That is how you bounce back.
Northwestern (13-4, 2-2) gutted out a hard-fought win on the road against a very good Nebraska team (9-7, 3-1), as the Wildcats used improved three-point shooting to end the Cornhuskers’ unbeaten streak in conference play.
The Wildcats made 11 triples on the night, and also sank 13 of their 14 free throw attempts in a shooting display that quelled all fears after Thursday’s loss against Minnesota.
Scottie Lindsey paced the Wildcats with 19 points, 15 of which came in the second half, and Vic Law added 15 of his own all from behind the arc. Law was also immense in holding the Cornhuskers’ leading scorer Glynn Watson Jr. to just 2-of-11 shooting from the field.
Dererk Pardon returned to Lincoln to once again put up double-figures with 13 points on 6-8 shooting and was an important presence in the paint throughout the night.
Tai Webster paced the Huskers with 17 points of his own.
For the second-straight road game, the Wildcats were slow out of the blocks. They failed to convert on a few looks in close to start the game, and Nebraska made them pay, jumping out to an 8-2 lead in the first four minutes thanks to an impressive 4-5 start from the field.
Northwestern made it a clear point of emphasis to establish Pardon — who posted 28 points and 12 rebounds in Lincoln last season — early on offense. The big man, in his second game back from a hand injury, took four of the Wildcats’ first six shots, scoring their first four points.
Despite being stifled by an active Northwestern defense, the Cornhuskers dominated the offensive glass from the get-go. Seven offensive rebounds in the first six minutes resulted in eight second-chance points for Tim Miles’ team as it overwhelmed Northwestern with its size and energy.
Down 12-4, the Wildcats battled back. Threes from Nate Taphorn and Gavin Skelly off the bench helped cut the Nebraska lead to two, and another powerful post-move from Pardon tied the game at 14 with 10:46 to play.
Northwestern took its first lead of the game moments later when Skelly converted an old-fashioned three-point play off Bryant McIntosh’s third assist.
After establishing its first lead, Northwestern then made quick work in adding to it. Four quick points from Nebraska guard Evan Taylor were answered emphatically by a three-point barrage from Law.
He followed up a right wing three-pointer with another one from the left wing, and then drained a third long ball from the corner off a nice feed from Skelly. This opened up the Wildcats’ biggest lead of the game at 26-18 with seven minutes to play.
The first points of the game from a frustrated Webster, along with another second-chance score, trimmed the NU advantage to four, but McIntosh answered with his first two buckets of the game.
With the lead at six, the point guard drove coast-to-coast for a layup before sticking a pull-up three. With two minutes to play, Northwestern held the first double-digit advantage of the game at 33-23.
However, the Cornhuskers showed why they sat at the top of the Big Ten coming into the contest, as they and strung together 14 unanswered points in the last 1:42 of the half. Fueled by forced turnovers and three-point shooting from the bench, the Nebraska spurt was led by Webster, who aggressively attacked the basket and punctuated the run with a buzzer-beating pull-up three. That dagger sent a stunned Northwestern squad to the locker room down 37-33 as Pinnacle Bank Arena went nuts.
Before the half-ending collapse, the Wildcats used an effective inside-out offensive attack. They drilled six threes (after going just 1-15 in the second half against Minnesota on Thursday) and also found success inside with Pardon and a mismatched Lindsey in the post.
Second chance points and turnovers were what allowed Nebraska to hang around despite the Wildcats’ hot shooting. Despite his 0-5 start, Webster was the game’s high man at the break, with nine of his 11 points coming during the final 1:42.
The Cornhuskers started the second half by keeping Northwestern at arm’s length with their outside shooting. Six early points on two jumpers and a hook shot from big man Michael Jacobson helped cancel out a Northwestern attack buoyed by resurgent play from McIntosh and Skelly’s second three of the game. With 14 minutes left to play, Nebraska was up 46-42.
The Wildcats then used their rediscovered long distance touch to take back the lead a few minutes later. Law then stayed hot from deep, hitting another corner triple, and Lindsey followed him from the same corner moments later with his first triple of the day.
Seldom-used sharp-shooter Jack McVeigh temporarily gave Nebraska the advantage back with a three of his own, but Lindsey was not done. A mid-range pull-up and a three from the Wildcats’ leading scorer reversed momentum, and the still-perfect Vic Law connected on his fifth long ball to give Northwestern a six-point lead in the blink of an eye.
A few minutes later, after Nebraska made a push at the free throw line, Pardon hit hook shots with the left and then the right hand on back-to-back possessions to reach double-figures and reestablish the Wildcats’ cushion.
Lindsey then converted three free throws after being fouled on a three-pointer by Webster, but a largely quiet Watson answered with a quick four points to keep the game in his team’s reach.
The cushion remained at five after Lindsey and Taylor traded buckets, before Sanjay Lumpkin’s first bucket in almost three full games pushed it to seven.
As Nebraska struggled to break through in the final two minutes, Northwestern was unable to ice the game away. Webster made the Wildcats pay with a three which cut the lead to 68-63 with 1:23 to play.
There would be no Wildcats collapse this time, however.
Nebraska center Ed Morrow did cut the lead to four by converting an and-one with 50 seconds left after a McIntosh layup, but the freshman Isiah Brown—who played just five minutes—showed maturity beyond his years in sinking two clutch free throws to push the lead back to six.
Northwestern held out defensively despite giving Nebraska an extra possession on the glass, and Lindsey’s free throws with 25 seconds on the clock sealed a huge conference win on the road for Chris Collins’ team.