LINCOLN, Neb.– With less than a minute remaining, Nebraska guard Dylan Talley left to a standing ovation.
After the game, coach Tim Miles patted him on the shoulders. Students and fans shouted his name from the rafters.
Talley scored 20 points to lead Nebraska past Northwestern 64-49 at the Devaney Center. The Wildcats were not victims of an emotional letdown, or anything associated with a trap game. On Saturday, Nebraska simply outplayed them.
“It seemed like it was a struggle all game,” coach Bill Carmody said. “There wasn’t any flow.”
NU shot 21 percent from three-point range and 44 percent from the free-throw line. Dave Sobolewski drained 21 points, but aside from his strong performance, the Cats struggled to score against the Nebraska defense.
Reggie Hearn suffered through a rare poor performance. The senior shot 2-of-11 and picked up his fourth foul with 12:56 remaining. Though Carmody admitted that “something was up” with Hearn, he pointed to Talley and the Nebraska defense as a major factor in shutting down his leading scorer.
And despite a milestone performance from Jared Swopshire – who set the Carmody era single-game record with 16 rebounds – nothing quite worked as the Cats slipped to 3-5 in Big Ten competition.
“You just wish that when a guy gets 16 rebounds, that as a team, you’d get a win out of that,” Carmody said. “They deserve the credit today.”
Northwestern had the opportunities. Nebraska made the most of theirs.
After a sluggish start from both teams, Sobolewski knocked down a triple to give NU a 10-5 lead with 11:31 to go in the first half. With the Nebraska offense looking like its usual self, the Cats had an opportunity to put the pedal down. Instead, they struggled from the floor and entered the locker room trailing 24-22.
"We allowed them to stay around," Swopshire said.
As the Cats labored through a poor shooting performance, Nebraska finally caught fire. Ray Gallegos hit two crucial threes, the second of which gave Nebraska an 11-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Gallegos entered the game shooting less than 30 percent from behind the arc. He stayed after team practice yesterday and arrived at the gym around 7:15 this morning. Still, he missed both of his first-half attempts. His teammates, including Talley and forward Brandon Ubel, had words for him at halftime.
“They told me to stay positive,” Gallegos said. “They knew I could shoot.”
As Nebraska broke the game open, Carmody resorted to the 1-3-1 zone, which worked to perfection in recent contests. It hardly fazed Talley and the Huskers, who scored 40 second-half and cruised to their largest margin of victory this season.
“I thought we attacked the zone pretty well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “They gave us some pretty good three-point looks. I don’t mind zone."
Down 52-40, the Cats had one last chance to stay competitive. Alex Marcotullio found an open look from behind the arc, but failed to convert.
Then, Talley knocked down consecutive shots to extend the lead to 16. The celebration was on in Lincoln – a city unaccustomed to basketball success in recent years. The catalyst: a senior and former junior college transfer determined to give his team a quality win.
“Dylan puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Miles said. “He wants to be perfect and he wants things to go really well. Sometimes, he’ll make mistakes because of that.”
On Saturday, Nebraska put a complete game together.
“I don’t think it had to do with us not coming ready to play,” Sobolewski said. “We all knew what Nebraska was capable of.”
In the Big Ten, it's never easy. The Wildcats are learning that the hard way.
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