LINCOLN, Neb. — There was no throwing away a second half lead today.
Northwestern (11-10, 4-8 B1G) went up big early on Nebraska (6-17, 0-12 B1G) and never looked back, cruising to an 87-63 victory.
Boo Buie had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He also made six threes, tying his career high. Chase Audige added 16 points of his own.
The ‘Cats jumped out to an early 5-0 lead via a Buie layup and a Pete Nance three-pointer within the first minute of the game. Northwestern’s defense was stifling to start, forcing Nebraska into missed shots and turnovers, but it was unable to capitalize on that. A three-pointer by Husker guard Alonzo Verge evened the score at five, but Chase Audige responded with a three of his own to give Northwestern an 8-5 advantage heading into the first media timeout.
Coming out of the break, Verge hit two free throws. His teammate C.J. Wilcher continued the scoring by hitting a three on Nebraska’s next possession, giving the Huskers their first lead of the game at 10-8. Berry responded with two threes in a row of his own to give the ‘Cats the lead back, but Wilcher hit another three to make it 14-13 Northwestern with 13 minutes to go.
After starting 2-of-9 from three to start the game, Northwestern started heating up while Nebraska went cold. The ‘Cats went on a 16-2 run, spearheaded mostly by scoring from Greer, Young and Buie, to give them a 30-15 advantage with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
Wilcher stopped the bleeding momentarily with his third three of the half, but Berry responded with another of his own. Nebraska simply couldn’t find any offense of its own while Buie began to take over for Northwestern. The junior guard hit floaters in the lane and couldn’t miss from three, punching back every time the Huskers got a bucket.
With just over two minutes to play in the half, Wilcher hit a layup and Buie answered back with a triple to make it 46-25 Northwestern. He scored 11 of his team’s 13 points as the first half winded down. Both teams went scoreless for the ensuing minute of play, but then a Nance free throw gave the ‘Cats their biggest lead of the game at a 22-point advantage. The Huskers subsequently exploited Northwestern’s zone to find an easy layup, but Elyjah Williams drew a last second foul and hit both of his three throws to maintain his team’s 22-point lead going into halftime.
Buie picked up right where he left off to start the second half, hitting back-to-back threes to start the second half. However, the Huskers responded with three straight layups of their own coming from Verge and guards Trey Mcgowens and Bryce Mcgowens.
After a Chris Collins timeout, Audige forced a turnover and made a tough and-one layup in transition. A hook shot from Nebraska’s Derrick Walker cut its deficit back to 21, but Northwestern kept its foot on the gas and responded with a 7-0 run. A tough layup from Buie right before the under-12 media timeout gave Northwestern its largest lead of the game up until that point at 71-41.
The ‘Cats would keep their lead at around 30 points for the remainder of the game as they continued to get good looks and execute on the offensive end of the floor while contesting shots and forcing turnovers on defense. In fact, Northwestern was even able to extend its lead to 35 points with six minutes left in the game, in large part due to Chris Collins opting to keep most of his starters in until then.
With time winding down, the Wildcats went into autopilot, winding down the clock with its reserves and taking a 24-point win back to Evanston.
Northwestern will return to Welsh-Ryan Arena to take on Indiana next Tuesday at 8pm CT. You can catch the action on Big Ten Network.