Shields, Parker Set Tone as Huskers Slug Out Win vs. Wildcats

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

As we head into March and the madness begins, the Huskers avoided some of their own by knocking off the Northwestern Wildcats in a slugfest, 54-47.

There wasn't much that was attractive about this game, except the final outcome, if you're a fan of the Nebraska "basketeers". Or maybe the charging call drawn by Benny Parker in the final seconds. Perhaps the 1911-12 throwbacks were your cup of tea. Regardless, it wasn't a game that was going to hold the attention of a basketball fan without a vested interest in the outcome, and if you're Nebraska, in search of every win you can get, it looks just fine.

The Huskers, looking to rebound after falling to Illinois Wednesday and an off night from its big three of Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford and Shavon Shields, had to grind out a low scoring, physical, at times choppy game, en route to a 54-47 win and what would be the #4 seed in the Big Ten tournament if the season ended today (it doesn't). It looked early on as if the conference's leading scorer, Petteway was going to have his way early, scoring seven quick points, but that was not to be the case. Northwestern put their own star, Drew Crawford, on him, neutralizing him to a paltry 10 points.

Fortunately, others were more than willing and ready to step into that void. Shields led the way with 17 points and his second double-double in three games. Pitchford chipped in 10 as well, but the play of Parker might have just made the difference today. His increased aggressiveness led to seven points, but it was his defense that again got everyone's attention. The Huskers had built an 11 point lead, 49-38 only to see the Wildcats go on a 9-2 run, cutting that lead to four with 1:18 to play after Drew Crawford hit a three. A Petteway turnover gave the Wildcats an opportunity to cut further into the lead and make the 15,978 in attendance get very, very nervous. But Parker was not about to let that happen. With Northwestern frantically trying to score, Parker stayed disciplined, cutting off lanes for NW guard Sanjay Lupkin who was attempting to slice up the Husker defense, was able to get in front of him as he turned the corner, flattening Parker in the process. The whistle blew, the referee indicated an offensive foul and delirium ensued. A Shields free throw and break away dunk sealed the deal and the Huskers were back in the win column.

The win keeps the Huskers NCAA tournament chances alive as they head to Bloomington Wednesday evening, looking to take another step in the direction of the Big Dance. It doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to be a W.

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