Men’s Basketball: Wildcats look for first Big Ten win against Nebraska


Daily file photo by Doreen Du

Pete Nance looks to make a pass. Northwestern will look for its first Big Ten win of the season on Saturday.

John Riker, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

In the Big Ten, wins don’t come easily.

Northwestern had its chance at one on Wednesday, up by as many as 10 points in the second half of a road matchup against Indiana, but squandered its lead as the Hoosiers (12-3, 2-2 Big Ten) denied the Wildcats (5-8, 0-4) their first conference win of the season.

Even in the loss, the Cats gave reason for reason for optimism with their strong performance against the favored Hoosiers. They’ll try to carry that and put one in the conference record win column come Saturday against Nebraska, in what may be their best opportunity at a Big Ten win to date.

“For them to come out and execute the way they did and put us in a position to win the game late, there’s a lot of positives from that,” coach Chris Collins said. “But now, you’ve got to then get over the hump. Being close can’t be enough. It can’t be okay to just play really well and lose a close game.”

Guard play — namely, the return of senior A.J. Turner from a lower body injury — was crucial to NU’s performance. After having only one guard play significant minutes in a loss to Minnesota on Jan. 5, NU benefited from the return of Turner to its backcourt.

The senior contributed 12 points in 32 minutes and helped take the burden off graduate transfer guard Pat Spencer, who led the Cats with 15 points. Turner also provided experience — something that has been hard to come by for NU’s young roster.

The loss to the Hoosiers continued a troubling trend on the glass. Though NU has one of the tallest lineups in the nation, the Cats surrendered 15 offensive rebounds and have been outrebounded by double-digit margins in losses to Minnesota and Indiana this week.

“Our physicality with some of these young guys isn’t where some of these veteran teams are, but we’ve got to collectively do a much better job on the glass,” Collins said. “You can’t be giving these guys extra possessions.”

The Cornhuskers (7-8, 2-2) boast two conference wins on their resume, but enter Saturday’s contest as the only team in the conference with a lower BPI ranking than NU — ranking 147th in the country to the Cats’ 123rd. Nebraska has battled inconsistency, alternating wins and losses over its past six games, but is coming off a 76-70 upset over Iowa.

NU will take the court hoping to avoid its first 0-5 conference start under Collins and build momentum in the thick of conference play.

“We’ve got a real young group that’s trying to learn how to win, and sometimes it can be tough in a brutal league like the Big Ten,” Collins said. “We’re on the right track. We’ve got to continue the effort, and we have to find a way to get over the hump and start closing some of these games.”

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