Good things tend to happen when the shots are falling.
Northwestern's losses this season — and even some of its wins — have followed a certain theme, one of hot starts and cool finishes. But the Wildcats shot well throughout Sunday's game at the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were one of two remaining teams with perfect records in conference play. But the Huskers' undefeated start to conference season came to a crashing halt Sunday, as the Cats walked out of Lincoln with a 74-66 victory.
For Northwestern, the win only evened its league record at 2-2, but with four of the Cats' first five conference games coming away from Evanston, two wins in the first three of those road contests ain't too shabby at all.
Northwestern shot a sparkling 51 percent from the field in this one, a stellar 50 percent after halftime. The shooting from behind the 3-point line was particularly good, with the Cats splashing home 11 of their 24 long-range attempts. Vic Law was 5-for-6 on 3s and finished with 15 points. Scottie Lindsey led the way for Northwestern with 19 points, hitting two 3s.
The Cats also came to play defensively, limiting the Huskers' high-scoring back-court duo of Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr., who came in averaging close to a combined 45 points per game in the team's three Big Ten contests. While Webster used a furious finish to the first half to boost his scoring numbers and finish with 17 points, Watson never got going and scored just six points on the afternoon.
The Cats actually started slowly but soon caught fire as the first half wore on, at one point making five straight shots. Law hit three consecutive triples to give the Cats an eight-point edge, and that stretched to 10 on a Bryant McIntosh 3 with just two and a half minutes till halftime. But then came that Nebraska surge at the end of the first half. Jack McVeigh came off the bench to hit Nebraska's first 3-pointer of the game, and then Webster took the ball away from McIntosh to get a fast-break layup and hit a free throw to complete a three-point play. That chopped Northwestern’s lead down from 10 to four in 20 seconds, but Nebraska wasn't done. Another Cats turnover turned into another Huskers triple, and a missed 3-pointer led to another Webster breakaway, with his layup giving Nebraska the lead. Webster polished off the first half with a jaw-dropping buzzer-beating triple to cap a 14-0 run over the final minute and 42 seconds of the period.
The Huskers led by as many as seven in the early stages of the second half, but then the Cats kept bombing in the 3s. Gavin Skelly hit one to cut the gap to four, and a Law triple sliced it to two not two minutes later. Lindsey put the Cats in front with a 3-pointer and tied the game at 50 with a jumper shortly thereafter. Northwestern didn't trail again. Lindsey and Law hit back-to-back 3s to stretch the Cats' lead out to six, and though the Huskers got as close as two inside of eight minutes to play, Dererk Pardon's back-to-back jumpers coupled with Lindsey's three free throws with a little more than six minutes left kept the Cats ahead for the duration.
In addition to strong shooting from the field and from 3-point range, Northwestern also shone at the free-throw line, going 13-for-14 from the stripe.
Nebraska dominated the glass early and turned Northwestern turnovers into a decent amount of points in the first half, but the teams finished almost even in each of those categories by game's end, with 30 rebounds apiece and the Huskers holding a slight 15-14 edge in points off turnovers.
Lindsey's 19 points and Law's 15 points were joined by the double-digit point production of Pardon and McIntosh, who scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Webster's 17 were the most by a Nebraska player, with Michael Jacobson scoring 12 points and Evan Taylor scoring 11 points.
The win sent Northwestern to 13-4 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Next up is a Thursday road game at Rutgers.
The loss, Nebraska's first in Big Ten play, dropped the Huskers to 9-7 overall and 3-1 in the conference. They travel to play Michigan next weekend.