by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
If the opponent’s jerseys didn’t have a big N on them, one may have thought he was watching a repeat.
But it was not a repeat. It was Northwestern (11-12, 3-7 Big Ten) starting slow, again, picking it up in the last few minutes, again, but falling just short, again, losing to Nebraska 55-50 on Thursday night.
Freshman Lauren Douglas, the offensive standout for the Wildcats with 14 points, said that coach Joe McKeown preaches “playing 40 minutes hard,” which the team has yet to do this season.
This marked NU’s sixth loss by six points or less this season, though three of those came against ranked teams—No. 9 California, No. 25 Michigan, and No. 13 Purdue.
Despite the loss, McKeown praised the team for its strong defensive play in holding the Cornhuskers to 50 points on 32.7 percent shooting percentage. Nebraska (17-6, 7-3) averages 68.8 points per game with a 40.6 percent field goal percentage.
NU’s defense, however, has not been the problem this year. They have held opponents to 35 percent shooting despite playing some top offensive teams in California, Iowa, Michigan and Purdue. The Cats’ downfall is always the offense, which its hot and cold streaks that doom the team to games like Thursday night, when they shot 29.7 percent.
Freshman Maggie Lyon attributed the offensive struggle to shot selection.
Both teams began the game slowly on offense as the Cornhuskers built a 25-17 halftime lead. NU shot an abysmal 21.9 percent in the first period but stayed close by holding Nebraska to only 25.8 percent.
The Cornhuskers came out of halftime with a renewed energy, building a 12 point lead with 12 minutes to play. In an attempt to segment the game, McKeown said, he called a timeout and tried to refocus the team.
“Nebraska couldn’t make a run that we couldn’t answer,” he said.
The Cats’ didn’t stop Nebraska’s offensive surge but they did begin to match it. Finally, with six minutes left, the Cornhuskers started to miss shots and NU took advantage, pulling within three points with a minute left.
NU began fouling and Nebraska hit its free throws, sealing the close win to maintain its tie for third place in the Big Ten.
After a string of games against the top teams in the conference, NU will prepare for Ohio State (12-10, 2-7) on Sunday, who sits just below the Cats in the Big Ten standings. The Cats cannot afford to relax though, as they have already lost to the last place team in the conference, Indiana.