The Nebraska women’s basketball team at times is winning games with a different formula from last season.
When the Huskers won last season, it was sometimes thanks to its top-ranked defense in the Big Ten Conference (60.9 points per game).
The arrival of freshman Jessica Shepard, with her inside scoring, and the more consistent three-point shooting of sophomore guard Natalie Romeo means the Huskers are scoring at a better clip this season.
That’s been good, too, as the young players adjust to how smart and hard you have to play defense at this level.
Nebraska is averaging 75.6 points per game, which ranks seventh in the Big Ten Conference and 31st in the nation. That’s up from an average of 67.1 last season, when NU ranked 10th in the league in scoring offense.
Nebraska also has improved its shooting from both the field, making 46 percent to rank fourth in the Big Ten, and on three-pointers, making 38 percent to rank fourth.
“We have more of an inside game than we did a year ago,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. “We’re probably not as good of an execution team at this stage, partly just because I think we’re young, but anytime that you have an inside presence, it forces teams to make a decision on you. That’s a nice luxury.”
Nebraska has its big three — Shepard, Romeo and Rachel Theriot. Shepard averages 20.1 points per game, Romeo 15.5 and Theriot 11.8.
Last season, NU was undersized in the post, but now teams are having to game plan around guarding Shepard, which has allowed better scoring chances for the guards.
“The best teams are those that have balance, and that can score from the inside and outside. You can’t just be a team that relies on one or two players,” Yori said.
After the big three, the scoring has been less consistent. Allie Havers has averaged six points per game in nine games as a starter. Kyndal Clark has had a couple of big games. Maddie Simon looked like she may be able to help, but her progress was slowed by a broken arm.
“Obviously we need to get that fourth and fifth scorer, if we want really to do some things,” Yori said. “We’re relying heavily on three scorers, but that’s where I think Allie gives us a little bit of a scoring punch, and it'd be nice to get some scoring from that other guard spot.”
Yori said the Huskers may need some more from those fourth and fifth scorers on Sunday against Michigan, which has scored at least 90 points in three of its last four games.
Nebraska (13-5, 4-3) takes a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s game in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Havers says it’s been fun to play on a team that can have some more options on offense.
“We can get the ball inside more because we have more height. That’s a big advantage,” Havers said. “And we have a lot of good shooters on our team, and I feel like we’re moving the ball around a lot better this year.”