Not that they needed it, but the Nebraska women's basketball team got a good reminder of the importance of playing all 40 minutes in Wednesday's win over Northwestern.
Trailing the No. 24 Wildcats by 14 points in the second quarter, NU rallied for a 71-64 win that included a 31-point fourth quarter.
"It was just a really good kind of healing-type win for our team," Nebraska coach Amy Williams said.
The healing came in the form of stopping a four-game losing streak — a streak that began with Penn State closing out the Huskers with a big run of its own to send NU to an 85-74 loss earlier this month.
Now, the Huskers will face Penn State again Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, looking to build on the momentum of their league-leading fourth win over a top-25 team.
While the Northwestern win was nice, Williams said, any reminders of what happened at Penn State are easily rekindled by turning on the film from that game.
Nebraska had rallied to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. Then, Penn State ended the contest with a 17-3 run.
The hope, Williams said, is that NU can find a way to bottle up what worked against Northwestern (twice), Ohio State and Michigan State — all of which were ranked at the time the Huskers beat them.
"It's something that we can easily identify, but not always make sure that it's there," Williams said. "The more that we recognize and preach that that's an important factor, that's something that our kids can really prioritize."
What is "it"? As is often the case when the margins between winning and losing are so small, the secret sauce isn't necessarily something that is easily quantifiable.
"What I see is a team that's together, and finding ways to have everybody contribute to the effort. I think that's when we've been our best is when we've had several people step up — multiple people scoring in double figures, and willing to step up to make a play for their team," Williams said. "The whole group really making a commitment to each other to really step up … and find a way to contribute."
Nebraska (10-9, 8-8 Big Ten) needs to muster up that togetherness for a closing stretch that will determine its Big Ten Tournament seeding.
Because teams have played an unequal number of games due to COVID-19, a look at winning percentage shows that the Huskers are tied for eighth in the league.
And while NU won't be able to climb into a top-four Big Ten Tournament seed by the end of the regular season, the ability to build on the comeback will be critical in landing as good a seed as possible.
Nebraska has four regular-season games left. The Huskers could easily win all four. They could lose all four as well.
"You kind of feel that sense of urgency. Everybody wants to be peaking here towards the end," Williams said. "And everybody's jockeying right now. It's just such a logjam. Our league is so competitive from top to bottom. ... There's no doubt there's a certain level of intensity, and everything carries just a little more weight here."
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