LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)Nebraska released some pent-up frustration against eighth-ranked Michigan and then exulted in pure joy after the final buzzer.
Players on the court and bench made bee lines to midcourt for a dogpile. At the bottom was freshman Alex Markowski, the improbable star in coach Amy Williams’ biggest win in her six seasons with the Cornhuskers.
”I got trampled, honestly,” Markowski said. ”It was fun.”
Markowski scored a season-high 20 points in her first start, and Nebraska built a big lead early and went on to a 79-58 victory Tuesday night.
The Huskers (13-1, 2-1 Big Ten) beat a top-10 opponent for the first time in seven years with a strong bounce-back from their first loss of the season at Michigan State last Thursday.
”A huge statement,” said Jaz Shelley. ”You know we can play tough now. We really took that loss to Michigan State kind of personal. We had to come out and show the nation we can compete with these top teams.”
Michigan stars Naz Hillmon and Leigha Brown had trouble getting going offensively against the Big Ten’s top field-goal defense team. The two combined for nine points on 3-of-14 shooting in the decisive first half.
Emily Kiser led the Wolverines (12-2, 3-1) with 13 points. Hillmon, the reigning Big Ten player of the year, and Brown finished with 10 points apiece, which was a season low for Hillmon.
”We really wanted this win,” Markowski said. ”To beat the No. 8 team in the country is just fun all around.”
Nebraska led by as many as 18 late in the third quarter. Any time Michigan looked ready to pull within single digits, the Huskers had an answer. Usually it was the 6-foot-3 Markowski, who was strong in the post all night while going 7 for 10, or Jaz Shelley or Annika Stewart hitting timely 3-pointers.
Shelley had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Bella Cravens, who started the Huskers’ first 13 games, was in street clothes at the end of the bench because of an undisclosed injury and was replaced by Markowski.
Markowski scored the game’s first basket, finished 7 for 10 and had seven rebounds while spending a large portion of the game defending Hillmon.
”What I’ve seen out of Alexis and the one thing I know is that she’s a competitor,” Williams said. ”She just wants to compete, and she showed that today. I felt she really took advantage of an incredible opportunity.”
The Huskers held Michigan to one field goal over six minutes spanning the first and second quarters, allowing them to go on a 13-2 run and lead 23-8.
”I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. ”Nebraska always has a great fan base and play great at home and they’re coming off their first loss of the season. We couldn’t get shots to fall early and we got ourselves in a little bit of a hole. We were always battling back from being down, which was tough. Every time we cut it, they were able to make a run. It’s a great win for them.”
The game marked the return of Michigan’s Brown to Pinnacle Bank Arena. Brown spent two years with the Huskers and was their leading scorer as a sophomore two years ago. She announced her transfer to Michigan in April 2020, saying she wanted to go to school closer to her home in Auburn, Indiana.
Brown was unable to play in last season’s 64-62 win over Nebraska in Ann Arbor because she had COVID-19.
This wasn’t the return she would have envisioned. She was 3 of 13 from the field and committed six of Michigan’s 15 turnovers.
”She was a little amped up,” Barnes Arico said. ”Just a little bit of an off night.”
Michigan: No one saw this big a loss coming after the Wolverines’ 19-point win over a ranked Ohio State last week. It’s the second time Michigan has fallen flat in a true road game against a quality opponent, with this one reminiscent of its 70-48 loss at Louisville on Dec. 2.
Nebraska: The Huskers have been hankering for a ranking and were in prove-it mode after their 12-0 start was spoiled by a dismal offensive showing at Michigan State. They responded with their first win over a top-10 opponent since upsetting Duke on Dec. 3, 2014.
Michigan: Hosts Rutgers on Sunday before playing two straight on road against Penn State and No. 10 Maryland.
Nebraska: Hosts No. 22 Iowa on Sunday in the first of two meetings with the Hawkeyes in eight days.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25