LINCOLN – When the Nebraska women's team started making mistakes on Sunday, Senator Maddie Simon relied on three years of chemistry with junior Hannah Whitish. All these games, all these goods, all these offensive sets.
So, while the shooting was at its height and the main unit of the NU was halved, Simon launched what appeared to be a risky pass for the against-the-court. But Whitish was present, about ten yards from the hoop, and when his jumper landed in the basket – the barely corrugated net – the Nebraska bidding on No. 24 Michigan State returned to stable ground.
Simon and Whitish were among the five double-digit Huskers, and the US roller coaster season reached another peak. But the victory was not transparent. Nothing this season has been.
A trap from the state of Michigan – and the UN is struggling to cope with it – has reduced the lead by 21 points to eight. The 5588 spectators at the Pinnacle Bank Arena – minutes earlier – had become nervous and tense with 2:27 to go.
Simon's pass – and Whitish's – triggered a 6-0 run that slammed the door for the Spartans.
"After three years spent playing together, I know I can be sure she's going to go (on the spot), even if there are two seconds left, and she made it count", said Simon.
Nebraska (12-14, 7-8 Big Ten) also attempted his 24 attempts with a 3-point distance count. The NU scored 12 points to its best score of the season against the tight man-to-man defense of the Spartans. Freshman forward Leigha Brown, who got his second start, hit two of them in the first two minutes to force MSU coach Suzy Merchant to call the timeout.
Only the defense against the Spartans traps, which helped to force 22 turnovers, kept them out in the first half. Once Nebraska broke it a few times, Michigan State (17-8, 7-7) went out and NU attacked, taking a 42-26 lead at halftime.
"I thought our kids were very attached and attached to the defensive game plan," said Nebraska coach Amy Williams. The state of Michigan, one of the Big Ten's top three-point teams, hit 6 out of 25 on long distance and made 23 turnovers, including eight trips.
The NU advance went to 50-28 at the start of the second half. After three quarters, NU led 62-41.
"I thought it was one of the best basketball we have played this season," Simon said in the first 30 minutes.
This last quarter? forgettable
Michigan State used the trap again and Nebraska has always been troubled by it. The guards found themselves trapped near the sideline, passes were thrown forward midway and the offense as a whole, if it crossed the timeline, seemed rushed. After rookie Sam Haiby was whistled for an offensive foul, NU led 67-59, Williams called timeout.
"They punched us and we had to fight back," Whitish said.
In the last five minutes, Kate Cain had three blocks. Nebraska forced the state of Michigan to take 3 longer and riskier points, which they missed. The NU attack was 6-0. Whitish has four of his 16 teams at the top of his group in this sequence. Nebraska also made nine of its last 10 free throws.
The Huskers then won another big home win against an NCAA player a week after doing the same with Purdue. Williams said Nebraska had rejected all of his goals for the season and had chosen – for the last three games – to focus solely on the upcoming game. NU won two.
This is a state of mind that NU will need for the Big Ten Tournament, which he must almost certainly earn to make all NCAA goals accessible.
"It's time we move on to the question" what can we do here today to win the day, "Williams said.
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