basketball Edit

Northwestern torches Huskers again in rematch, 77-65

Nebraska showed a little more fight on Tuesday night than the 24-point drubbing Northwestern laid on it in the first meeting in Lincoln three weeks ago.

But the road rematch was all-too-familiar for the Huskers, as they saw a four-point second-half deficit end in a 77-65 defeat in Evanston.

Like the previous matchup, the Wildcats torched NU for 13 made 3-pointers and a 39-21 scoring advantage overall from behind the arc.

On the other end, Nebraska shot just 29.2 percent from downtown (7-of-24), turned it over 15 times, and finished just 14-of-28 on layups.

The loss dropped the Huskers to 7-20 overall and 1-15 in Big Ten play, while Northwestern improved to 13-13, 6-11. It also solidified a third straight 20-loss season in head coach Fred Hoiberg’s first three years in Lincoln.

Bryce McGowens set the Nebraska freshman scoring record, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep up with Northwestern in another lopsided defeat.
Bryce McGowens set the Nebraska freshman scoring record, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep up with Northwestern in another lopsided defeat. (Associated Press)

Nebraska started the game with the same focus and energy as it did in the first meeting, falling behind 24-10 midway through the first half.

But the Huskers buckled down and ended the half by making their final four shots and trimming a 14-point deficit down to 37-31 going into the break.

Alonzo Verge Jr. scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half to help NU overcome eight turnovers that led to eight points for the Wildcats.

A layup by Lat Mayen to open the second half got Nebraska as close as four, but then Northwestern answered with a 13-3 run and pushed its lead back up to 50-36.

Four more Wildcat 3-pointers and a five-minute Husker scoring drought pushed the deficit to as many as 21 with just over seven minutes remaining.

A late 8-0 run got NU back within nine points with 1:42 left, but it wasn’t nearly enough to avoid yet another disappointing defeat.

Verge and Bryce McGowens led Nebraska with 15 points each, while Kobe Webster added 13 off the bench. Derrick Walker scored just two points but hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds along with five assists.

Pete Nance led all scorers with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including going 4-for-5 on 3-pointers and dished out five assists. Boo Buie and Chase Audige added 15 points apiece with a combined five made threes.


1. Nebraska’s defense continues to be awful

It wouldn’t have mattered if Nebraska was playing Northwestern or the Phoenix Suns with how it defended in its first loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 5.

While Hoiberg made it clear his team had to play significantly better defense to have a chance in Tuesday night’s rematch, NU did little to improve in that area and got burned once again.

After giving up a whopping 13 made 3-pointers to Northwestern in the previous meeting, Nebraska continued to be lazy on its close-outs and perimeter rotations and was constantly confused on pick-and-roll switches.

That led to countless wide-open looks for the Wildcats from behind the arc, and they cashed in for 13 more made threes.

The Huskers owned a 35-31 rebounding advantage (11-7 on offensive boards) and outscored Northwestern in the paint (28-24) and points off turnovers (14-12).

But because NU defended the perimeter and adjusted on pick-and-rolls so poorly, none of that mattered. The Wildcats averaged 1.167 points per possession and scored on 48.5% of their 66 trips down the court.

2. New defensive wrinkles helped a little

For the first time this season, Nebraska threw out some new defensive looks with a 1-3-1 zone and 3/4-court press.

Hoiberg said both wrinkles were put in leading up to the Northwestern game and hadn’t been used all season.

In fact, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins confirmed during his post-game press conference that he hadn’t seen the Huskers run a 1-3-1 all year based on the film he had watched.

The Huskers threw the change-up late in the first half and then again early in the second. It seemed to give the Wildcats problems initially, as it sparked NU’s comeback to get within six at halftime.

Northwestern came into the game as one of the best teams in the country in ball security, ranking sixth nationally in offensive turnovers percentage (13.8) and fourth in offensive steal percentage (6.6).

Of the Wildcats’ 12 turnovers on Tuesday night, nine came off of Nebraska steals.

3. McGowens is in the record books

There was at least one bit of good news for Nebraska on Tuesday night, as Bryce McGowens officially passed the great Dave Hoppen as the program’s all-time freshman scoring leader.

His 15 points in the loss moved him up to 452 on the season, passing Hoppen’s mark of 445 set back in 1982-83. McGowens reached that mark in 27 games compared to Hoppen’s 32.

With 13:07 left in the second half, McGowens hit the second of two free throws to give him nine points for the game and 446 for the year, breaking the record.

The former five-star prospect came into the Northwestern game leading all Big Ten freshmen in scoring at 16.8 ppg. He’s currently on pace to finish among the top-eight freshmen scoring leaders in conference history.

Over the last 30 years, only seven Big Ten freshmen have averaged at least 15.5 ppg in a season.

On Monday, he moved into a tie for the second-most Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors ever with his seventh of the season. Only Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger (12) had more.


"He's continued to work and continued to get better. You see how much better he's playing with physicality. For him to improve the way he has, says everything you need to know about Bryce and his work ethic."
— Head coach Fred Hoiberg on Bryce McGowens' development this season to ultimately set the NU freshman scoring record.