This nightmare of a regular season has finally come to an end as Northwestern (15-15, 4-14 B1G) fell to Nebraska (18-11, 9-9) 76-67 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska on Sunday.
It was another slow start for the Wildcats as they only scored 3 points and were 1 of 8 from the field through the first five minutes. The rest of the quarter was much of the same as Northwestern finished the first with only 8 points on 3 of 17 shooting. It wasn't much better for the Cornhuskers as they finished the quarter 4 of 18 from the field for only 10 points.
Scoring would pick up a bit in the second quarter, but essentially only for the Cornhuskers. Northwestern would go 5 of 12 in the quarter, but that still left its overall shooting percentage at 27 percent. Christen Inman hit the Wildcats' first three pointer at the end of the half, but Northwestern was 1 of 9 from deep. Nebraska wasn't much better until the last 4 minutes of the quarter when they hit 9 straight shots from the field and extended their lead to 31-23 going into halftime. Natalie Romeo had a great half for Nebraska, with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. She would finish with a near triple double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
In the third quarter things spiraled out of control for Wildcats. Northwestern picked up its offense a bit managing 22 points, and increasing their shooting percentage above 30 percent for the game, but the Cornhuskers more than matched that pace, scoring 26 points in the quarter using their overwhelming presence down low to dominate the flow of the game. Jessica Shepard and Allie Havers helped fuel the offense as their size proved too much for Northwestern. Shepard finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds, Havers had 13 and 10 as well.
The fourth quarter was a stalemate as the lead Nebraska had built up early on was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. The two teams traded buckets, but in the low scoring quarter Northwestern appeared to once again look tired with many of their shot attempts falling short. Nebraska hit their free throws down the stretch and iced a game that their controlled for 40 minutes.
This loss ends a disappointing regular season for the Wildcats, a season that saw them as high as 12th in the AP top 25 and post an 11-1 non-conference record. A disaster of a Big Ten season leaves Northwestern at 15-15 on the season and with a 4-14 record in conference. Northwestern will still have at least one more game in the Big Ten Tournament, a game that has already been decided. The Wildcats will play Wisconsin at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 2 at 1:30 p.m. eastern.
Nebraska not missing Rachel Theriot
Nebraska had no trouble dispatching Northwestern on Sunday, and that was without senior point guard Rachel Theriot. Theriot is a huge part of the team as she averages 10.6 points per game and leads the nation with 7.3 assists, but got hurt last week and hasn't been able to play, even in Sunday's senior day game.
Luckily for the Cornhuskers guards Natalie Romeo and Maddie Simon were able to pick up the slack. Romeo had stat line of the game as she was one assist away from a triple double and Maddie Simon, who only averages 4.2 points per game, contributed 16 points and 7 rebounds. Simon was also 3 of 6 from deep and helped Nebraska jump out to its early lead.
A tale of two games
Nebraska book-ended the schedule for Northwestern and the two games were completely different affairs. Back on January 3, Northwestern crushed Nebraska 85-62 at Welsh Ryan Arena as Nia Coffey had 25 points and 17 rebounds, Inman had 25 points and 5 assists and Deary was near quadruple double range with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 8 steals. For Nebraska, Maddie Simon didn't even play while Jessica Shepard was still dominant with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
On Sunday almost everything was different for the Wildcats. Inman had 27 points but not much else. Coffey had 19 points and 6 rebounds and Deary only had 6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals. Most notably, the rebound margin saw a huge swing between the two games. In game one, Northwestern out-rebounded Nebraska by 11, while on Sunday the Cornhuskers won the battle on the boards by 22. That 33 rebound swing in margin was big part in how Sunday's game was decided.
Big Ten Tournament
Even if Northwestern had defeated Nebraska, they would not have been able to improve their seeding for this week's Big Ten Tournament. After Wisconsin's loss to Purdue the Badgers were locked into the 13 seed which also locked the Wildcats into the 12 seed. Northwestern will face Wisconsin on Wednesday in Indianapolis at 1:30 p.m. eastern. The last time the two teams met Northwestern won 71-53 at the Kohl Center.