The Nebraska Cornhuskers had a frustratingly sloppy performance to start out in their trip to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. The sole battle for “NU” in men’s hoops went the same way as football, though, and despite clawing back into it to take a late lead the Huskers couldn’t dig out of their own self-induced hole to double their conference win total from last season.
Nebraska committed nine turnovers in the first half, but also managed 5-for-14 from three point range including 2-for-3 by Thorir Thorbjarnarson. The Huskers finally cut the turnovers out of the half for the final 8:57 and went into the locker room trailing 39-30.
The second half was the Kobe Webster show from deep for Nebraska. Webster went 6-for-8 from deep, and led the team in scoring for the half with 20 points while finishing the game with 23 overall. The Huskers hit 9 total three point shots in the second half on 19 total attempts. In contrast, Nebraska attempted just 12 shots form two-point range.
The Huskers managed to take the lead with 4:14 to go on a second-chance jumper by Webster. Then with 3:53 left, Lay Mayen hit both of his free throws after drawing the foul by NU’s Pete Nance on a fast break attempt to push Nebraska’s lead to three. A Webster jumper with 3:16 left even pushed it out to four, up 73-69. The two NU’s traded buckets with a layup by Nance and a second-chance by Derrick Walker to make it 75-71 Nebraska with 2:22 to go.
Then disaster struck for Nebraska as the Wildcats ate away the Husker lead and retook it and extended it out as far as 77-75 with a free throw by Boo Buie with 1:11 left. Nebraska tied it back up at 77 on a layup by Trey McGowens with 1:00 left. McGowens also drew the foul by Buie and hit the free throw to give Nebraska the lead 78-77.
NU’s Ryan Young missed a layup attempt, but grabbed his own rebound and draw a foul by Walker. He went to the line on a 1-and-1, but missed and Thorbjarnarson got the rebound. Nebraska couldn’t do anything on offense and drew a shot clock violation for the turnover with :11 left in the game. After a Wildcats timeout, Nance missed a layup attempt with :03 but got his own rebound and gave NU the go-ahead on the second-chance shot. Trailing now 79-78, Nebraska’s Webster tried a last second three that missed and the Huskers fall to NU.
McGowens was second in scoring for Nebraska with 15, while Walker and Thor finished with 8. Thor led the team in assists (6) and rebounds (8), while Walker and Mayen both notched 2 steals apiece and Walker added a block. The Huskers managed 14 points off NU turnovers, while the Wildcats managed just 13. NU’s bench outscored Nebraska’s 32-17 and in the paint 30-17.
Northwestern’s win also evens the overall series with the Wildcats at 9-9. NU has beaten Nebraska the last four times at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and has now won seven of the last nine meetings overall in the series. Chris Collins also got his seventh win over Nebraska, marking the most over a single opponent since he started in Evanston for the 2013-14 season. The last Husker win in the series was a 59-50 win over NU in Lincoln on Feb. 16, 2019.
Nebraska finishes the regular season 7-19 overall and 3-16 in Big Ten action. Despite suffering unfortunate setbacks with a COVID-19 outbreak in January and playing through a grueling and brutal condensed schedule, the team improved dramatically down over the final weeks of the season. With just two days rest, however, not including travel to Indianapolis, the team has at least one game left on the season. Ideally it won’t see the season end like how the 2019-2020 season did for Nebraska last year with the cancelation of March Madness as the novel coronavirus outbreak gripped the country.
The Cornhuskers will be the 14th seed in the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season. They will face the Penn State Nittany Lions on Wednesday night 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Minnesota-Northwestern game that tips at 6:30 p.m. EST. The game will air on the Big Ten Network. The Huskers split the series with PSU this season, winning 62-61 in State College and falling in the rematch in Lincoln 86-83.