Rapid Recap: Northwestern 79, Nebraska 78


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore forward Robbie Beran backs down a Nebraska defender. Beran scored 11 points in the Cats’ win, their third consecutive victory.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern entered their final home game against Nebraska with the opportunity to finish their Big Ten regular season slate the way they started it — with three straight wins.

Despite leading for most of regulation, the Wildcats found themselves down 78-77 in the waning seconds. Ryan Young made a putback layup with 2.7 seconds left in regulation to give the Cats a 79-78 victory and finish off NU’s regular season on a high note.

After a quiet start in which neither team scored the first three minutes, NU took control by scoring on five straight possessions. The Cats’ defense amped up the pace and forced five Nebraska turnovers through the first six minutes en route an early 11-5 lead.

The Cornhuskers closed the NU lead to a possession before another dominant offensive run by the Cats blew the game open. NU made eight consecutive field goals, hitting on both drives to the basket and from three-point range, to extend their lead into double digits.

Though Nebraska closed its deficit to single digits by halftime by getting to the free throw line — the Huskers had 11 first-half free throw attempts to zero for the Cats — NU enjoyed one of its finest offensive halves of the season with 54.8 percent free throw shooting to take a 39-30 advantage into the break.

Nebraska answered with an offensive tear to open the second half, sinking a pair of threes and a layup to get back in the game and cut the Cats’ lead to a possession. The Huskers maintained their hot shooting, but NU kept pace, with one streak of three consecutive three-point makes boosting the Cats’ lead from one-possession back up to double-digits.

NU couldn’t break away, and a scoring drought of over four minutes by the Cats’ offense allowed Nebraska to climb back into striking range. The Huskers inflicted their damage from deep, hitting eight three-pointers in the half, including seven by Kobe Webster. A Webster jumper completed the rally and gave the Huskers a 68-67 lead with just over four minutes remaining, Nebraska’s first lead since the opening minutes.

With 1:30 left, junior forward Pete Nance hit a sky hook to give the Cats a 76-75 lead. Sophomore guard Boo Buie got to the line with a chance to extend NU’s lead and made one of two, but was called for a foul on the defensive end for a Nebraska go-ahead and-one basket.

The Cats had one last chance at the win with 11.5 seconds remaining in regulation. Nance’s sky hook was off the mark, but sophomore center Ryan Young collected the offensive rebound and made the go-ahead putback with 2.7 seconds left. Webster’s last-second three-point attempt clanked off the rim to seal the win for the Cats.


1. Offense dominates
The story of the day was the offense. NU had their highest scoring output of its Big Ten schedule. The Cats shared the wealth, too — five Cats hit double figures, including freshman guard Ty Berry off the bench. For the Huskers, Webster was unstoppable in the second half with 20 of his game-high 23 points coming after the halftime break. In the final minutes, the Cats’ offense finished the deal, climbing back from a four-point deficit on a three-pointer from sophomore guard Chase Audige and the sky hook by Nance. In the end, it was NU’s hero against Maryland, Young, who finished the deal with the winning lay-in.

2. Kopp gets back on the stat sheet
NU had plenty of positives in their upset win over Maryland, but Miller Kopp’s performance — 0-11 from the field, 0-8 from three — was not one of them. Kopp did not hesitate to take open looks to open the day and missed four shot attempts in the first five minutes, but he found his rhythm as the Cats started to pull away. Kopp was among the NU leaders in points (12) and minutes (33) and also added four rebounds and three assists. Kopp’s presence as a perimeter threat is a key for the Cats in unlocking their offensive potential, and though it wasn’t his most efficient shooting performance, Kopp rebounded from his outing against Maryland.

3. Cats build momentum heading into Big Ten tourney
Minnesota, Maryland and Nebraska aren’t the teams at the top of the Big Ten, but NU has returned to the win column in its recent stretch after 13 straight losses to open the calendar year 2021. The Cats’ likely first round matchup — the Golden Gophers, the team NU knocked off on the road to end its skid. The Cats don’t have the pieces to run the table this year, but doubling their 2019-20 conference win total and a potential Big Ten tourney win in Indianapolis would signify progress.

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Twitter: @john__riker

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