Carroll: What Northwestern’s win over Nebraska means moving forward


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Boo Buie goes up for a shot. The freshman helped Northwestern to its first win in 14 games over Nebraska on Sunday.

Gabriela Carroll, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

With its win Sunday against Nebraska, Northwestern is up to 13th place in the Big Ten, a small victory in an otherwise disappointing season.

At the end of regulation, the Wildcats (7-21, 2-16 Big Ten) struggled to keep their lead against the Cornhuskers (7-22, 2-16 Big Ten), and it seemed like NU was about to blow another big chance. But during the overtime period, the Cats finally found a way to win and took the game 81-76.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys out there who are going through this for the first time,” Collins said. “They’re trying to figure it out. At the end of regulation, looking at our guys’ eyes, I just saw they were really determined. They didn’t look rattled.”

After losing 12 straight games, NU needed a win. Collins said after Thursday’s Illinois game that it only takes one, and the Cats were finally able to find something like a breakthrough and win another Big Ten game.

Moving forward, NU plays Wisconsin and Penn State next week, two of the top contenders in the Big Ten. A win against Nebraska, the worst team in the Big Ten, doesn’t guarantee a strong finish to the season — the Cats’ last win, 14 games ago, was also against Nebraska — it may provide a confidence boost for a squad with nothing left to play for but pride.

NU did not have its best performance of the season, committing 20 turnovers, but because of the Cornhuskers’ poor foul-shooting, the Cats got the opportunity in overtime to rectify the mistakes they’d made in the final minutes.

Against Maryland on Jan. 21, NU showed it has the ability to compete with the top programs in the Big Ten — at halftime, the team was up by 14 points, but was unable to close out the game. If the Cats use Sunday’s game against Nebraska as a lesson of the intensity required to win in competitive games late, they may have a shot in their last two games.

“You can’t practice (closing out games),” Collins said after his team’s January game against Nebraska. “We can put three minutes on the clock in practice, but it’s not the same. The only way you can get better is by going out there and succeeding.”

In order for NU to be a contender next season, it must play better than it did against the Cornhuskers Sunday. But for a young group of guys who have struggled to figure out how to win games, the win is a tangible sign of the growth Collins has seen throughout the season.

“It’s been a while for both of us to taste winning,” Collins said. “Although the play at times had turnovers and missed shots, you could tell it mattered to both teams. I was really proud of our group to gut it out.”

Gabriela Carroll is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @gablcarroll