As Huskers struggle past D-II team in exhibition, new coach Amy Williams asks for patience

LINCOLN — After Nebraska’s first public performance, new women’s basketball coach Amy Williams asked for one thing from the crowd of 4,400 at Pinnacle Bank Arena — patience.

An inexperienced Husker team struggled against Division II Southwest Baptist, but they escaped the exhibition game with a 73-71 win Sunday afternoon.

Southwest Baptist had a chance to pull off the upset, but a 3-pointer by Kiana Peterson at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

After the game, Williams introduced her family and the staff the crowd and told them to stick with the young team.

“We made it a little too interesting tonight, but I promise you that we will get better,” the first-year coach said.

The Huskers were led by its two holdovers from last year’s team in Big Ten freshman of the year Jess Shepard and senior Allie Havers, who combined for the Huskers’ first 19 points. Shepard finished 30 points and 13 rebounds, while Havers recorded with 14 points on 7 of 9 shooting.

As a team, NU shot 31.3 percent from the floor. But minus Shepard and Havers, the rest of the team was 6 for 26 (23 percent).

Shepard said she could tell some of the newcomers were nervous when the game started.

“That first quarter everyone had the jitters,” Shepard said. “We haven’t had to put on the jerseys and play in a game situation. It’s very different.”

Nebraska’s guards struggled on offense as the Huskers finished with 19 turnovers. Multiple times NU threw passes to empty spaces as players cut when the ball-handler wasn’t expecting one.

NU also went through two extended scoring droughts, including a four-minutes stretch in the first quarter. Then, with the Huskers leading 48-31 in the third, the Bearcats went on a 14-2 run during the final 6:47 of the quarter as NU committed six turnovers and shot 1 for 8 from the floor.

“This is a new system for every single player on the court,” Shepard said. “We are not all there. Even in practice ,we have four people doing one thing and one person who forgets a little bit and it throws off our timing, spacing and execution.”

Megan Rosenbohm and Alex Botkin led SBU with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Havers said she was glad to get the win, but they have plenty of work to do before the season opener Saturday against University of Texas-Rio Grand Valley.

“You can’t be satisfied with a game like this,” Havers said. “We can either take this one and continue to pout about is, but I think with our team chemistry and the coaches, we’re going to be fine.”

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