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3 Thoughts as Nebraska Falls 62-57 to Northwestern on the Road

January 11, 2020

You never want to be the guy who ruins the no-hitter. Never want to be the one with a drop when your quarterback has opened a game perfect. Never want to be the group that breaks a shooting slide. Never want to be the team that gives another its first win. Nebraska’s going to be feeling some type of way after this one.

Northwestern got its first Big Ten win of the season at the Huskers’ expense Saturday afternoon, with a 62-57 win over Big Red in Evanston.

Here are three thoughts from the action.

Tip the Cap

Sometimes it’s just your day.

The Huskers give up open 3s. They’ve been doing it all season. They did it against Creighton a month-ish ago and they did it against Iowa a few days ago. Teams just haven’t really been making Nebraska pay at a commensurate rate for it.

And it’s not necessarily that big a deal when the Huskers are taking the painted area away, because that’s the first priority on most nights. I didn’t think Nebraska’s defense was too bad against Northwestern, the Wildcats just made shots they haven’t made all season in the first half.

A team that averages 67 points a game on the season, 286th out of 353 D1 programs, had 42 at halftime.

Because a team that shoots 43% on the year (240th) shot the basketball at a 52% clip in the first half.

Because a team that averages six made 3s a game, at a 31% clip (278th) hit eight of its 14 first-half triples.

Northwestern just shot the hell out of the basketball in the first half. The percentages dipped back near the mean over the second 20 minutes, thanks to a fire-and-ice kind of showing, but the damage really had already been done. Nebraska’s rotation being so short had everyone gassed in the final moments; when NU needed legs for the comeback, it had none.

Nebraska also sucked offensively for long, long stretches of the action, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Think you just have to tip your cap to the Wildcats. They made shots.

Zoned Out

Nebraska had what appeared to be zero ideas of how to attack Northwestern’s zone defense.

Cam Mack dribbled out the clock at the end of the first half and air-mailed a triple after doing nothing to create separation for himself. Nebraska walked into no-pass pull-ups on too many occasions. It took long 3-pointers that would be better categorized as heaves than shot attempts. When it got the ball inside off dimes from point guard cam Mack, it too often brought the ball down and allowed the tallest team in the Big Ten to recover instead of going back up quick; Mack was finding cutters high and giving them a chance to immediately go up with a shot and there were several occasions where Nebraska got stone-walled.

NU shot 9-of-30 from beyond the arc. Mack was 1-of-6. Guard Dachon Burke was 1-of-5, wing Haanif Cheatham 1-of-4. Only Thorir Thorbjarnarson (five points) and Matej Kavas (nine) had more points than shot attempts.

The Huskers weren’t making the right passes when they needed to. They forced things. A 9-0 run in the last three minutes might have done enough to change the thinking of some at an exit poll, but 57 points is still going to be pretty tough to swallow when they came against an average defense.

Not that it Matters…

Sure looked like Dachon Burke was fouled on the final shot of the game for Nebraska. And it was a 3-pointer to tie things up.

Mack got a pretty good wack when he drove the paint with 1:28 left on the clock.

Nebraska shot 6-of-11 from the free-throw line (Northwestern only had five attempts), so a call isn’t guaranteeing three points, but he should have been at the line.

Nebraska shouldn’t have needed a call in the closing seconds, some will say. correct. Don’t fall down 18 points to one of the weaker Big Ten teams in the conference and then expect a bailout. Burke’s exaggeration probably didn’t help his case either.

But winning on the road is tough. Away teams this season are now 5-30 in Big Ten play. Teams have to be at their best to win. But I also believe officials have to be at their very best late in games. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be held to the same standard as the players when they can affect the game in just as many ways.

This particular play feels tough.

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