On Saturday, Nebraska did something it had yet to do under first year coach Tim Miles. Nebraska outshot a conference opponent at home.
The result was the Huskers’ (11-10, 2-6) first Big Ten home win under Miles as Nebraska beat Northwestern 64-49 at the Devaney Center. Guard Dylan Talley led the Huskers with 20 points and added 8 rebounds and forward Brandon Ubel recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Early on, it looked like Nebraska’s shooting woes of late were going to continue to haunt them against a patient and precise Northwestern (12-9, 3-5) squad. The Huskers started just 1-of-10 from the field over the game’s first eight minutes but the Wildcats weren’t able to capitalize, shooting just 30-percent on their end and never building a lead larger than five.
With 8:56 remaining, a Ubel jumper in the paint tied the game at 11. After a miss on the other end, Talley had a slicing drive through the paint for a layup and Nebraska had a lead it would never relinquish.
“Once we got even, I thought then we finally (thought), ‘OK, now we can go,’” Miles said. “I thought we were pretty good from there on out.”
But Northwestern, with its Princeton offense and zone defense schemes, doesn’t make things easy on anyone. A five point run to end the half, including big 3-pointer from Dave Sobolewski with 43 seconds left, whittled a seven point lead to two right before the half. Sobolewski would finish with a game-high 21 points.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s best shooter, Ray Gallegos, was struggling to find his shot. The Huskers’ second leading scorer was held scoreless in the first half and entered the game shooting just 21.9-percent from 3-point range in Big Ten play. The shooting slump wasn’t for a lack of effort though. Miles said Gallegos was at the Devaney Center putting up shots after Friday night’s practice as well as early Saturday morning.
The extra work paid off when Northwestern switched to a zone defense early in the second half. With Nebraska’s lead down to four, Gallegos got the rare chance to spot up in the corner against the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 zone and dropped a three pointer right in front of the Huskers’ bench at the 12:29 mark. Two possessions later he hit again from the exact same spot. A block from Talley on the other end resulted in Gallegos’ third straight 3-pointer and an 11-point lead. Northwestern never got it back under double digits.
“When he made that first one, he kind of hung that follow through up there extra long,” Miles said of Gallegos run of 3-pointers. “That’s good. I know that if we can get him good looks, he can make them. Sometimes, we just put a lot of pressure on him. We get him going 100 miles per hour running off screens away from the basket and everyone’s keying on him.”
“The first couple kind of surprised me because I was that open,” Gallegos said of the rare chance to shoot with his feet set. “I’m usually coming off screens and they’re chasing me.”
While Gallegos would finish just 4-of-11 from the field, his final field goal came in spectacular fashion. After tipping a pass at the top of the key, Ubel corralled the loose ball and flipped it over the half court line where Gallegos was all alone for a breakaway dunk. That basket gave Nebraska a 52-37 lead and effectively ended the Wildcats hopes for a second straight conference win after beating No. 12 Minnesota last Wednesday.
“The fact that Northwestern went to Illinois and won and then beat Minnesota, this is a quality win for us,” Miles said. “Maybe it shows our guys that if we do it right, if we hang in there, we can do this.”
That the win came at home wasn’t lost on the players either.
“It felt good,” Talley said of the first Big Ten home win. “We want the fans to leave with a smile on their faces. They could’ve stayed at home after the way we came out flat against Purdue and Illinois. They had every reason to not even come out for this game, but they still came out and we were able to get a win. I’m happy for that.”
Nebraska travels to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
For the 11th time this season, Nebraska had three players reach double digits in scoring. The Huskers are 9-2 in those games … Northwestern’s 32.1-percent shooting was the lowest for a Nebraska opponent this season … Nebraska won the rebounding battle (43-34) for the first time in Big Ten play … The Huskers are 10-0 this season when scoring more than 60 points … Ubel’s 14 points pushed him into top 50 in career points at Nebraska with 755 points. He is tied for 48th on the list with Bus Whitehead and Jorge Brian Diaz.