Northwestern Wildcats had to dust itself off from a Thursday loss and a first-half rally to defeat Nebraska on the road in a big separation game.
Tai Webster had Pinnacle Bank Arena rocking at halftime.
The guard beat the Wildcats in transition on two occasions and had one more bag of tricks to bury them for the Cornhuskers. Webster hit a 3-pointer in transition at the halftime buzzer to complete a 14-0 lead and give Nebraska the lead heading to the locker room.
After withstanding the early push from Nebraska, Northwestern took control of the game and had a 10-point lead. Then Nebraska made its push to take the lead.
It was the kind of momentum-building, back-breaking run that sends fans into euphoria and could kill a lesser team. It was a punch that had Northwestern staggering. And, for Northwestern, the team fell hard after giving up a 10-0 run to Minnesota in its last game, losing at home for good measure.
Perhaps halftime then was a blessing. A chance to recoup and catch their breath.
Northwestern certainly came out more determined and precise. The team’s execution was nearly flawless and the defense buckled down, securing the glass for the first time all game.
The Wildcats showed their resolve getting up off the mat with a stellar second half to ice away a 74-66 win over the previously unbeaten Cornhuskers on the road. Northwestern did not face a must-win game Sunday, but the team did absolutely need the victory for confidence and for some separation in the Big Ten race.
Every game, after all, has that eye toward March on it. And this is a game Northwestern will likely remember well should the unthinkable happen then.
The Wildcats moved the ball extremely well and attacked well too. The inside-out game was working better than it did Thursday. The Wildcats found gaps when the Cornhuskers went to a zone and attacked it.
The Wildcats’ shooting percentage (51.0 percent) and 3-point percentage (11 for 24) were proof of how things worked so well for the Cats. They had 15 assists on 25 field goal makes.
This was the perfect response to Thursday and to the end of the first half. Northwestern just picked itself up off the mat and looked composed.
Dererk Pardon rocks inside
Northwestern knew it probably was not going to get very far in Big Ten season without its center Dererk Pardon manning the middle. Michigan State manhandled Northwestern inside in the loss last week. Getting Pardon back for Thursday’s game against Minnesota gave the team some inside presence it sorely missed.
There was still some rust to shake off after returning from his hand injury. But things seemed to shake out and get more settled.
And Pardon made sure his presence was felt in Sunday’s win.
Pardon scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds overall for Northwestern. When the team was struggling to get its offense going early, it turned to Pardon post ups to get things right. Somewhat unbelievably it worked.
Pardon remained a pretty good outlet for the rest of the game. And a solid rim protector and deterrent around the basket, keeping Nebraska from attacking much as the Nebraska’s offense struggled.
Where is B-Mac?
Bryant McIntosh’s offensive struggles have continued to be a curious and frustrating development throughout the season for Northwestern.
McIntosh had 11 points and four assists, but made just 3 of his 10 shots. He took some ill-advised shots early in the shot clock early in the game when Northwestern’s offense was struggling.
It still feels like McIntosh is trying to do too much offensively or is forcing some of his shots. His rhythm is just off it would seem.
The good news is McIntosh still made some big plays and some big shots.
Late in the game, with Northwestern holding onto a slim lead and trying to avoid another late-half collapse, he paused and stepped through the defender for a bank shot that iced the game.
McIntosh still makes some big plays and is a great leader on the floor for Northwestern in close situations. He just needs to get his shooting rhythm back.
Scottie Lindsey is one player who has certainly been in a very strong shooting rhythm of late.
After going 0-for in Thursday’s loss, he was back with a vengeance Sunday. Lindsey scored 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Even though he made just two of his seven 3-point attempts, he had a big one from the corner to extend Northwestern’s second-half lead and was a constant threat.
With his 3-point game not working, he did a good job attacking and working the in-between game.
Plenty of other Northwestern players were handling the 3-point line. Victor Law especially, he made five of his six attempts from beyond the arc.
Lindsey and the Wildcats did a good job keeping the ball moving and finding gaps in the defense throughout the second half. Lindsey’s emergence as a key scorer for Northwestern continues to be an astonishing and strong development for Northwestern.