EVANSTON, IL. — Yes, even the Wildcats can cruise an easy conference win every now and then.
The beatdown was spearheaded by non other than Pete Nance, who put on a show with his much-improved three-point shot and finished with a game-high 20 points for good measure. Guards Bryce McGowens and Alonzo Verge Jr. were the lone bright spots for Nebraska throughout, finishing with 15 points apiece.
Like you’d expect with the conference’s perennial basement dweller in town, it was all ‘Cats early on, with Chase Audige and Pete Nance combining for nine quick points all in the first three minutes. Boo Buie got in on the fun as well, cashing in back-to-back triples that fell clean through the net and gave Northwestern a 15-7 lead at the first break in the action.
Similar to the first time these two squads faced off back in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers just could not muster anything on the offensive end of the floor. Through the first 12 minutes of the play, the ‘Huskers were a putrid 5-for-16 on attempts from the field and had yet to attempt a single free throw.
However, the ‘Cats themselves were far from perfect in the scoring department, with less-than-stellar three-point shooting leaving the door ever so slightly open for Nebraska with a 26-15 lead at the under-eight timeout.
The cold spell continued for the ‘Cats following the break, and Nebraska took advantage. Alonzo Verge drove on Buie twice and was rewarded with four points. Additionally, he came up with multiple steals and chances in transition in a short stretch. Fortunately for Northwestern, big threes were made by both Audige and Robbie Beran after the ‘Huskers’ surge, giving NU a 34-23 edge as halftime approached.
Verge continued to push Nebraska back into the game, however. The Arizona State transfer abused Northwestern’s defense at the point of attack, constantly driving to his strong hand and getting layup after layup. More sloppy play and turnovers from the ‘Cats on offense only shrunk the lead more, and the home team entered the half up 37-31 despite absolutely dominating the early portions of the contest.
Needing a spark for the offense, Northwestern turned to its superstar in Nance, who delivered with a quick five points to open up the second half. But another defensive adjustment from Nebraska (this time a shift to a 1-3-1 zone) gave the visitors a short boost, though NU still led 48-36 at the first media timeout of the second period.
The game eventually slowed with the officials blowing their whistles a lot more often than they had in the first half, but no matter what transpired on the court, Nebraska never garnered enough momentum to have a real shot at winning, and another triple from Nance — one off four makes from deep on the night — put Northwestern up 60-43 with just under 11 minutes left in the game. More hot shooting from Nance and smothering defense from the whole team pushed the lead even further.
The 1-3-1 Nebraska press returned late in the action and did give NU some problems, forcing turnovers and causing general disruption within the Wildcat offense, and that, combined with big threes by Verge and Cody Webster, trimmed Northwestern’s lead to single digits with just 1:46 remaining. After a double technical was assessed to both Buie and Lat Mayen, Audige hit a big pull-up jumper to cap off a 14-point performance and ultimately seal the win for Northwestern.
The men’s basketball team is back in action on Friday night when they travel to State College in hopes of avenging a prior loss in a rematch against Penn State.