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Nebrasketball: Thrilling Husker Comeback Falls Short to Northwestern

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Hoiberg and his Huskers showed heart in coming back from down 17, but it wasn’t enough.

Omaha World-Herald

Fresh off a big upset win over Iowa, Nebraska will look to hit a .500 and a 3-2 record five games into their conference schedule. They are visiting the struggling Northwestern Wildcats, who have struggled in their five-game losing streak, including being the only Big Ten team without a win.

In those five losses, however, four of them were by five points or less, so the test may be a little tougher for a Husker squad that has lost to Southern Utah and North Dakota, among others. Should be an interesting game.

Northwestern got the game going early, scoring a quick two to open it up. Dachon Burke, Jr. scored a step-back to match, but was the only Husker bucket on five attempts in the first two minutes. But the next minute saw a steal-turned-dunk by Haanif Cheatham and then a transition three by Burke to go up 7-2.

The Wildcats’ offense began to answer over the next four minutes, going on a 12-2 run to take a lead, up 14-9 with 13 minutes left to play. Thorir Thorbjarnarson, who hit a couple deep threes against Iowa, answered, hitting yet another deep three, cutting the lead down to two points. The teams traded threes as the only points for nearly two minutes, Northwestern up 20-18.

The Huskers struggled out of the break, with Northwestern went on another run, this time scoring eight as Nebraska only scored one, taking a 28-19 with only eight minutes left in the half. Nearly three minutes later, the Huskers had still not scored, with the drought reaching nearly five minutes. Northwestern scored four more, to take a 13-point lead.

And finally the drought was broken after six minutes! Kevin Cross hit a three to after Northwestern bumped the lead up to 17. Huskers down 36-22 with four to go in the half. Out of the TV timeout, Burke got two steals, one of which ended with a dunk from himself and the other a missed three.

That missed three was cashed in by Northwestern on the other end, twice, extending their lead to a game-high 18. Cross answered with another deep shot to end yet another Wildcat run. They would take that 15-point lead into the half, up 42-27.

Yvan Ouedrago started off the second half with a quick two, but the second continued for Northwestern like it did in the first, with another three. Yvan and Cheatham scored quick buckets to cut that Northwestern lead to just 12 just under two minutes into the half. A gorgeous pass by Cam Mack to Cheatham and a wild layup by Thor put that lead at just eight, Huskers down 47-39 with 15 to go.

The next three minutes saw little of note for the Huskers (except a nice Cam Mack block on a jump shot), while Northwestern was able to score four more, extending the lead back out to 12. An and-1 drive by Mack put that lead at nine with less than 12 minutes to go.

But here came another timely three-pointer for the Wildcats stretched it right back to 12. A charge on Thor (which resulted in a Cross dunk) led right into another score for the Wildcats, who were up 14 again with nine minutes left.

Matej Kavas, silent for most of the game, made a pair of free throws and a three-pointer in the next two minutes to pull back within single digits with seven minutes to go. Couldn’t seem to get over the hill yet again, as Robbie Beran scored his tenth for the Wildcats and a Cheatham drive resulted in another charge call. Cam got a free throw, but Ryan Young jump hook put it at 12 again with under four to go.

Just when you think they are out, Kavas pulls them back in, as hit hit another deep shot to cut it to nine. Cross didn’t want to be left out of the party, as he hit another triple himself. Huskers only down six with under three minutes left in the half. 60-54, Wildcats.

Cross fouled Young, who missed the first of a one-and-one, but Northwestern grabbed the rebound. Tough defense left the Wildcats with a tough three that went out of bounds on a rebound. Husker ball with two minutes to go. Cross missed the three and an iffy foul call on Thor led to another one-and-one. Wildcats missed and Burke ended up with the ball, who was fouled on the break.

Cam Mack drove in and was smothered. Northwestern was eventually fouled and missed again. Mack had finally had enough and shot a desperation three, which he banked in. Huskers only down three (somehow) with 50 seconds to go.

Northwestern ran down the clock and tried one final three, which was another miss. Huskers grab the rebound and look to tie the game with 22 seconds to go. A few screens led to a seemingly-open shot by Burke, but the defense closed quickly (and, perhaps, on a hand on the elbow) and he airballed.

Wildcats made two free throws and that was all she wrote. Exciting comeback and good heart shown by the Huskers, but they fall short, 62-57. Northwestern snaps their losing streak, gets their first Big Ten win this year and second win in 13 games decided by five or less the last two seasons.

Huskers fall to 7-9 on the season and 2-3 in Big Ten play. Road Big Ten teams are now 5-30 on the season. Huskers travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the skidding Ohio State Buckeyes on Tuesday.