Northwestern’s hotstreak finally fizzled out Saturday when it lost to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 53-49, in yet another down–to–the–wire conference game. In this nail–biter, the ‘Cats were able to come back from what was at one point an eight point lead, but couldn’t seal the deal.
Nebraska hit clutch three–pointers all game, including a backbreaker by Terran Petteway with 22 seconds to go that placed victory out of reach for the ‘Cats.
“I thought they played well,” head coach Chris Collins said. “Nebraska is pretty darn good. I thought we played our game. They hit a couple big shots down the stretch and we didn’t.”
In the first half, consistent double and triple teams by Nebraska neutralized senior Drew Crawford. Late in the game, however, he came alive, hitting two three-pointers. After his string of threes, the ‘Cats stormed back to tie it up late in the second half. But Nebraska’s threes were too much to overcome.
Junior JerShon Cobb led Northwestern with 14 points. Other than Cobb and Crawford, though, no one had more than seven points individually. They struggled to put points on the board, mostly because Nebraska limited Crawford in the first half.
“We felt like we couldn’t give Drew or Tre Demps any clean looks,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. “Those two guys will take over. Drew still did.”
The ‘Cats now have a 12–12 record on the season and a 5–6 conference record. During this streak the defense has been huge, and it was again today, forcing 12 turnovers, two blocks and six steals.
“They’re the best defensive team in the league,” Miles said.
But no matter how good the defense is, it’s difficult to win games against anyone when the offense fails to score 50 points. This was the first Big Ten game all year that the ‘Cats were the favorite, and they weren’t able to capitalize. Welsh-Ryan was packed to the brim with screaming fans that really helped fuel the fire behind the near-comeback.
“It was awesome,” Collins said. “So pleased with the turnout, and I was hoping that would be the case because that’s what my guys deserve.”
Northwestern now faces a tough test at No. 9 Michigan State on Thursday, so they’ll need to put this loss behind them and show up to play against a much better team. Despite the loss, Collins says his team played well.
“They won the game,” he said. ‘We didn’t lose it.”
- Fans: Welsh–Ryan was going absolutely nuts toward the end of this game and the team really fed off of it. After the questionable non–call for a block in Nebraska’s favor, the arena was electric for the rest of the game. From there, buckets by Crawford and Demps incited the crowd to a frenzy, which really helped drive the ‘Cats.
- Defense: As has been the case for much of the season, the ‘Cats were able to hold Nebraska to fewer than 60 points. They forced 12 turnovers and were able to limit the ‘Huskers offensively, which kept the ‘Cats in the game to the end. But even with a great defense, it’s tough to beat anyone while only scoring 49 points.
- Soul–2–Sole Dance Inc.: During the halftime show, a group of dancers from Soul–2–Sole Dance Inc. came out and showed the 8,000–plus fans how to get their groove on. Their performance was so spirited, it would give the Jabbawockeez a run for their money.
- Turnovers: While the defense was good at forcing turnovers, the offense was even better at giving them up. Today NU had 13 turnovers. In games that are so low scoring and so close, every possession matters. Ball security is key, especially late in the game.
- Scoring: When Crawford isn’t doing it, no one is. He was held to 13 points and no one was there to pick up the slack. The leader was Cobb with 14 points.
- Refs: There were a few questionable calls today, including the Nebraska goaltending non–call. Just a little before that, Northwestern had actually gotten called for a goaltend on a play that was almost as controversial. Collins and Cobb were quick to say that the refs called a good game, but that they didn’t agree with the call.