In his first-career Big Ten game last season, Dererk Pardon went off for 28 points and 12 boards in Lincoln against Nebraska.
Tonight, he continued to own the Cornhuskers with a 19-point, 22-rebound effort, willing Northwestern (17-4, 6-2 Big Ten) to a 73-61 victory over Nebraska (9-11, 3-5).
The Wildcats exploded out of the gates, leading 12-4 a few minutes in. The opening run included an alley-oop layup and-one from Bryant McIntosh to Vic Law on an inbounds pass under the Nebraska basket. Law had six early points to lead the way for the hosts’ hot start.
But the Cornhuskers quickly tied it up at 14 with 13:25 left in the first half thanks to Northwestern’s five turnovers in the first seven minutes — alongside an ice-cold stretch from the field for the Wildcats in which they missed eight consecutive shots.
Pardon shouldered a lot of the load in the first 12 minutes for Northwestern during a cold streak by both sides: He had had nine rebounds by the 8:33 mark of the first half. McIntosh especially continued to struggle from the field, but the Wildcats kept even with Tai Webster and Nebraska.
For the most part, it was an ugly first half for Northwestern in spite of their 32-29 lead at the break. McIntosh and Law took, and missed, a lot of contested midrange shots and floaters. the two were just 4 of 16 at the break.
The Wildcats turned the ball over seven times (six in the first 8:30). Scottie Lindsey, who came in boasting a 20-game streak of scoring in double digits, had two points But the hosts can thank Pardon, who scored nine and inhaled 13 first-half boards along with Isiah Brown, who delivered a spark—and nine points—to Northwestern’s offense. At halftime, Webster led Nebraska with 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
About five minutes into halftime, both teams came back out, as the officials ruled that Northwestern should have had the ball with 0.7 seconds left in the first half. Nebraska head coach Tim Miles was furious, yelling at the officials and official scorekeepers before McIntosh caught the inbounds pass, let the clock run out and sent both teams back into their respective locker rooms.
Northwestern opened the second half with a Law midrange two followed by two consecutive travels by Law and Sanjay Lumpkin, a Lindsey missed layup, a Lindsey airball, a midrange McIntosh miss and a Brown airball three. It was an ugly start to the half. But Pardon pulled in rebound No. 14 and converted the putback, and McIntosh drained a three on the following possession, putting Northwestern up 39-33 with 15:58 to go.
Pardon continued to dominate, but the Wildcats often times struggled to effectively feed the big man in the paint. Law and Lindsey each hit threes to keep Northwestern ahead, but Webster’s playmaking ability kept Nebraska in the game. It was 50-46 at the nine-minute mark.
After a Nebraska basket with the Wildcats’ lead cut to just five, Pardon cleaned up an errant McIntosh layup and put it back up plus a foul with 6:13 left. He missed the free throw, but the putback gave him 15 points and 19 boards on the night. On the next Northwestern possession, he hit a jumper from the top of the key to bring the total to 17 and 19.
After the McIntosh-to-Law alley-oop below that sent Welsh-Ryan into a frenzy, Pardon grabbed his 20th rebound on the following Nebraska possession.
At the same time, Miles went into a frenzy on the sideline, earning a technical foul. McIntosh converted both free throws to put Northwestern ahead, 63-53, with four minutes left. The Wildcats held on in the final minutes for a 73-61 win, holding off any notion of a Nebraska run. Law put the exclamation point on the win with an emphatic and-one putback slam. Law finished with 20 points.
- Pardon simply dominated. If Northwestern can get him the ball in the paint more consistently, Pardon can continue to dominate as the year goes on. He went down favoring his left ankle in the second half, but instantly got up. He also didn’t commit a foul until there was 6:01 left on the clock. His 22 rebounds were a career-high. He even got an “MVP” chant from the crowd as he exited the game in the final minute.
- McIntosh’s poor shooting drudges on. The junior shot 3 of 13 from the field and 1 of 3 from behind the arc.
- Scottie Lindsey lacked some of the edge he’s been playing with this season. He took (and sunk) his first three-point attempt with 9:40 left in the game. He finished with 5 points on 2-of-8, breaking his double-figures streak. Lindsey also fouled out with 38.2 seconds left.