Nebraska men’s basketball defeated Northwestern 75-69 Saturday afternoon.
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Wildcats. The last was a 59-50 win in Lincoln on Feb. 16, 2019.
The game-clinching play was a Keisei Tominaga 3-pointer with 25 seconds on the clock to give Nebraska a five-point (74-69) lead.
“We were able to get stops and stay in it and keep a lead,” Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Keisei made a great read on the back screen, slipped out of it and hit a huge three to make it two possessions.”
Nebraska is now 14-5 on the season, its best 19-game mark since joining the Big Ten in 2011-12. The last time Nebraska had a record of 14-5 or better after 19 games was 2010-11 (that team was also 14-5).
Northwestern finished the game shooting just one for its last 12 from the field and missing its final four attempts. That was in part due to the Huskers’ defensive execution.
After giving up 25 offensive rebounds in the loss to Rutgers, it was a focus to not allow that to happen again. Nebraska outrebounded Northwestern 40-26 and grabbed 32 defensive rebounds to Northwestern’s 11 offensive rebounds.
“The difference was the defense,” Hoiberg said. “Late in the game the rebounding. We talked about winning the glass, you’re going to have a good chance to win the game. I think we won the rebounding battle by 14 and that is huge in a game like this.”
The +14 rebounding advantage was Nebraska’s best since outrebounding Kansas State by 17 on Dec. 17.
Nebraska almost couldn’t miss in the first half, shooting 69.9% (16-23) from the field and 42.9% from distance.
For the game, the Huskers shot a season-best 55.3 percent from the field, the second-highest field goal percentage Northwestern has allowed this season (.625 at Illinois on Jan. 2).
“I thought our defense wasn’t where it needed to be,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “When your defense isn’t where it needs to be against this team, they’re gonna make you look bad, and so for them to shoot 70% in the first half, that was a big story of the game. Then they came out in the second half and kind of the first four minutes it was much of the same.”
C.J. Wilcher has been on a tear recently. Saturday was no different on the offensive end, as Wilcher had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
Defending Northwestern point guard Boo Buie is a tough ask for anyone. Nebraska held Buie to shooting just 2-of-15 from the field.
Sam Hoiberg drew Buie as his primary assignment when he entered the game. In his 21:51 minutes, Hoiberg attempted just one shot but he grabbed six rebounds and had three assists. But his on-ball pressure against Buie and Ty Berry (2-of-10 FG) was outstanding.
“I think he’s a top-five guard in the nation. I thought our guys did a heck of a job pretty much start to finish,” Hoiberg said. “Brice (Williams) did a great job and Sam (Hoiberg) had a lot of possessions on him. Jamarques (Lawrence) had a lot of opportunities and CJ (Wilcher) switched off on him and had a great stop.”
With Juwan Gary out due to a calf strain, Eli Rice was the next man up. Rice had two pivotal plays in his eight minutes and 26 seconds. His two blocked shots sparked Nebraska, turning a two-point lead into a 10-point lead with 10:09 left in the game.
“We were struggling to score and he just put his head down and got himself to the free-throw line and knocked down all four of his free throws,” Hoiberg said. “Those were huge points for us and for a freshman to go in there when we desperately needed the ball to go in the basket. For a freshman to do that is a great sign.”