a potential of her range beyond the arc.
Markowski went 1-of-1 from 3-point range that night but it opened the floodgates for the 6-foot-3-inch forward/center. She ended the season leading the team in 3-point percentage, shooting 50%, and she was second in scoring with 12.8 points per game.
Weidner, like Markowski, had to wait a while before getting a crack at the starting lineup. The Humphrey, Nebraska native put in the work from the bench as she was often the first guard in the rotation, mostly being brought in for her gritty defensive play. An unexpected starting point guard opening through sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin’s departure allowed a chance for Weidner to play herself into a bigger role.
Weidner, despite the 83-76 loss to Penn State, displayed her skill set as an all-around player with a final statline of seven points, eight rebounds and six assists. Weidner later closed out the game against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, sinking two game-sealing free throws for the 76-73 victory.
With a year under the freshmen’s belt, the Huskers at least sit with a consistent piece in both the front and backcourt for hopefully years to come.
Nebraska did have huge contributions from its newcomers, but the veterans were the pillars in the foundation of success. In particular, junior guard Sam Haiby and sophomore center Isabelle Bourne continued to be consistent pieces for the Huskers.
Haiby and Bourne were relied upon time-and-time again throughout the season and both came through when the team needed them the most.
Bourne, in the last regular season game, was pitted against a Northwestern team that was on the NCAA Tournament bubble at the time. The Canberra, Australia natve led the way for the Huskers with 20 points and five rebounds, taking down Northwestern 73-59.
Bourne paved the way for the Huskers, ending the season on a three-game win streak, and secured the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Haiby was the longest tenured Huskers player coming into the season, which showed with her court general characteristics, topping a career high in assists this season with 121. The Moorhead, Minnesota native was an integral part of toppling Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
In the victory, Haiby had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Nine of Haiby’s 16 points came in the fourth quarter as the Huskers veteran, alongside Weidner, closed out the game to go to the semifinals.
The five previously named Huskers will most likely make up the starting lineup for the 2022-23 season and a whole offseason of training together could prove beneficial to help their chemistry as a lineup.
On the other hand, the Huskers' depth pieces will look different as guards Mi’Cole Cayton and Ruby Porter as well as Cravens have departed from the team. Despite the departures the Huskers have their potential starting five and will likely not need as much roster construction.
Nebraska, coming off its best season with Williams in command, will look to build upon its already existing foundation. The pieces are there for a repeat of last season’s success and possibly even more but for now, the women’s basketball team can soak in its achievements.