Men’s Basketball: Northwestern rides prolific shooting start to 15-point victory against Nebraska


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior guard Ty Berry. Berry had a career day against Nebraska on Wednesday, pouring in a career-high 26 points in Northwestern’s 78-63 win.

Alex Cervantes, Senior Staffer

Wednesday evening’s clash between Northwestern and Nebraska had all the makings of a low-scoring brawl — the kind of game that has become the Wildcats’ bread and butter this season.

NU (14-5, 5-3 Big Ten) and the Cornhuskers (10-11, 3-7) both entered with top-40 defenses, though neither squad boasted a particularly prolific or efficient offense. Both teams’ offenses ranked sub-230 nationally in effective field goal percentage and neither shot above 32% from three-point range. 

And yet, the statistics entering the game couldn’t have been more deceiving as the Cats — aided by an early offensive explosion — cruised to a 78-63 win in Lincoln.

Both NU and Nebraska engineered a complete 180 offensively through the first 10 minutes, propelled by the efforts of Cats junior guard Ty Berry and Cornhusker guard Keisei Tominaga.

Like a primetime bout between two heavyweights, Berry and Tominaga initially exchanged blow after blow. Tominaga rattled off Nebraska’s first 12 points behind some crafty finishes around the rim and a three-pointer. Berry countered by canning seven straight shots before his first miss brought him ever so briefly back down to earth.

Berry was evidently unfazed by an ankle injury, which left him hobbled just two days prior against Wisconsin. He headed into the intermission with 21 points on a scorching 8-of-9 shooting, including a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc. In just 17 minutes, Berry had put on his best display of the entire season.

It was a remarkable individual performance — Berry finished the game with a career-high 26 points — amid an extraordinary holistic showing from NU in the first half. It was an offensive clinic as the Cats built a 43-30 advantage at the intermission, courtesy of a 21-5 run over the final eight minutes to close the half.

“After the H-O-R-S-E competition between Berry and Tominaga completed, we finally started playing some defense,” coach Chris Collins told Fox Sports’ Nick Bahe postgame. “I thought the last eight minutes of the first half (were great). We held them to eight points. We went on that run (and) got the lead.”

Out of halftime, Collins’ bunch picked up right where it left off, though this time led by its two backcourt fixtures, redshirt senior guard Chase Audige and senior guard Boo Buie.

Audige, who went scoreless in the first half, got on the scoreboard 18 seconds into the second frame via a driving layup. Just under eight minutes had passed before NU extended its lead to 23 points following a Buie triple. The Cats were inflicting their will on both ends of the floor, and the offense enjoyed every luxury while the defense suffocated the Cornhuskers. 

With the game seemingly in hand, NU went into cruise control. Gradually any shot became a “good shot,” as most possessions ended with a player in purple hoisting an attempt from distance. 

After starting the game 11-of-20 from beyond the arc, the feared regression to the mean hit the Cats with ferocity. NU failed to connect on its final 10 three-point attempts, allowing Nebraska to steadily chip away at the gargantuan deficit. 

A layup from Cornhusker guard Sam Hoiberg with 4:45 left to play prompted Collins to call a timeout. Nebraska held all the momentum, and the once quiet crowd in Pinnacle Bank Arena was starting to find some life. Could a Cats collapse for the ages really be in the works?

Audige was quick to dispel any notion of a Cornhusker comeback, providing a thunderous response in the form of a putback dunk. He and Buie ultimately kept Nebraska at bay, together aggregating 24 second-half points, including NU’s final 12 points.

“Just experience, maturity,” Collins said of what he sees in Buie, Audige and Berry. “There’s a calmness, there’s a poise, there’s a confidence that those guys are playing with that I really think is carrying out to the rest of the team.”

As they have for much of the season, the familiar backcourt triumvirate of Audige, Buie and Berry once again led the charge for Collins and company. 

The Cats, amid a six-game, 13-day stretch — which started against the Badgers — now get some much-needed time off ahead of a weekend date with Minnesota to build off this week’s early success.

“(I) wasn’t as happy with the way we finished, but I think part of that could be a little bit of fatigue — two games in three days,” Collins said. “To win on the road in this league is not easy, so we’re happy with the win.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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