Unlike some seasons, there have been several close games in Big Ten women’s basketball this season, and at the halfway point of the conference season there are a few teams still in the mix to win the conference championship.
Rutgers leads the league with an 8-1 record, and Maryland and Iowa are one game back at 7-2. Purdue and Northwestern aren’t far behind at 6-3.
Nebraska is tied for eighth place in the Big Ten at 4-5, and hasn't fared as well in those close Big Ten games this season.
Nebraska (9-11) has lost its last two games going into Thursday’s game at Purdue, with each coming down to the finish. Northwestern beat the Huskers by four points, and then Wisconsin beat Nebraska by one point on the last play of the game. Wisconsin was in last place in the league before beating the Huskers.
“We know that Big Ten play is crazy this year,” said sophomore guard Taylor Kissinger. “We can beat ranked teams, like Minnesota. We can beat nonranked team, and nonranked teams can beat us. It’s all over the place, so we just have to stay together.”
Close games have been the norm for Nebraska this season, and it’s one of the areas where Nebraska’s inexperience, with four freshmen playing a lot, shows.
This season the Huskers are just 2-7 in games decided by six points or less (two possessions), including 1-4 in Big Ten play.
Purdue is 5-2 in two-possession games, including 4-1 in the league.
The number of close games shows how competitive the Big Ten has been, Nebraska coach Amy Williams said.
“One or two possessions in many, many games could be the difference in us having possibly a top-four spot right now in the standings,” said Williams on the Husker Sports Network.
Turnovers seem extra painful in close games, and Nebraska had 18 turnovers in the loss to Wisconsin. The Huskers are averaging 15.4 turnovers per game.
For a coach, any turnover is a bad one, but Nebraska has had some especially frustrating ones, including on bad passes.
“Sometimes when you’re playing a little faster and up-tempo, you live with some of the what we call north-south turnovers, where you’re really trying to push and get up the floor and maybe a pass is just a little bit long for someone to catch, or something like that,” Williams said. “I think the (turnovers) that really, really hurt are the ones where you come out of a timeout and you’ve drawn up a play, you want to be able to execute right there, and then there’s just an intercepted pass, or something like that. Those are the ones that are hardest for us to swallow.”
After a promising start to the Big Ten season, when Nebraska was 2-0 in the league, Nebraska has lost five of its last seven games, including two straight.
“We’re trying to do what I think is the hardest thing in athletics to do right now, is to remain positive through some really tough losses, and a couple of tough circumstances that could have gone either way just based on one play here or there,” Williams said. “To stay positive through that is a tough challenge, but something that the people that can stay positive are the ones that can turn things around.”
Lincoln High graduate Nyagoa Gony is a freshman forward for Purdue. She’s played in 19 of 22 games, and is averaging 1.3 points per game.