The Nebraska men’s basketball team nearly erased a 15-point halftime deficit Saturday at Northwestern, but the Huskers were unable to overcome a cold-shooting performance in a 62-57 loss at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Northwestern (6-9, 1-4 Big Ten) used a 16-1 first-half run to build its 15-point halftime lead before hanging on down the stretch as Nebraska (7-9, 2-3 Big Ten) made a furious late run. The Huskers trailed by 14 midway through the second half, with Nebraska outscoring Northwestern 15-6 over the final 10 minutes. But a potential game-tying 3-pointer was missed with 12 seconds to play, allowing Northwestern to escape with its first Big Ten win of the year.
It was a tale of two halves, as Northwestern scored 42 first-half points while shooting 51 percent from the field and knocking down eight 3-pointers. After being outscored by 15 in the first half, Nebraska flipped the script in the second half, outscoring the Wildcats by 10 while limiting Northwestern to just 20 points.
Despite the strong second-half defensive effort in which the Huskers held the Wildcats to 2-of-15 from the 3-point line and 26.7 percent shooting overall, Nebraska was not able to overcome its own cold shooting. Nebraska shot 31.3 percent for the game, and the Huskers were just 9-of-30 from the 3-point line. Northwestern shot nearly 40 percent overall and tied a season high with 10 3-pointers.
Cam Mack produced another double-double for the Huskers, pacing the Big Red with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. In his first four career Big Ten Conference games, Mack produced the first triple-double in Nebraska men’s basketball history against Purdue and tallied a pair of points-assists double-doubles against Indiana and Iowa before producing a points-rebounds double-double against Northwestern. He has a total of five double-doubles in his debut season.
Haanif Cheatham joined Mack in double figures with 10 points, while Kevin Cross and Matej Kavas had nine points apiece. Miller Kopp scored a game-high 15 points for Northwestern, as one of four Wildcats in double figures.
Northwestern used a hot-shooting first half to take a 42-27 lead into the locker room. The Wildcats shot better than 51 percent in the half – including hitting 10-of-14 shots at one point – while knocking down 8-of-14 from the 3-point line. Nebraska shot only 30.3 percent in the opening half, and the Huskers were just 2-of-6 at the free throw line.
After Northwestern opened the game with a basket, Nebraska responded with seven straight points – five from Dachon Burke Jr. – to take an early five-point lead. The Huskers remained on top until Pat Spencer hit a pair of 3-pointers during an 8-0 Northwestern run that put the Wildcats on top 14-9 six minutes into the game.
The game remained close over the next four minutes before Northwestern went on a 16-1 run that covered more than six minutes. The Wildcats began the run with five quick points to build a seven-point lead, and following a Kavas free throw, Northwestern scored 11 straight points to take a commanding 36-19 lead with 4:26 left in the half. Nebraska missed seven straight shots during the Wildcats’ run, going 6:19 without a basket.
Nebraska outscored Northwestern over the final four minutes of the half but still trailed by 15 at the break. The Huskers then came out strong in the second half, scoring 12 points in the opening five minutes to trim the lead to eight at 47-39.
Following the quick second-half start, Nebraska missed 10 of its next 11 shots, scoring only five points in a seven-minute stretch. Despite the cold spell, the Huskers trailed only 56-47 with seven minutes to play following a Kavas 3-pointer. As Nebraska’s defense kept the Huskers in the game, Kavas and Cross hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Nebraska within six at 60-54 with 2:30 remaining, the closest the Huskers had been since the nine-minute mark of the first half.
Northwestern then missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-one opportunities before Mack banked in a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 run that made the score 60-57 with 50.4 seconds remaining. Nebraska forced a miss on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession but the Huskers missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer and Kopp knocked down a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Nebraska returns to action on Tuesday, when the Huskers travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on Ohio State. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. (Central) and the game will be televised nationally on FS1.