Last season, when the women’s basketball team was one of the best stories in the Nebraska athletic department for the year, the Huskers had a stretch where they won five straight games during the Big Ten Conference season, and eight of nine overall.
That stretch helped the Huskers surge into contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska did make the tournament, which was a remarkable accomplishment after winning just seven games the previous season.
This season, though, Nebraska hasn’t had that kind of consistency, and that’s why the Huskers have a losing record at 10-12, and are tied for eighth place in the Big Ten standings at 5-6, going into Thursday's game at Michigan.
This season the best Nebraska has done is a three-game winning streak in December. In Big Ten play Nebraska hasn’t done better than a two-game winning streak.
Not playing good enough on defense, and rebounding, has prevented Nebraska from being more consistent, and winning more.
“We have to be more consistent with keeping teams in the 60s,” said senior Maddie Simon. “I think we can score, and we can execute on offense, it just comes down to us getting stops and winning the games on the defense end.”
In Big Ten Conference games Nebraska ranks seventh in defense, giving up 67.5 points per game. Nebraska lost its last game against Indiana 82-78, after holding Purdue to 64 the game before that.
“For us, we’re not going to win very many ballgames if we let people score over 80 points,” said Nebraska coach Amy Williams. “It’s going to have to be on the defensive end, and we’re going to have to figure some things out defensively.”
The three seniors from last season, Jasmine Cincore, Janay Morton and Emily Wood, were some of Nebraska’s best players on defense.
But there were still higher expectations going into the season because Nebraska returned its five leading scorers in Hannah Whitish, Simon, Taylor Kissinger, Kate Cain and Nicea Eliely.
Big games on offense that freshmen Sam Haiby, Leigha Brown and Ashtyn Veerbeek have had gets fans excited about the future of the program, but so far the mix of the returning and new players hasn’t consistently led to wins.
Nebraska has a 1-4 record in games against ranked teams, with the win coming against Minnesota. Nebraska’s strength of schedule is currently ranked 25th.
The Huskers’ up-and-down play means Nebraska has already lost 12 games, after losing 11 games all of last season.
“It’s really no secret that our schedule this year nonconference was much, much more challenging,” Williams said. “Then you go from 16 to 18 conference games. Then you look at the opponents that we play double plays in the conference, and the schedule, it has not been kind. It’s a tough grind. It just is.
“And then I think the fact that we’re relying on a lot of very young players to play big roles for this team. And even though to some degree we have a lot of returning players from one year ago that played significant roles on that team, and are playing significant roles on this team, we’re trying to mix and blend that with a lot of young kids that are just trying to really keep getting better every night out, and with that there is just a little bit of inconsistency.”