The Nebraska Cornhuskers led by as much as 15 points in the first half, but the high-performing squad fans watched last week disappeared in a return to old ways in the second half and fell for the third time to the Northwestern Wildcats, 71-69. The Huskers season is officially over with the loss, finishing the year 10-22, 4-16 in Big Ten action.
Final from Indianapolis. pic.twitter.com/zq6ovAwjYv— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) March 10, 2022
In his last game in a Nebraska jersey, senior point guard Alonzo Verge Jr. led both teams in scoring with 21 points and also dished a team high nine assists, falling just shy of a double-double. Verge was all over the stat sheet, though, tying for the team high in rebounds (7) and steals (4) while playing a game high by any player of 38 minutes.
All-Freshman Bryce McGowens played tonight after missing the game Sunday at Wisconsin with a wrist injury, but clearly struggled with the lingering injury. The younger McGowens, in what might also be his final game in a Husker jersey, scored just six points in 32 minutes, going 0-for-3 from three-point range and just 2-for-10 from the field overall.
Derrick Walker finished the game with 16 points, good for second in scoring for Nebraska. He fouled out late in the game, but tied with Lat Mayen and Verge for the team-high in boards with seven and led the team in blocks with two. Walker went 8-for-9 from the free throw line as well. No other Husker hit double figures in scoring, but Lat Mayen fell just shy with nine points, going 3-for-6 from the field including 1-for-3 from three-point range.
UNL got on the scoreboard first in quick fashion, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first two minutes of game action before Northwestern battled back to tie it up at 6 and then take a brief lead 7-6 thanks to a pair of free throws by Pete Nance with 15:35 left in the half.
The game was a back and forth affair for the next seven minutes before Nebraska seized control, mounting a 15-2 run capped by a Trey McGowen free throw after he made a fast break layup and drew the foul for an and one attempt with 3:45 left in the first half. Northwestern managed to trim the lead to 12 twice in the final minutes before a layup by Verge sent the Huskers into the locker room leading 39-25.
Offense was fast in coming to open the second half as both teams scored quickly and often in the opening minutes. Northwestern managed to cut the Husker lead to just two minutes into the half, but Nebraska quickly righted the ship and pushed its lead back to 15 again with 15:28 remaining on a three-pointer by Kobe Webster.
From there, cold shooting struck yet again for Nebraska as NU mounted a 14-0 run whilst the Huskers went scoreless for 4:11 of game play before a jumper in the paint by Verge staunched the bleeding. UNL managed to push its lead back out to as much as five three more times, but floundered in the final seven minutes of game action.
The Wildcats seized the lead back with 6:24 remaining, up 63-62 on a three-pointer by Boo Buie, the first time NU led since the 11:58 mark in the first half. A pair of free throws by Walker with 6:03 seized the lead back as both teams failed to score for almost a minute and a half of action, but a layup by Ryan Young gave Northwestern the narrow 65-64 lead with 4:39 remaining and NU never trailed again.
Nebraska managed to tie the game up with 1:01 remaining thanks to a pair of free throws by Verge, but the Huskers closed out the game going just 1-for-7 from the field. The Huskers had chances in the final moments, but door decision making on offense led to poor shot selection with too much time remaining and offensive fouls. Fans may point to some of the calls late and try to claim that the refs or the Big Ten lost this one, but poor play by Nebraska is all there is to blame, unfortunately.
The Huskers fell to Northwestern for the third time this season and the first time in Big Ten Tournament play. The Wildcats win also marks the sixth-straight in the series dating back to 2019-2020. The Huskers will head into the off-season with lots of work to do when Nebraska returns to the court next fall for Fred Hoiberg’s fourth season at the helm.