04 February 2012

NORTHWESTERN 84 Nebraska 74 (F)

Northwestern (13-8, 3-6) used a 17-3 run over the final 8 minutes of the first half to build a 15 point lead at halftime.  This cushion allowed the Wildcats to withstand several Nebraska (11-10, 3-7) second half runs and pull away at the very end of the game for a 10 point victory. 

The key to Northwestern's impressive first half was stellar shooting from beyond the arc.  As a team NU shot an astonishing 10-21 from distance with each of the starters knocking down at least one trey (Curletti was the sixth man and did not attempt a 3 point shot).  The 10 converted bombs put NU on pace to match its B1G record of 20 made threes in a game.  It also helped that Northwestern only turned the ball over twice to Nebraska's 8 turnovers. 

Nebraska heated up in the second half as they shot a torrid 18-29 from the field including 7-13 from distance.  Northwestern was able withstand the Cornhuskers' hot hands by getting to the line an incredible 24 times and making 19 of those freebies.

Northwestern's MASH unit had 7 scholarship players available for the game of which 6 played.  John Shurna had a game high 28 points on 9-13 shooting including 3-6 from distance.  He also stuffed the stat sheet by making 7-8 from the charity stripe, grabbed 5 boards, blocked 2 shots and had 2 steals.

Drew Crawford also had himself a good night with 21 points on 7-15 shooting including 4-7 from three point land.  Drew also helped NU's effort by nabbing 4 steals.  Dave Sobolweski chipped in 15 points thanks to 3-7 shooting from distance and making 6-7 FTs.  Davide Curletti had only 4 points, but he got those points on perfect shooting from the charity stripe.  Davide also had 8 assists, grabbed 4 boards and had 3 steals in 28 minutes.

Northwestern's 84 point effort is the Carmody-era high water mark for offense in a non-OT B1G game.  Maybe it isn't pure coincidence that NU set a new record against a new foe, but regardless NU's 1.33 points per possession was quite impressive and matched NU's best efforts of the season (against Seton Hall and Mississippi Valley St).  On the flip side NU allowed 1.17 PPP to Nebraska which was their second best effort in their inaugural B1G season (1.3 PPP in their victory at Iowa). 

Next up is a Super Sunday trip to Illinois (16-6,5-4) where Northwestern looks to avenge a bitter 57-56 loss on Jan 4 in E-town.  A Northwestern win would revitalize the NCAAs chatter while a loss would make the following two games (Iowa, at Purdue) must win games.  The Illini have been a Jekyll and Hyde team this year with impressive home victories over Ohio St and Michigan St but have also struggled at times against inferior opponents (Illinois St, St Bonaventure, Cornell, Nebraska, and Penn St).  Brandon Paul led the Illini in both of their marquee wins.  We're hardly experts on coaching strategy, but we would recommend that NU do its best to keep Mr Paul in check on Sunday.