March 10, 2024 

Jaz-fest propels Nebraska to the Big Ten Tournament championship game

Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley shows how crucial she is in both scoring and defending

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – With just under two minutes left in the first quarter of the Big Ten Tournament semifinal game between Maryland and Nebraska on Saturday afternoon, the Cornhuskers had a narrow 14-12 lead. Then, the Jaz show began. 

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Nebraska graduate guard Jaz Shelley scored a blistering 11 points in the last 1:30, pushing the Huskers’ lead to 25-12 at the end of the quarter. It started with a layup, followed by three consecutive 3-pointers in the last minute. 

“We really felt like if we kind of kept their big three at bay, that we had a great shot,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese told reporters after the game. “But you had the Jaz-fest with Jaz, who came out knocking down those threes.”

By the end of the game, Shelley scored a season-high 30 points and dished out nine assists in Nebraska’s 78-68 win, which landed them a spot against Iowa in Sunday’s championship game. The Australian played all 40 minutes of the game, her third game in three days and is averaging 22 points and seven assists. Although she has only sat four minutes over all three games, she is ready for the matchup with the No. 3 ranked Hawkeyes.

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“I felt really good before this game, and there’s no reason why I can’t feel like that tomorrow,” she told reporters after Saturday’s game. “We have all the resources possible, getting ice baths after this. We trained for this before the season even started. I’m ready for it.”

Sophomore forward Alexis Markowski chimed in, “I’ve never seen Jaz Shelley get tired,” adding she was in awe of Shelley’s first quarter scoring spree.

“It was unreal. Honestly, I was speechless,” Markowski said. “It was after her third three, and I was just like, ‘you’re kidding me.’ Jaz is just such a special player, and she’s just been one of my favorite players I’ve ever played with. She’s just unreal and does everything for this team.”

The Terrapins came out of halftime collapsing on Shelley, opening up the rest of the team. 

“I think they were pressuring me a lot, and I started to get my assist game up,” Shelley said. “I had a lot of attention towards me, and it made other people open.”

Jaz Shelley plays defense against Maryland.
Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley (1) plays defense against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 9, 2024. (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

She is not only an elite scorer, Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said, but she is also relied upon on the defensive end of the floor. 

“I’ve been saying this for a while, Jaz is a very capable scorer, but she just does so much more for our team,” Williams said. “She’s probably our best perimeter defender. We utilize her to guard the other team’s best players. A lot of teams will take their best offensive threat and make sure that they’re not going to get into foul trouble or put them on players that they know they can maybe rest on one side of the ball, but we don’t allow Jaz to do that.

“We’re asking her to do so much for our team. I think she’s matured so much, just learning how to impact games, whether she’s scoring, whether she’s assisting, whether she’s rebounding, whether she’s defending. And that versatility is just what makes her special.”

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When Nebraska played Iowa on Feb. 11 in Lincoln, Shelley’s 23 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, led the Huskers back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit in an 82-79 win over the then-No. 2 Hawkeyes,

Iowa star guard Caitlin Clark was asked about facing Shelley again after the Hawkeyes’ 95-68 rout over Michigan in the other semifinal game Saturday.

“Jaz in my eyes is one of the best players in the country. She’s got range. She can shoot the ball,” Clark told reporters. “We’ve got to be able to defend the three-point line, but Jaz is one of the best players in the country. The way she can pass, she can shoot, she can penetrate, she just makes everybody around her better. She’s a lot of fun to go up against.”

Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley (1) brings the ball up the court against Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 9, 2024. (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

Shelley, who has played on the Australian National Team since 2020, played her first two years in college at Oregon before transferring to Nebraska her junior year. 

In first year at Nebraska in 2021-22, she led the team in scoring (13.1 ppg), assists (5 apg), steals (1.8 spg) and blocks (0.9 bpg) while ranking second in rebounding (6.3 rpg). She was the only Big Ten player to rank among the top 20 in all five statistical categories in 2021-22. She is the first Husker in history to record two career triple-doubles.

She has appeared on several national watch lists this season including the Naismith Trophy,  Wooden Award, Ann Meyers Drysdale Award and Women’s College All-Star Game.

Nebraska plays Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament championship game at 11 a.m CT Sunday. The Huskers are seeking their first tournament championship since winning it in 2014, while the Hawkeyes are seeking their third straight championship after advancing to the title game for the past four years.

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Written by Angie Holmes

Angela Holmes is the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) reporter for The Next. Based in the Midwest, she also covers the Big Ten and Big 12.

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