Northwestern came into Thursday night's game desperately seeking a win and although it wasn’t pretty, they got the job done. Northwestern let Nebraska, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, hang around too long before finally dispatching them 84-74.
1-3-1 - Northwestern played a 1-3-1 zone for most of the game, which gave Nebraska plenty of open three-point shots. For the first half, those shots didn’t matter too much as Nebraska converted only 4-13 attempts, but the Cornhuskers got hot in the second half and seemed to have an answer for every Northwestern basket. In fact, Nebraska came out of halftime shooting 5-5 from deep, but then cooled off and Northwestern pulled away. Still, letting the Cornhuskers heat up was something that can’t happen down the road against better teams. It’s no surprise that Northwestern’s defense was poor, as it has been that way all season, but it’s something that needs to be fixed if the 'Cats want to turn the season around.
3 - Conversely, Northwestern was very hot from behind the arc and made plenty of three-pointers to stay ahead the whole way. Eleven of their first 12 shots were three-pointers as the team refused to go inside the paint at all. Northwestern started off with a small lineup with Shurna as the tallest player on the court, meaning that all five Northwestern starters were threats from beyond the arc.
5,239 - The crowd for Thursday’s game was pathetic, as only 5,239 people showed up. Yes, playing Nebraska is a hard game to get excited for - especially with Northwestern coming off three straight losses - but the season isn’t over yet and Northwestern students need to support their team. In a game where Northwestern was battling the whole night, a packed house would have helped a lot.
Sixth man of the game: Davide Curletti
The lone big man to play for Northwestern didn’t seem to contribute much offensively at first glance, but Curletti actually played a crucial role in Northwestern’s success as he led the team with eight assists. Although many fans would like to see him score more, his role in the Princeton offense is to be a good passer. A big man that can pass the ball is one of the keys to Carmody’s offense working well, and it’s safe to say to say that Curletti did his job against the Cornhuskers.
Play of the game:
John Shurna’s layup with just over a minute left expanded Northwestern’s lead to five and finally put Nebraska away. The Cornhuskers had come back and cut the deficit to three points. It looked like Northwestern might choke the game away, but Northwestern’s best player stepped up when it mattered the most to give NU a crucial win.
Where does Northwestern stand?
Northwestern is now 3-6 in conference play and still has a chance to turn around what has so far been a disappointing season. The 'Cats still have a lot of work to do but Thursday was a nice start because it was a must-win game and probably the easiest game left on the schedule. The team now heads to Champaign, Ill., to face the Illini. The last time the two teams faced off, Northwestern lost a heartbreaker when Meyers Leonard blocked Drew Crawford’s shot at the buzzer. Although the Illini will be favored, it’s a game where Northwestern can pull off an upset - something they’ll have to start doing if they want to realize their season-long goal of making the tournament.