EVANSTON — Especially fitting on senior day, Northwestern’s (9-14, 6-13 B1G) thrilling 78-77 victory over Nebraska (7-19, 3-16 B1G) was a microcosm of the emotional rollercoaster Northwestern’s seniors have endured over the past four years.
On the heels of two consecutive victories, Northwestern had a chance to stay hot against a Nebraska squad coming off a 38-point loss to Iowa on Thursday. The ‘Cats looked comfortable in their offensive set and outshot the Huskers from the tip, shooting 53% from the field compared to Nebraska’s 46%.
Six Wildcats scored in double figures, with Chase Audige leading the way with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Pete Nance followed close behind with 13 points of his own.
Northwestern struggled to get to the free throw line, taking only nine attempts compared to Nebraska’s 16. That was a key factor along with the three ball. The Wildcats made 11 three-pointers on 25 attempts, passing their season high in Big Ten play. Nebraska countered with an excellent shooting performance of their own, shooting 42% from deep.
Much like previous games, it was a slow start for the ‘Cats. They opened the game shooting 0-for-7 from the field and didn’t score a point in the first four and a half minutes of play. Not long after, however, Northwestern proceeded to rip the game open with an 11-2 run.
It was a game of runs throughout the afternoon. Midway through the first half, the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run over a minute and a half of play to increase their lead to 14. The Cornhuskers wouldn’t disappear, however, as they managed to close the gap to eight with just under five minutes to go in the half.
Ty Berry hit a three with 48 seconds remaining in the first half to punctuate Northwestern’s excellent first-half shooting performance. At half, the Wildcats led 39-30. Robbie Beran led the way with 10 points off the bench.
To open the second half, Nebraska delivered a haymaker. The Cornhuskers went on an 8-2 run to cut the Wildcats’ lead to just three points in just over a minute, prompting Chris Collins to take a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, it was Northwestern who carried the scoring load. Boo Buie hit two threes in a row, one coming off of a Nebraska turnover, to cap off a 9-0 Wildcat run and extend NU’s lead back to 11 points.
From there, it was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading threes. A triple from Nebraska’s Kobe Webster cut Northwestern’s lead back down to a mere two points with 5:43 left in the second half. An Audige score ended a near-four minute scoring Wildcat scoring drought, but that didn’t stop Nebraska from grabbing a 68-67 lead heading into the U-4 media timeout.
Immediately following, Webster and Audige traded deep threes to make it a one-point game with two minutes remaining. Pete Nance then made a hook shot from the free throw line to put the Wildcats up a point, and Boo Buie split two critical free throws to bring the lead to two.
A defensive miscommunication between Buie and Kopp allowed Nebraska to convert an and-one with under a minute remaining. Down one point, Northwestern forced a shot-clock violation which gave them a final chance to score with 11.5 seconds left. Pete Nance’s layup bounced out, but Ryan Young gathered the offensive rebound and made a layup to put the Wildcats up with 2.7 seconds remaining and seal the game.
Webster had a career day for the Huskers, scoring 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Each active player on Nebraska’s roster scored during the game.
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, the ‘Cats will now attempt to make a postseason run in the Big Ten Tournament, as they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. CT.