There are five games remaining in the regular season for the Nebraska women’s basketball team, coming in a season that’s been marked by inconsistency, with a pretty young team where five of the top seven scorers are freshmen or sophomores.
The high points of the season include a win against then-No. 23 Minnesota and two wins against Purdue, a team projected by ESPN to make the NCAA Tournament.
But Nebraska also lost to last-place Wisconsin on a last-second shot and hasn’t been able to get enough wins against teams in the middle of the Big Ten standings. The Huskers (11-13, 6-7 Big Ten) are in a three-way tie for eighth place in the league.
Now Nebraska faces one of its most challenging weeks of the season, with games against two ranked teams. First, Nebraska travels to play seventh-ranked Maryland on Thursday. The game is on BTN at 7 p.m. On Sunday, Nebraska hosts No. 24 Michigan State.
Nebraska has had good chances to win in a lot of games but has lost nine games decided by six or fewer points.
The schedule isn’t easy in the remaining games prior to the Big Ten Tournament, but Nebraska coach Amy Williams sees potential for the Huskers to have a good finish.
“We just feel like that we know up to this point that we’ve shown some flashes of greatness where we can compete with anybody. We’ve shown some flashes where there is not very many people that we’re going to beat playing that way,” Williams said. “We know as a group that if we can put it all together and be really clicking on all cylinders and having all of our players contributing in the ways that they can contribute down the stretch, we really feel confident that we can make a run at anybody.”
Junior guard Nicea Eliely says the players have tried to stay close as a group during the up-and-down season.
“I think we all have great chemistry, and we all know we’re there for each other and we all know we’re working hard for each other. We’re trying to piece it all together," Eliely said.
Nebraska was able to win its last game, a 67-61 comeback victory against Purdue, because freshman Leigha Brown scored 30 points in just 25 minutes.
Nebraska hasn’t had a player consistently score 15 points a game this season, but four different players have had 20-point games: Hannah Whitish, Sam Haiby, Taylor Kissinger and Brown.
Williams says several players are capable of giving Nebraska a double-digit scorer each game.
“We feel great about the fact that we have lots of different people who that could be and, if somebody is not having a good night, that we can have somebody else step up and carry some of the load,” she said.
Sophomore Kate Cain hasn’t been as productive or aggressive as her first year, when she averaged 9.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Now she’s averaging 7.4 points and 6.1 rebounds. She’s attempted just 15 free throws.
But in the last two games, Cain has shot 10-of-18 from the field combined.
“(Kate has) been working very, very hard to try and get back to the Kate that we all know and love, and I think she’s worked hard and I’m glad to see she’s starting to gain some confidence,” Williams said.
South Dakota, the program where Williams was the head coach before coming to Nebraska in 2016 and where several Nebraska natives are on the team, moved into The Associated Press top 25 poll for the first time in program history this week. The Coyotes (22-3) are ranked No. 25.
The Nebraska natives on the team are Allison Arens and Monica Arens from Crofton, and Regan Sankey from Lincoln.