Amy Williams says Huskers are preparing to 'make a push in the conference tournament'

"A very challenging non-conference schedule was just to help us build towards becoming the best version of ourselves about this time of year so we could make a push for the conference tournament," Nebraska women's basketball coach Amy Williams said during an appearance on "The Bottom Line."

Nebraska women's basketball coach Amy Williams said the Huskers are "becoming a little bit more of a complete team" down the stretch during an appearance Wednesday on "The Bottom Line."

"That was really the goal all along through a very challenging nonconference schedule, was just to help us build toward being the best version of ourselves about this time of year so we could try to make a push in the conference tournament," Williams said.

The Huskers (12-14, 7-8) are currently sixth in the Big Ten heading into a showdown against Northwestern on Thursday. 

Watch the full interview with Williams at the top of the page, plus check out a transcript of Williams' comments below:

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Getting a big win against Michigan State:

"I thought we really came out with great defensive focus, and locked into our game plan. We played very well defensively for about 35 of the 40 minutes of that game, and then we kind of had some lapses down the stretch when we got up 20-22 points, and let them back in the game, which we didn't love to see. But for 35 minutes, I thought we really locked into our game plan and played well defensively."

On coaching with a lead:

"I think that it is a challenge, but I don't think it's the most difficult challenge — way more difficult, is when you lost or you're down, is to be able to find that motivation to get them over that hump or to keep scratching and clawing and digging your way back in..."

On winning the third quarter being critical to winning the game:

"Yeah, I mean it's very important. We talk about it a lot, to come out of that second half. We used to talk about, before we had the quarter system, we used to really stress coming out of halftime in those first five minutes of that second half being very critical, and I think that's translated to the fourth quarter game..."

On the team's development over this season:

"I think early there was a lot of talk about our returning players, and then our new players, and you know, we had 45 percent of our roster was new heading into this season... When you're kind of turning over, and you're having that much, trying to blend the returners with your new players, I think there was a lot of talk about that and it was kind of a bit of a challenge early. I think we had some returning players that early in the season were really trying to do everything in their power to blend in, and get our new players (our four freshmen) acclimated, and utilizing their strengths and talents, and I think in the process maybe lost a little bit of what they brought to the table. But, as we've seen players like Hannah Whitish, become more aggressive offensively here lately, and some of our returning players kind of getting back to what they do. I thought that Maddie (Simon) had one of her best games in that Michigan State win, and we're seeing them become a little bit more aggressive, and back to what they can do as we watch our Freshmen be more consistent with the things they're bringing to the table... We're becoming a little bit more of a complete team, and that was really the goal all along. A very challenging non-conference schedule was just to help us build towards becoming the best version of ourselves about this time of year so we could make a push for the conference tournament."

On Hannah Whitish being a big factor in big games:

"Well, I really think the best thing about this team is that we have pretty good depth... We have balance. We have a lot of different players. You can have a player like Leigha Brown come off the bench and give you 30 points. You could have a day where Taylor Kissinger could hit five threes. You could have some opportunity to, late in the game against Purdue, call Kate Cain's number, and go inside. And I think the fact that we can win a game like that Purdue game, without Hannah scoring, shows that we're very capable of that. But there's really no question about it, that when Hannah is playing aggressive offensively, really thinking forward, finding ways to get the ball in position, is probably where our team is playing our best."

On Kate Cain's game developing in her second year:

"Early this season, she put an incredible amount of pressure on herself to really raise the level, she worked pretty hard this off-season trying to get stronger and improve in areas, and I thought early — she just was playing with a little bit of pressure, and playing kind of tense and not as loose. Here lately, we've really seen her break out of that. I've been really proud of her, and the maturity she's shown the last five or six ball games, just being able to find ways to impact things, understand how she can really help us by establishing that inside presence, and finding ways to be involved defending, and not just at the rim, protecting the basket. But being comfortable when she has to step out away from the basket, and embracing that, where at times before, she has kind of cringed a little bit when she'd have to pull outside of the paint to defend..."

At this point in the season, what can you still do in practice, in terms of helping with development, can you still work on it at this point the season: "We absolutely do... I think this is the greatest time, particularly for the four freshmen and the two sophomores that we have that are still learning... Just yesterday, we had segments of position skill session in practice, where we spent a lot of time just working footwork with players like Ashtyn Veerbeek, and getting a lot of shot repetition and development from our guards, and continuing to work on ball-handling. I think that Leigha Brown is getting confident with her ball-handling skill development, it's helping in every aspect of her game... We view this time as important as any to continue to work on those skills development..."

On the length of the season, and whether or not it catches up with/affects the team:

"I think the fact that our strength and conditioning coach does just an absolutely fantastic job, I think our players are well-conditioned and prepared for this. Also, the fact that we're playing nine, maybe ten players double figure minutes has allowed us to keep our team fairly fresh...

On reminding college students to get enough sleep:

"It's so funny you say that... We have just the most incredible staff in our Athletic Performance Lab, and they came and gave a presentation to our team about the importance of sleep, and brought in some of the studies and talked about how it can affect shooting percentages and everything, just how much you sleep... We talk and preach that a lot to our players, and it's so funny how every time during the preseason I plan a 6 a.m. workout, and they're like, come on coach, we need our sleep..."

On playing Northwestern again, and the biggest challenge they present:

"It was a really tough loss for us at home, and so to go on the road, and they have another player in the lineup that did not play against us the last time, and Abi Scheid provides a fourth player for them that is their best three-point threat. She's made more three-point shots than any of their other players in conference play, and she's played in six less ball games... She changes the complexity of the game, because you really have to respect her on the perimeter. So, that will change our defensive game-plan quite significantly... I think this team is really excited to have another chance, have some redemption for that loss we had at home, but also, just have one more chance to be playing our best basketball, putting together complete games, and to build the momentum as we get ready for Indianapolis."

On handling Senior Days as a coach:

"Early in my coaching career, we used to always really want to honor Senior Day, and do that whole thing at the very beginning when our crowd is all still in their seats and rarin' to go... And I've learned that not just the players, but my own self, it's just way too emotional for the game, and sometimes can cause a little distraction before the game. So, what we've kind of morphed to is being able to stay focused on the business at hand, and then once our final buzzer sounds on that day, we just really try to use that time for our players, coaching staff, and fan base to really celebrate all of the accomplishments that the seniors brought to our program. And this year will be a really special one for us, because we have one senior to honor, and that's Maddie Simon, and she's a Lincoln-native, and just a local kid that has done everything exactly how we would ask her to do it, and epitomizes what it means to be a Husker, and we're just gonna have a heck of a time having fun celebrating her..."

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