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Rapid Reaction: No. 24 Northwestern fades in the fourth, falls to Nebraska 71-64

Second half struggles yet again.

Northwestern Athletics

EVANSTON, Illinois — Despite winning the turnover margin by 24 and taking 27 more shots than Nebraska, Northwestern (11-5, 9-5 Big Ten) fell to the Huskers (10-9, 8-7) 71-64 Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

NU led for nearly the first three quarters and forced plenty of takeaways, but couldn’t score in the second half as Nebraska used the size of forwards Isabelle Bourne and Kate Cain to suffocate the ‘Cats in the paint and force them to take outside shots. The Huskers made up for their shot deficit by shooting a healthy 7-of-17 from three while NU was just 4-of-18 from deep.

Pulliam had a tied-for-game-high 22 points for Northwestern, and Burton, who averages over 17 points per game, had 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field. She didn’t score until there were 4:36 left in the fourth. NU shot just 32% as a team.

After getting off to a slow start, Nebraska finished shooting 41% from the field. The biggest key to its success was it outrebounded Northwestern 52-33.

Cain stuffed the stat sheet for the Huskers with 22 points to go along with 8 rebounds, while Borune added 21 points and 17 boards.

The Blizzard defense came to play early, forcing 11 turnovers in the first frame that turned into 12 points. Led by Veronica Burton and Jordan Hamilton’s three steals each, NU allowed Nebraska to attempt just eight shots to its nineteen.

Despite the turnovers, Nebraska’s size bothered Northwestern all game long. Cain and Bourne accounted for all nine of the Huskers’ first quarter points. The Huskers also outrebounded the ‘Cats by five, and NU forward Paige Mott picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, prompting head coach Joe McKeown to bring in fellow first-year Anna Morris.

The ‘Cats found their offense from everywhere, with five players scoring first quarter points led by Lindsey Pulliam and Sydney Wood with six apiece.

A steal and fast break layup by Wood followed by a block by Morris at the buzzer gave Northwestern a 19-9 advantage after one.

The ‘Cats continued their strong play into the second quarter. Defensively, they held the Huskers to just 1-of-7 shooting at the media timeout and managed to extend their lead to as many as 14.

However, Northwestern’s lack of size continued to hurt it inside as Cain and Bourne continued to find success down low against Morris, finishing easy layups and drawing fouls against her. They totaled 16 points and cut NU’s lead to six with 2:29 remaining in the quarter. Morris played 17 minutes in the first half with Mott on the bench.

Pulliam led all scorers with 10 on 4-of-9 shooting at the half, while Burton had an uncharacteristic scoreless first half, but added four assists and three boards.

For the Huskers, Cain and Bourne led the way, as the forward duo combined for 17 points and 11 rebounds at the break. Despite shooting just 28% from the floor, Nebraska found themselves down just 33-24 at the break in part due to outrebounding Northwestern by 12.

Nebraska’s paint presence remained problematic for the Wildcats, with Cain scoring UNL’s first six points to start the quarter. Meanwhile, Northwestern couldn’t take the lid off the basket, missing its first 11 shots of the frame until Pulliam hit an elbow jumper with 6:05 remaining.

NU’s full court pressure helped disrupt the Husker offense, but a pair of Nebraska threes and layups tied the game at 40 with 1:29 left in the third. Burton continued to struggle offensively, missing a pair of free throws, but an acrobatic layup by Wood ended the nearly-four minute scoring drought. A steal and layup by Hamilton had Northwestern leading 44-40 at the end of the quarter.

Nebraska took its first lead of the game just over a minute into the fourth after a pair of back-to-back three pointers from guard Ashley Scoggin and Bourne, as Northwestern simply could not find any sort of rhythm on offense. The ‘Cats did not score until 6:53 left in the fourth off of an inbounds play that led to a layup for Hamilton.

The Huskers who pulled away in the fourth as Northwestern simply had no answer for Bourne and could not buy a bucket down the stretch.

NU had several chances to cut it to one possession, but after Hamilton missed a three, Haiby converted an and-1 with 1:59 left to make it a nine-point game. That deficit proved insurmountable.

The ‘Cats came within four after Pulliam hit a long two with 39 seconds left, but Bourne hit two clutch free throws for the Huskers to put the game out of reach.

Northwestern will look to get back on track against Wisconsin (5-14, 2-14 B1G) at home on Saturday.