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Huskers Have Iowa’s Number, Gunning for Big Ten Title Shocker

The stage is set for an epic Big Ten Tournament championship showdown in Minneapolis. Coach Amy Williams and the fifth-seeded Nebraska women’s basketball team will try to slay the giant that is No. 3 Iowa on Sunday (11 a.m. CT, CBS) at the Target Center.

After three impressive wins over Purdue, Michigan State, and Maryland, the Huskers (22-10) have their sights focused on capturing the program’s first Big Ten Tournament title since 2014. However, they’ll have to take down a juggernaut Iowa squad that is seeking its third straight tournament crown.

“We know we have a monumental challenge ahead against one of the best teams in the country,” Williams said. “But our team has shown incredible fight and belief in each other throughout this tournament run. We’re going to go out there, play loose, and give it our best shot.”

The task of upending Iowa and its generational talent Caitlin Clark is about as difficult as it gets in women’s college basketball right now. The 6-0 senior guard is putting up unthinkable numbers, averaging 31.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and over 8 assists per game this season.

Clark has scored at least 30 points in all nine career meetings against Nebraska, including 38 in Iowa’s 92-73 win in Iowa City this year and 31 in the Huskers’ 82-79 upset of the then-No. 2 Hawkeyes in Lincoln on February 11th. Over her four-year career, Clark has tallied 309 points against NU while grabbing 80 rebounds and dishing out 71 assists.

“Caitlin is just a machine – she’s as good a player as I’ve seen in my coaching career,” Williams said. “You can’t stop her, you just try to make her work as hard as possible and hopefully make some plays of your own.”

While Clark gets most of the attention, Iowa is loaded with other offensive weapons like Hannah Stuelke, Kate Martin and emerging forward Sydney Affolter. Stuelke had 12 points against Nebraska in both regular season meetings, while Martin averages 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds.

The Huskers will counter with a balanced attack led by senior point guard Jaz Shelley. The Australian native has been on a tear in the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 22.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists through the first three games. Shelley had a 30-point, 9-assist outburst in the semifinal win over Maryland.

Shelley was named the Associated Press National Player of the Week back on February 13th after her heroics in the win over Iowa, scoring 23 points including the go-ahead three-pointer in the final minute.

Nebraska will also need big games from its talented frontcourt of junior center Alexis Markowski and freshman Natalie Potts. Markowski, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, has averaged a double-double of 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the tournament.

Potts, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, has complimented Markowski well with 8.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in Minneapolis. Her defensive presence will be crucial against Iowa’s potent offense.

While an upset over heavily favored Iowa would be considered a huge surprise by most, the Huskers have plenty of reason to feel confident. They snapped Iowa’s nine-game series winning streak with their victory last month and have won six of their last seven games with lockdown defender Logan Nissley joining the starting lineup.

With a raucous pro-Husker crowd expected to make the short trip from Nebraska to the Twin Cities, the atmosphere should give NU an added jolt of energy.

“This is the opportunity you dream of as a college basketball player,” Shelley said. “We get to play for a championship against one of the best teams in the country. We’re going to leave it all out on the floor.”

Regardless of the outcome, the future looks incredibly bright for Williams’ program with a young core led by Markowski, Potts, Nissley and several other key returners. But this Nebraska team is focused on the present and capturing an elusive Big Ten Tournament title.

Pulling off the upset over Iowa would certainly add another memorable chapter to the Huskers’ storybook season. While a daunting task lies ahead, the Huskers appear to be playing their best basketball at the perfect time.

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