Another road test awaits Nebraska basketball on Wednesday night against Northwestern. Here are three keys and a prediction.
Despite the loss on Sunday to Illinois, Nebraska basketball is trending in the right direction in terms of making the NCAA tournament. However, a Big Ten road win still eludes the Huskers, which is something they can change tonight in Evanston against the Northwestern Wildcats.
The Huskers won the first meeting by six points in Lincoln in a back-and-forth affair. Nebraska basketball didn’t have Juwan Gary. The Wildcats didn’t have their point guard Boo Buie. Both players will be back in a huge game for both teams.
Each team is 6-5 in the Big Ten and tied for fourth with Minnesota. There are five teams total with at least six wins so every victory matters. Here’s a look ahead to Northwestern.
Win the 3-point battle
It’s almost hard to believe but Northwestern and Nebraska are probably the two best 3-point shooting teams in the Big Ten, as well as the worst teams at defending the 3-point shot in the Big Ten.
Nebraska is first in 3-point makes (10.2 per game) and second in percentage (40.9). Yet, the Huskers are 14th in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals allowed (10.4) and are 12th in 3-point percentage (38.1).
Northwestern is a dynamic shooting the 3-ball. The Wildcats are making 44.2 percent from 3-point range and also averaging 9.3 makes per game. Three separate players average at least two 3-point field goals per game. They are also 13th in 3-point defense (38.8).
Buie, Ty Berry, and Ryan Langborg all make at least 2.1 per game and Brooks Barnhizer went off for 27 points in the first meeting.
The Huskers are a 5.5-point underdog and if they are going to pull the upset, according to the oddsmakers, they’ll need to win the 3-point battle.
Protect the ball
Nebraska nearly pulled the upset against Illinois and part of the reason for that was the fact that the Huskers turned the ball over just eight times.
In the win over Northwestern last time, Nebraska turned it over 17 times. Northwestern also dominated on the offensive glass. Nebraska needs to hold its own there too, which it should be able to do with Juwan Gary back in the fold, but protecting the ball is even more important.
Nebraska is turning the ball over 11.3 times per game and keeping that number in single digits is vital to getting the first road win in Big Ten play.
Feed Rienk Mast
Northwestern shoots the ball well. They also force over 12 turnovers per game, but one area where the Wildcats struggle is defending the paint. They rank 234th in 2-point percentage defense, allowing 50.6 percent to opposing teams.
Mast struggled in the first meeting, hitting just 4-of-11 attempts. Josiah Allick connected on 4-of-5 and the Huskers need to get the ball inside.
Northwestern isn’t an effective shot-blocking team and the matchup inside is where the Huskers should be able to take advantage. Mast is averaging more than 20 points per game during his last four and that’s the kind of effort Nebraska basketball will need tonight.
Prediction: Nebraska at Northwestern (-5.5) (8 PM CST, BTN)
This is going to be a tough ask for Nebraska but on Sunday, this team showed what it can do on the road. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a road loss but I think Nebraska at least covers the spread and with a huge game from Rienk Mast, I’m gonna take the Huskers out right.
Prediction: Nebraska 75, Northwestern 70
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