Northwestern misses shot at .500

Confidence can be contagious.

Northwestern certainly had it as the team headed to Lincoln to face Nebraska for the first time as members of the Big Ten. A win over Minnesota had helped redefine the team’s identity and enabled it to find a comfort with all the injuries that have befallen the team. A chance to get back to .500 in the Big Ten would restore hope in everyone.

Unfortunately, struggling too can be contagious. And the Wildcats did that Saturday in a 64-49 loss to the Cornhuskers.

After controlling the pace of the game and slowing the game down in the first half, Northwestern lost its stranglehold on the game. Nebraska kept NU on the perimeter and made Northwestern a pure shooting team. The Cornhuskers then came down and broke down the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 zone, or matchup 2-3, with quick passing and timely shooting. Northwestern let the lead get away and could not get back within striking distance.

For every (rare) Northwestern field goal, there was a Nebraska 3-pointer to match. The Wildcats could not match and the second half was spent slowly watching the Cornhuskers expand the lead.

Score Off. Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
Northwestern 49 75.3 37.5 23.7 14.9 28.6
Nebraska 64 103.0 51.0 31.3 15.3 45.1

This was not a particularly strong game for Northwestern after grinding its way through the first half.

The Wildcats shot 32 percent in the first half and ended the game at 32.1 percent from the floor. NU shot 6 for 29 from beyond the arc and a horrid 7 for 16 from the foul line. Northwestern was not making shots in any stretch of the imagination. That made things more difficult as the lead got bigger and bigger.

When the game was slowed down and Nebraska was kept to the perimeter — and off the offensive glass — Northwestern could survive without making shots. Nebraska though was as patient and disciplined as Northwestern usually is in running its offense and defense and eventually broke Northwestern down.

The Cornhuskers were absolutely killer against the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 zone. They were able to break the traps and dribble into the paint, wreaking havoc on the defense by dishing out to the perimeter or shooting at the rim with an offensive player in position to rebound. Dylan Talley score 20 points and Ray Gallegos had 11 points, including three 3-pointers. Cornhuskers center Brandon Ubel had 14 points and 12 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds.

A lot of that work from all three players came in the second half when Nebraska outscored NU 40-27.

Northwestern’s offense was not able to ramp it up. Not with the team struggling to make shots or develop much fluidity and rhythm.

The Wildcats were largely kept on the perimeter and prevented from getting the backdoor cuts and open 3-pointers. Only Dave Sobolewski was able to create dribble penetration and get into the interior during the second half. Sobolewski played a superb game with 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting and 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

Northwestern though had very little else going offensively. Jared Swopshire did most of his offensive damage in the first half, on his way to 11 points and 14 16 rebounds. He made just 4 of his 10 shots.

The most telling number though was the Wildcats’ nine assists to 11 turnovers. The team’s typically dependable assist-to-turnover ratio was nonexistent and the Cornhuskers sped the game up by getting out in transition.

That put the game in Nebraska’s court and Northwestern did not have the ability to climb back into the game. And so all the positive momentum built from the last two weeks came to a screeching halt, so to speak. A winnable game had passed (at least by records) and a chance to climb back to .500 ended in the Nebraska plains.

The Wildcats were probably much closer than the final score would suggest. Their inability to hit shots and find offensive rhythm made the margin what it was. That might be the most frustrating thing of all.

  • zeek

    Is this the most inconsistent Big Ten start we’ve ever had?

    Wins @Penn State (so hard for us to win there), @Illinois and Minnesota (both ranked).

    Relatively big losses to Iowa and @Nebraska on top of that too, and it felt like we played Indiana harder than either.

    Live by the 3, die by the 3 and turnovers.

    • Like I wrote earlier this week, this team needs to hit 3s to loosen up the defense. They hung around in the first half by making enough threes to create some driving lanes. But give Nebraska credit, they were very disciplined and in the second half NU’s shots stopped falling and the team could literally do nothing on offense.

      This team revolves a lot around the 3-point shot. That is certainly a major problem.

  • Cepbd

    When is it going to be clear to Phillips that carmody has done a lot for the program, but really, it’s time for a change. 500 in big ten play was acheoveable after 8 games, and they tanked. For all our talk of being out of the dance, if NU garnered some big wins later in the season, who knows? Will carmody ever inspire confidence in the big men?

  • Year after year after year. They give us hope, crush us, bring us back, crush us. What a deflating loss.

    • JBonez

      Manic Depression 1, Wildcat Fan 0

  • Tump26

    How does Kayle Abramson not even get a minute on the floor?? See my comments on the 1-3-1 defense blog. Unfortunately, it rang true today.

  • bandcat

    When any team is only playing with four on the floor, one of whom was nauseated and your leading scorer that spells trouble. Our non existent offensive production at the C nothing new and a step backward today. OMG just a mediocre Big man. Projects like Olah and Turner from small time high school programs are not going to cut it in the B1G. Did these guys play AAU ball in the Chicago area? When 5 are playing on 4 its Olah..Hope i get a laugh from SNL…man i need one.OOOeee

  • hoocat

    I’d love to get a new coach who can teach us how to rebound
    just sayin

  • Alum Dad

    Getting pasted by UNL is no way to get to the big dance. When you add home losses to Iowa and UIC we show that we truly are a bubble team, but for the NIT. I want to give up on them but I keep watching and keep getting totally bummed out by their inconsistent performances. How can Abrahamson be good enough to start most of the season and then get in only for mop up duty? Hearn looked lost. What a mess. I want to hope for better next year but the past 13 years have shown me to keep my hopes in check as long as BC is the head coach.

  • Julio

    This is not a good team. let’s all keep that in mind. the wins have come against struggling teams. and I hate this concept of People taking about us ‘ slowing the game down’. That’s not what we do. We just can’t run offense. We can’t get open shots. So we run around until we have to give the ball back. It’s just bad offense.

  • PurpleHayes

    Agree the loss was very deflating, but can’t be totally surprised. While it’s my team, we are not a very good team (despite all this “high-water mark” talk about getting to 4-4). I never thought we were bubble material–except perhaps as another commenter pointed out, for the NIT. They’re playing hard and we got a couple of nice wins, but we can’t immediately assume that’s the level of play moving forward. The same personnel who beat ILL and MINN, also lost to Iowa by 20 and to UIC. LTP correctly points out that if you live by the 3, you die by it as well. I still think we’re a better team than NEB–much better–but if we shoot like that, anybody can beat us. And as for most inconsistent start, no way–we’ve matched wins in East Lansing and Champaign in recent years with agonizing losses to Penn State. Basketball is an up-and-down sport (ask Duke!), and especially the middle-of-the-pack teams are destined to struggle. And break your heart.

  • Felis Silvestris

    For those of you that didn’t hear the beginning of the game on the radio Doyle said that he had spoken to Hearn before the game and that he was sick. Hearn has been terrific this year except when he was hobbled by a sprained ankle a few weeks ago and in Saturday’s game. He clearly looked out of sync with no energy … completely different than he normally plays. When your best player has a horrible game on the road in the Big Ten (6 points on 2 for 11 from the field & 2 for 4 from the line along with 2 assists and 0 boards and 2 turnovers) its hard to win. In reality, given all their injuries (and Cobb’s absence), they have been major overachievers so far this year.