Nebraska’s women’s basketball dropped its game for the third time in a row on Sunday night and lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes for the fifth time in a row.
In the last clash of the two teams, the Hawkeyes won 93-83.
“I’m proud of our fight today,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said after the game. “I really thought we were trying to do what we could do and control what we can control and try to get over quite a bit of adversity here and just keep fighting.”
Despite being Nebraska’s leading scorer Jaz Shelley, along with junior guard Sam Haiby under second guard, the Huskers stayed close to the Hawkeyes until the final minutes. The Huskers were forced to lean on their depths when freshman security guard Allison Weidner and freshman security guard Ruby Porter made their first career start. Weidner and Porter finished the game with eight and five points respectively.
Leading the way for the Huskers was freshman forward Alexis Markowski with a career high of 27 points. Markowski finished the night 10-for-12 from the field, 6-for-7 from 3-point range and 1-for-2 from the free-throw line. The Lincoln native also added four rebounds, one assist and two steals within her 26 minutes of play.
“She’s confident she can knock down shots and when her scoring opportunities come, she’ll grab them,” Williams said. “I also didn’t really expect her to go 6-for-7 from the 3-point line, but nothing that surprises Lex at this point, she’s a competitor and she goes out to fight for her team. .”
The only other Nebraska player to score in double figures was sophomore striker Isabelle Bourne with 15 points. Bourne also finished the game with four rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal in her 32 minutes played.
The Huskers struggled to contain the Hawkeyes’ one-two punch from sophomore guard Caitlin Clark and senior center/striker Monika Czinano, who collectively earned 62 of the team’s 93 total points. Czinano finished the evening with 31 points 11-for-17 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the free throw line, as well as six rebounds.
Clark, the nation’s top scorer, also finished the evening with 31 points from 9-of-22 from the field, 1-of-4 from 3-point range and with a sparkling 12-of-12 from the free-throw line. Clark’s impressive night didn’t end there, though, as she finished with a triple double with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for her 31 points.
Nebraska, as a whole, ended the night shooting 32-of-69 from the field, 14-of-30 from 3-point range and 5-for-8 from the free throw line. The Huskers’ shooting performance was not the issue. Instead, they were defeated 37-32 and committed 28 personal errors, while the Hawkeyes allowed only seven.
“No, we’re not happy with losing 93 points and no, we’re not happy with moral wins,” Williams said. “Our program is now at the point where we expect to win such ball games, so we’re not running away, but I’m proud of our struggle.”
Immediately after winning the opening tip, Bourne fell into the first basket of the evening, which also gave the Huskers the early lead. Bourne added a hookshot early to retake the lead as the two foes switched baskets early.
After Bourne recaptured the lead, 6-4, the Huskers went on a 5-0 run that highlighted Markowski’s first of four three-pointers of the inaugural quarter. Czinano ended the Huskers’ point, but the freshman forward opened the floodgates for Nebraska.
“I knew I would have to make a big step,” Markowski said after the game. “I was in the perimeter a lot and I’ve been working on my shots to build my confidence and I really felt the need to act, especially today with some key players out.”
The Huskers’ attack exploded into a 19-9 run to end the first quarter. The Nebraska point was in part thanks to three-pointers from senior guard Mi’Cole Cayton, freshman forward Annika Stewart and Markowski.
The second quarter was a different story, as Iowa defeated the Huskers 27-12. Czinano, who led both teams with six points in the quarter, started the score for the second quarter with a layup to make the game 30-16.
After one of Clark’s free throws, the Hawkeyes were just six points behind the Huskers. The Huskers couldn’t let it get any closer, as they hit back-to-back 3-pointers coming from sophomore guard Ashley Scoggin and freshman guard Whitney Brown to quickly bring the game back to a double-digit lead. Scoggin and Brown finished the evening with nine and five points respectively.
The Huskers would have liked to keep that lead at halftime, but saw the advantage narrow to one when the Hawkeyes finished the first half with a 13-2 run. The Huskers committed nine personal errors in the second quarter, including five in the last four minutes of the quarter.
Markowski tried to hold onto the Huskers’ lead and opened the last half of the game with a three-pointer to take the lead to four. Czinano gave the Hawkeyes their first lead of the game with two free throws, but freshman guard Kendall Moriarty hit layups before and after a Bourne three-pointer to bring the Huskers to six.
Moriarty would add another for the Huskers to bring them up to seven, but Czinano, to close out the quarter, equaled those Huskers with seven points of his own, along with two three-pointers from Iowa in junior guard/forward McKenna Warnock and junior guard Gabriel Marshall. Iowa took the lead and ended the third quarter 67-66.
The momentum was completely with the Hawkeyes and they carried that into the final ten minutes of the game. Czinano started the fourth with a layup along with Clark to quickly extend their lead to five with 9:10 left in the game.
The Huskers fought hard to keep the game close as they continued to trade baskets with Iowa, but the Hawkeyes never took their foot off the gas. Markowski would add her last three-pointer of the night to bring the Huskers within six with 4:33 left in the game.
Feeding on Markowski’s energy, the Huskers would climb to a 5-2 run, due in part to a Bourne layup and a Scoggin three-pointer. The Huskers, after the quick baskets of the pair of sophomores, had narrowed the deficit to three, but that would be the end of the comeback.
The Hawkeyes finished the game with a 9-2 run and Clark scored her 31st points to end the game and give her team the 10-point win, 93-83.
After Nebraska’s three-game slip, it returns home to take on a struggling Rutgers squad. Tipoff for the matchup is at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, January 20 at 7:00 PM.
The showdown will be available to viewers on Big Ten Plus and Nebraska Public Media and to listeners on Huskers Radio Network.