LINCOLN — In a season that featured few good breaks for the Nebraska women’s team, of course its bye week came arguably when a struggling team needed it least — right before the Big Ten tournament.
NU ended its season with a thud — a 28-point road loss at Indiana — two days before the rest of the league. The Huskers got a little rest as they waited for the tourney seedings to shake out.
Now, Nebraska will try to pull off a run for the ages to secure an NCAA tournament berth. Four wins in four days? Not likely, especially if juggernaut Maryland, in line for a No. 1 seed in the big dance, doesn’t trip along the way.
The Huskers (17-12, 7-11 Big Ten) will still try, starting with a 5:30 p.m. game against Michigan televised on BTN. The Wolverines (19-10, 10-8) appear to be safely in the NCAA tournament, and they’re one of the few strong teams NU beat earlier this season, when it overcame a 13-point deficit for a 74-71 win in Lincoln.
But that victory was a month ago. NU is 3-8 since, with wins over the league’s three worst teams and multiple tight defeats.
“Just some really close, close losses that we feel prove we can be competitive,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said Monday on the Big Ten teleconference. “We’re going to go down to this tournament motivated to put it all together, play our best basketball in Indianapolis and have fun.”
NU practiced Wednesday at Marian University in Indianapolis as the first round — Wisconsin beat Illinois and Minnesota beat Penn State — transpired. Williams said the team remains confident it hasn’t played its best yet. Putting together 40 minutes of consistent, clean basketball has been elusive, but the Huskers remain locked in.
“We’ve been learning all season long and this team has continued to fight and scratch and claw,” Williams said.
Michigan, the seventh seed, has one of the league’s best players in Naz Hillmon, who has averaged 17.1 points and 8.6 rebounds this season. She had 15 and six, respectively, in the loss to Nebraska, missing 11 of 17 shots and three crucial free throws
Michigan relies on the 3-pointer less than most teams, taking 14.86 per game. Nebraska, by contrast, takes 19.8 per game.
The winner will play co-Big Ten champion Northwestern at 5:30 p.m. Friday.