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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern’s comeback effort is too little, too late in 78-66 loss to Nebraska

After trailing for most of the game, Northwestern came up short in a last minute effort.

It was too little, too late as the ‘Cats cut a 22-point deficit to seven in the last quarter.

Despite a furious comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter, the Big Ten struggles continued as Northwestern (8-15, 1-11 B1G) lost 78-66 to Nebraska (14-9, 6-6 B1G) on Monday night at home.

Isabelle Bourne led the effort for the Huskers with 18 points and eight rebounds, shooting 5-of-11 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Alexis Markowski put up a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Sam Haiby and Jaz Shelley also reached double-figures, with 17 and 12 points respectively. Shelley also picked up eight rebounds and seven assists.

For Northwestern, Paige Mott put up 13 points, and Sydney Wood and Courtney Shaw trailed closely behind with 12. The ‘Cats struggled throughout the game to find consistency, struggling to shoot, fouling frequently and never finding their stride. It wasn’t until the remaining minutes that the Wildcats showed intensity and a competitive spirit with their ferocious full-court press. Northwestern shot 21-of-66, while Nebraska shot 21-of-51 on the night.

The ‘Cats started off slow and messy. Within just 36 seconds, Mott recorded two personal fouls. The first came right after the Huskers won the tip-off, allowing Bourne to sink two free throws. The Huskers then got ahead quickly 7-0, before Kaylah Rainey sank a three at the eight-minute mark to put the ‘Cats on the board.

On Nebraska’s subsequent drive, Caileigh Walsh forced a turnover, but a defensive rebound brought the ball back to the other side of the court, where Bourne made a layup for her ninth point in less than four minutes of game time.

Following a Northwestern time-out, Nebraska continued to pile on the shots, making the score 14-3. Shaw was brought to the free-throw line but missed both opportunities, leading to a Nebraska three-pointer. The ‘Cats failed to find the basket again, allowing for yet another three, giving the Huskers a commanding 20-3 lead.

On a layup, Caroline Lau found the net for just the second Northwestern basket of the day and initiated a much-needed shooting streak. Before Nebraska made another basket, Alana Goodchild sank a shot from the corner and Walsh a three to make the score 22-10.

After a Husker three-pointer, Sydney Wood notched one of her own. Back-and-forth up and down the court action continued without a score before Mott was fouled and optimized both shooting opportunities to cut the lead to 10 at 25-15.

At the one-minute mark, Mott committed her third foul of the game, which led to two more baskets for the Huskers. The ‘Cats got the ball with 20 seconds left, but a missed shot led to another Nebraska three. The Huskers extended their lead to 30-15 to close out the first quarter.

It took over a minute and four possession changes before Bourne made the first basket of the second quarter — her fourth on four shots. Walsh then responded with a three-pointer, making the score 32-18.

Over three minutes and 11 possession changes later, Rainey finally ended a long scoring drought with a layup. She then stole the ball back on an interception, allowing Jillian Brown to make a three and bring the score 32-23.

Northwestern’s first foul of the second quarter came at the 3:31 mark and allowed for two Nebraska free throws — making for the Huskers’ first points in over five minutes.

A traveling call brought the ‘Cats back the ball, and some strategic passing set up a layup for Wood. Before the half ended, the Huskers put up another three to extend their lead to 12 at 37-15.

The first half was marked by slow play and poor shots for the ‘Cats. There were 15 turnovers and 30 defensive rebounds, and while Nebraska made 12 of 32 shots, Northwestern made only 9 of 31.

The scoring started off quickly with Nebraska responding to a basket by Mott. Shaw was brought to the free-throw line, where she made one of the two shots. Similarly, Bourne was soon after also fouled, where she made only one shot, moving to 12 points on the night.

For the first non-free-throw basket in over three minutes, a jumper extended Nebraska’s lead to 42-28.

Out of a timeout, Mott sank two free throws, but the Huskers then found a short shooting streak with a three-pointer, a layup and a free throw in less than a minute. Walsh made a layup before another Husker basket made the score 50-32.

Before the quarter ended, Mott added a pair of free throws. and Nebraska added two three-pointers for a 56-34 lead.

Shaw began the remaining 10 minutes with intensity, making two layups and a free throw in less than a minute.

Over two minutes into the fourth, the Huskers found their first point of the quarter on a free throw and then soon after made a layup for a 20-point lead at 59-39. But the ‘Cats found themselves on a shooting streak, cutting the deficit to 15.

A free throw from Nebraska ended the streak, but then a steal from Lau unleashed a Northwestern shooting reign. NU’s full-court press set up Wood for two layups, and then a foul on Bourne brought the grad student to the free-throw line for a basket. Shaw then stole the ball back and was fouled, where she made both shots, and Wood grabbed a basket of her own to close in on the Huskers' lead, which stood at 60-53.

Feeling the pressure, Nebraska added three points to the board, and Rainey responded with three points of her own. Bourne went on to make two free throws for the Huskers, to which Mott responded with a layup to stay within seven of Nebraska, which led 65-58.

The remaining minutes were the battle of the free throws, which brought the score to 72-61. The Huskers added three, the ‘Cats added two, the Huskers added two... and so on. Wood finally broke the streak with a layup.

In the final minute, Nebraska, unsurprisingly, made four free throws to close out the win. From there, the teams continued to trade free throws and Mott made a basket until the final buzzer.

Northwestern hosts No. 8 Maryland on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CT, where it will look for a much-needed home win. You can watch the action on the Big Ten Network.