Deep in our consciousnesses, beyond the minutiae of daily life, the overwhelming ferocity of business, and the drudgery of the sports media cycle, we all hold a deep-seated suspicion of the win-loss record. Coming into its road game against Nebraska, Northwestern had won 11 games. Nebraska had won four. And yet the game, in line with our natural instincts, was close.
Northwestern (12-2, 1-0 in conference) opened its conference season by scraping past a largely disappointing Nebraska (4-9, 0-1 in conference) team 62-58. While some may argue that the stagnant fourth quarter offense and inability to pull away against a rather disappointing Nebraska side are signs of weakness, I would contend that these actions are a sign of strength for this Northwestern team.
While Nebraska has been poor all season and revolves around the abilities of Jessica Shephard, who launched 20 shots for just 17 points in this game, a road victory against any Big Ten opponent is a good sign for the Wildcats. Northwestern was not at its best against Nebraska, but it survived. College basketball teams will always struggle against other college basketball teams. The quality teams find a way to win most of the time despite the perils of variance.
Northwestern survives because it has Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary and Christen Inman, a group of players who have the experience to grind out victories like this in Big Ten play. Experience, of course, is often highly overrated, and it certainly does not insulate the Wildcats from what occurred against Gonzaga or seemingly the entirety of the 2015-16 regular season.
But even with Coffey only tallying 28 minutes due to foul trouble, Deary and Inman combining for a 7-for-17 night and Northwestern losing the rebounding battle 42-36, Northwestern found a way. Coffey was highly efficient, scoring 22 points on 15 shots and limited minutes. Lauren Douglas and Abi Scheid played huge minutes off the bench, scoring 8 and 9 points respectively.
The Wildcats will return to Evanston for a matchup against Purdue on New Year’s Eve at 2 p.m. Purdue is better than Nebraska, but if Northwestern can start to thrive rather than merely survive, a 2-0 start in conference play is certainly within the realms of possibility.