Men’s Basketball: Nebraska brings Northwestern’s conference run to a halt

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Anyone who follows Northwestern sports knows everything can’t go right for too long.

The Wildcats’ impressive run of Big Ten victories came to a halting stop Saturday, when they lost to Nebraska (12-10, 4-6 Big Ten) 53-49 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The loss dropped NU to 12-12, 5-6 in conference and likely ended any optimistic hopes of an at-large NCAA Tournament appearance.

Entering Saturday, the Cats had won five of seven conference games to rise to fourth place in the standings. The matchup against Nebraska was considered a highly winnable one for NU.

“You’re very disappointed. We put everything into this game,” coach Chris Collins said. “When you care that much and you’re that invested, it hurts when you lose.”

The Cats led by 6 points early in the second half before Nebraska’s shots began to fall. The Cornhuskers used separate 11-2 and 8-0 runs to take a 40-32 lead with 8:28 to play and withstood a frenzied Cats comeback to win by 4.

NU’s offense, the team’s weakness all year, continued to struggle. The Cats missed a cascade of open 3-pointers from the corner on the way to 37 percent shooting for the game.

“It’s hard for us to score,” Collins said. “That’s not new. It’s been that way all year. That’s why when we do have an opportunity around the basket to finish or when we do have open looks or we do go to the free throw line, we have to make those. Our margin of error is so slim, and it’s very hard to expect yourself to win games when you score 49 points.”

Forward Drew Crawford, who had been enjoying one of his best offensive stretches of the season, shot poorly for most of the afternoon Saturday. The senior missed all four of his field goals in the first half and finished with 13 points of 4-of-13 shooting.

Junior guard JerShon Cobb, who led the team with 14 points, was the only other player in double figures. Cobb would have had 2 more if not for an apparent missed call on a Nebraska goaltend with six minutes left in the second half.

“It was a tough call,” Cobb said.

Nebraska forward and leading scorer Terran Petteway netted a game-high 17 points, though he needed 16 shots to get them against the Cats’ stingy defense. Forward Walter Pitchford pitched in with 15 points of his own, including 3-of-4 from long range.

NU made a dramatic game-tying run late in the second half after falling behind 8. Crawford hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and with the Welsh-Ryan crowd buzzing, sophomore guard Tre Demps drove for a game-tying layup.

The run appeared to be the latest instance of late-game heroics for the Cats, who had played well down the stretch to pull out close games throughout conference play. But the luck ran out Saturday. Pitchford and Petteway contributed a pair of 3s to give Nebraska the lead back, and in the end the Cornhuskers prevailed by 4.

“They hit a couple big shots down the stretch and we didn’t,” Collins said. “That was the difference. We had been making those shots those last few games. Today we got the game tied, and they hit incredible shots.”

NU has seven conference games to play, beginning Thursday at No. 9 Michigan State. Though the team’s postseason hopes are deflated, there’s still much to play for — including a possible NIT berth.

“Are we disappointed? Absolutely,” Collins said after the loss Saturday. “Are we defeated? No.”

Twitter: @AlexPutt02