Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Red-Hot Northwestern Knocks off Nebraska

January 25, 2023

A hot start from Keisei Tominaga wasn’t enough to keep Nebraska in it against an even hotter Northwestern team on Wednesday as the Wildcats handed the Huskers a 78-63 loss at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Tominaga recorded his third 20-point game of the season, scoring 15 of his game-high 22 in the first half, but Northwestern close the first half on a 10-0 run to create separation and maintained a double-digit advantage throughout the second half.

Tominaga shot 9-of-17 from the field including 3-of-9 from deep and freshman Jamarques Lawrence, making his first career start in place of the injured Emmanuel Bandoumel, scored a career-high 12 points on 4-for-8 from 3 with three assists.

“I thought Jamarques was good,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He didn’t back down at all, he didn’t show any fear out there. He was really down after the Penn State game, a lot of that because of the free throws, but I thought he bounced back with great effort and preparation and went out defending one of the top guards in this league in Boo Buie and did a solid job on him. It was good to see him, four 3s for a freshman in this league against that defense is pretty darn impressive.”

No one else reached double digits, however, as Sam Griesel and Derrick Walker combined for just 15 points and nine turnovers. Nebraska shot 47.2% from the field including 36% from 3 and scored 30 points in the paint against the best 2-point field goal defense in the country.

“They double-teamed us on the block, that bothered us some,” Hoiberg said. “We got, I think, a couple baskets on it, but it really was turnovers. Derrick, obviously we put the ball in his hands to make plays and he’s been great all season long, so I know he’s going to bounce back. And Sam, they did a good job on him in the post as well.”

The biggest spark off the bench came from redshirt freshman walk-on Sam Hoiberg, who played 17 minutes and produced six points, six rebounds and one assist while also drawing a charge. The Huskers were plus-11 with him on the floor.

“I thought Sam gave us a nice lift,” Fred Hoiberg said. “He was a plus-11 out there on the floor, first meaningful minutes. You go out there and you play hard and some good things can happen.”

Northwestern’s Ty Berry out-dueled Tominaga, putting up a career-high 26 points on 10-of-17 from the field including 6-of-12 from deep. He also received more support with 17 points from Boo Buie and 15 points from Chase Audige, the team’s top two scorers on the season. Northwestern shot 51.8% from the field including 36.7% from 3 with 11 makes. Northwestern also out-scored Nebraska by 12 in second-chance points, converting nine offensive rebounds into 16 points.

“Obviously they shot it well, credit to them, but from the jump, we just needed to be better,” Griesel said. “We needed more energy. Defense is a lot of mental stuff, I guess. We didn’t come out with the right mindset tonight. We lacked the energy we needed to be able to fly around and talk like our defense should look like.”

Tominaga scored Nebraska’s first 12 points, hitting his first five shots from the field capped by a corner 3 (though he did miss a free throw). Tominaga took a seat at the 12:59 mark to get a breather with Sam Hoiberg replacing him. Griesel scored in the post on the next possession for the first non-Tominaga points to tie it up at 14-all.

Berry was just as hot as Tominaga for the Wildcats, however, hitting his first five shots as well including 3s on back-to-back possessions (sandwiching a put-back from Hoiberg). Nick Martinelli hit a floater to give the Wildcats a 22-16 lead 10 minutes in.

The Huskers responded with a 9-0 run featuring 3s from Tominaga, Lawrence and Denim Dawson (the latter two assisted by Tominaga) to take a 25-22 lead, drawing a timeout from Chris Collins.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Northwestern responded with an 8-0 run including an alley-oop from Berry to Matthew Nicholson and two more Berry 3s. Lawrence hit his second 3 to end the run, but Buie answered with one of his own.

The Huskers got the ball inside to Walker for his only bucket of the half then proceeded to go scoreless for the final 4:37. The Wildcats closed the half on a 10-0 run to take a 43-30 lead at halftime.

“The end of that first half, that’s what it was,” Hoiberg said. “It was points off turnovers and it was second-chance points and you just you can’t allow that to happen. You’ve got to value every possession, you’ve got to take care of it. I was proud of those guys off the bench that came in there and gave us a nice lift, but we just couldn’t sustain it and they take a big lead with momentum going into halftime.”

Tominaga led Nebraska with 15 points on 6-of-8 from the field including 2-of-4 from deep, but Lawrence was the only other Husker with multiple buckets. Griesel and Walker combined for four points, three assists and seven turnovers in the first half. The Huskers shot 50% from the field and from 3 but turned the ball over 10 times.

“Obviously [Tominaga] can take the lid off the rim for us,” Griesel said. “He had it going early in the game tonight and that was awesome to see. I’ve seen some some crazy things that Keisei has been able to do in practice and it was good to see him go off a little bit in the first half. But basketball is a team sport and we all have roles and we just need to be better next time.”

Berry went off for 21 points on his own, hitting all five of his 3-point attempts and only missing once overall. Northwestern went 8-for-15 from 3 while also narrowly edging out Nebraska in the paint, 14 to 12.

Dawson produced the Husker highlight of the game early in the first half with a driving tomahawk dunk, but Northwestern used a 14-2 run to extend the lead to 23 seven minutes in after hitting six of its first nine shots including 3s from Berry and Audige.

Hoiberg checked back in and found Lawrence for a 3 to end the run, but Northwestern responded with a 3 from Buie.

Nebraska traded buckets for a while before making one last push, scoring nine straight points to cut the deficit down to 12 with just over four minutes to play. However, that’s as close as they could get as Audige got Northwestern back on the board with a tip-slam and the Huskers ran out of time.

After Nebraska held Audige scoreless in the first half, he poured in 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the second half, picking up the slack after Berry cooled off. Northwestern only shot 3-of-15 from deep in the second half, but the Huskers weren’t much better at 4-for-15.

Up next for Nebraska is a quick turnaround for a trip east to take on Maryland on Saturday.

“We’ll need to bounce back,” Hoiberg said. “We can’t let this affect our preparation. We’re going to see a defense on Saturday that we haven’t seen all year and we have to have two really good days of prep. We can’t let this one have a hangover tomorrow in practice, we have to get back to work and get some things fixed. It looks like Maryland beat Wisconsin pretty good tonight. They’re playing really good basketball right now, so we can’t let what happened tonight affect the next one. We’ve got a really tough road trip coming up.”

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