I give Nebraska a slightly harsh "D+" because they missed about seven layups in this contest that could have turned this into a laugher and led to a 16-20 point victory.
The Huskers shot just 37% from the field (including an ice cold 23% from downtown) and needed every one of those 54 points to make this a somewhat comfortable win.
NU has seen teams adjust to its offensive scheme of isolating Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields the last couple of games and will need Walter Pitchford, Ray Gallegos and even Tai Webster to start combining for 6-8 three pointers a game if its to pull out either game this week.
Another cold night for Petteway (3-12 from the field, 10 points) but the good news is the third time is a charm, and I bet he comes out on fire Wednesday night in Bloomington.
Shields is our Player of the Game thanks to a double-double (17 and 10) in 36 minutes.
Nebraska held yet another B1G opponent under 40% from the field - I've yet to receive the game notes from Shamus, but I believe that's eight straight Big 10 teams under 40% from the Huskers, which is the first time that's happened since the 1990-1991 season. That could be slightly off, but it's close.
Nebraska was just TOUGH defensively. I loved the way Ray Gallegos and Petteway played on defense - they didn't let their combined 5-21 from the field affect the way they got after it.
Slightly concerning that Alex Olah scored a game high 20 points, but I'd rather have him go off than Drew Crawford (who finished with just 11).
Nebraska out boarded Northwestern by eleven (40 to 29)!!! That is AWESOME.
What I liked even more is that the Huskers held the Wildcats to just five offensive boards. While I'm aware Northwestern doesn't attack the offensive glass much, that's still damn impressive.
We mentioned Shields above with 10 boards - also a shout out to Pitchford, who grabbed 9. At the start of this year, Walt played soft and was often criticized on this very report card as such.
He deserves big time credit for elevating his toughness and game. It's never talked about around here, but he should also be in consideration (along with Petteway, Shields and Parker) for Most Improved Player.
BALL HANDLING: C
Nebraska finished with a solid ten turnovers, with five coming in the first six or seven minutes.
Mark me down as becoming slightly concerned with Tai Webster. Nearly every game this year, he's had more turnovers than assists, and that continued tonight (1:4).
Some will say, "That's fine. He'll play the "2" next year or in the future and play as a combo guard."
But the shot looks nowhere close enough for that, and if he's not playing point, he loses a good portion of his value.
I'm by no means trying to bring the kid down; he's just a freshman.
However, he's DEEP into his freshman year and playing much more than freshman minutes, and it doesn't seem as if he's improving as fast as anyone expected. Add in Benny Parker as clearly the better point guard at this juncture (not close - getting to the rim, not turning it over, defense, finishing) and I'm a bit nervous about the future.
Coach Miles made a nice switch to "the zone" and his team got good shots for a large majority of the night - they just missed them around the rim.
NU still won by seven in a "must win game" and had they made the shots they should have, they win by 16-20 points. How can you not give Miles a solid "B" for this one?
OVERALL GRADE: B
This is a good - not very good, not great, win. It isn't going to impress anyone, but neither was winning by 20. NU could only have its destiny changed by losing this one, and they didn't.
Now... MUST win one this week (preferably Wisconsin if we have to choose) to keep NCAA hopes alive.
Win both, you're a lock for the tournament.
Win one, and you probably need two wins in the Big 10 tournament to be a lock.
Lose both and you're staring the NIT in the face unless you get to the final game of the Big 10 tournament.
Petteway comes to life Wednesday night... Pitchford and Gallegos connect on 5 or 6 combined three's.. and NU sneaks one out in Bloomington.
For now, let's just stick to looking at that game. A win would sure make next Sunday a fun day and one without near as much stress.
I've got a feeling the last two games are going to be "heart attack central" for us as fans - and that's a GREAT feeling to be having this late in the year for the first time since March of 1999.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: SHAVON SHIELDS
2013-2014 PLAYER OF THE GAME RESULTS:
TERRAN PETTEWAY - 13
SHAVON SHIELDS - 7
WALTER PITCHFORD - 3
TAI WEBSTER - 2
LESLEE SMITH - 2
DEVERELL BIGGS - 1