Husker Women Edge #10 Michigan In Big Ten Tourney

Photo – Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

NU Athletic Communications BOX SCORE

Sam Haiby and Allison Weidner each scored 16 points and made huge plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter to rally No. 6 seed Nebraska to a 76-73 victory over AP No. 10 Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

With the victory over the third-seeded Wolverines (22-6), the 24-7 Huskers advance to face Big Ten co-champion and No. 2 seed Iowa in Saturday’s second semifinal game, which is set for a 5 p.m. (CT) tip-off on the Big Ten Network. The first game will feature top-seeded Ohio State and No. 5 seed Indiana.

The Huskers, who are ranked No. 21 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, defeated Michigan for the second time this season and notched their school-record-tying third victory of the year over a top-10 opponent, joining a 72-55 win over No. 5 Indiana (Feb. 14). Nebraska also notched its seventh win in the past eight games to advance to the Big Ten semifinals for the first time since 2018.

Nebraska had to overcome plenty of adversity on Friday night, including rallying from a halftime deficit to win for the first time this season. Trailing 67-61 with just over five minutes left, Haiby put the Big Red on her back with back-to-back buckets to cut the Michigan lead to two points with 4:37 left. Laila Phelia, who scored 13 of her game-high 19 points for Michigan in the fourth quarter, then answered with a bucket to push the lead back to four points with under four minutes left. 

The two teams traded baskets before another Haiby drive pulled the Big Red back to within 71-69 with 2:21 left. Weidner then made one of the game’s biggest plays by taking the ball from All-American Naz Hillmon and racing the length for layup to tie the game at 71 with two minutes left.

Hillmon, who finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, then answered a bucket to put the Wolverines back on top, 73-71. But Haiby would not be denied, finishing a tough three-point play with 1:30 left to put Nebraska back in front 74-73. She scored nine of her 16 in the game’s final 5:20. 

The Husker defense then put the clamps down on Michigan. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Alexis Markowski yanked down a defensive rebound of a Leigha Brown miss with one minute left to get Nebraska a stop. After a Michigan stop, Markowski got a steal for the Huskers with seven seconds left. Although Markowski only finished with four points on four first-quarter free throws, she led Nebraska with nine rebounds, including eight on the defensive end, and three steals to go along with two assists. 

Following the steal, Nebraska advanced the ball with a timeout and Jaz Shelley, who finished with 12 points and four assists, hit Weidner who was immediately fouled. The freshman from Humphrey, Neb., calmly stepped to the line and sank both free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining.

The Huskers then strangled the Michigan inbounds play, forcing a desperation 35-footer by Emily Kiser, which fell harmlessly to the floor and bounced out of bounds with 0.1 second left.

Nebraska hit 51 percent (25-49) of its shots in the win, including 8-of-17 threes (.471), while hitting 18-of-22 free throws (.818). But NU was out-rebounded 32-27 by the Wolverines and lost the turnover battle 17-13, as Michigan attempted 12 more field goals than the Big Red. But the Huskers held the Wolverines to just 42.6 percent (26-61) including 3-of-12 threes (.250). Michigan did hit 18-of-20 free throws (.900).

In a first half that featured two very different quarters, the Huskers built a 26-14 lead at the end of the first 10 minutes thanks to eight straight points including a pair of three-pointers off the bench for Annika Stewart. The second-year freshman from Plymouth, Minn., who finished with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting while adding three rebounds and a steal in just 10 minutes, was forced into action because of foul trouble on starter Isabelle Bourne and an in-game cut to the face of Bella Cravens.

Leading 28-14 early in the second period, Cravens who stepped in for Bourne, was hit by an elbow under the eye forcing her out because of blood on her face and jersey. Bourne, who was whistled for two fouls in the first 5:30 of the game, almost immediately picked up her third foul, while Cravens was still being patched up to stop the bleeding.

The situation sparked an 11-0 Michigan run over the next three-plus minutes. The Huskers stopped the run with a Cravens layup, after she returned to the court wearing No. 20 instead of her usual No. 14 with 3:26 to play in the half. The Wolverines kept pushing and took their first lead of the game at 31-30 on a Brown shot with 1:45 left. Nebraska quickly regained the lead on a Stewart layup, but Michigan scored the final five points including a long Kiser three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to take a 36-32 lead to the locker room.

Michigan outscored Nebraska 22-6 in the second quarter, the fewest points scored by the Huskers in any quarter this season.

Stewart led the Huskers with 10 first-half points off the bench, while Weidner added seven. Nebraska hit 46.2 percent (12-26) of its first-half shots, including 4-of-8 threes and all four of its free throws, but Michigan out-rebounded NU 16-14 and won the first-half turnover battle 9-6. Michigan hit 13-of-32 shots (.406) including just 1-of-5 threes, but the Wolverines outscored NU 9-4 at the free line after being whistled for just five first-half fouls compared to 10 by the Huskers.

Brown finished with 16 points and five turnovers for Michigan, while Kiser added nine points and five rebounds in the game. The Huskers held one of the nation’s leading three-point shooters, Maddie Nolan, to 0-4 shooting from long range and just five points, while limiting starting point guard Danielle Rauch to just two points on the night.

Cravens managed six points, two rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal despite suffering the cut to the face, while sixth-year graduate guard MiCole Cayton helped spark Nebraska in the third quarter with five straight points. Bourne also finished with five points in the game.

Nebraska rallied from its 36-32 halftime deficit to take a 56-52 lead into the fourth by outscoring the Wolverines 24-16 in the third period.

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