By Adam Braunstein
Tre Demps and Alex Olah had strong performances in their final game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The seniors helped Northwestern build a 20-point lead that Nebraska was unable to overcome, as the Wildcats beat the Huskers 65-54 on Sunday afternoon for a program-record 20th regular season win.
This was a critical game for the ‘Cats because Penn State had defeated Illinois earlier in the day, meaning that NU needed a win in order to secure a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“It was important for us to try and get 20 wins, to try and get eight league wins, we talked about it the last two weeks, it was important for us to get to that ninth seed,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said.
In their final regular season game as Wildcats, Demps and Olah flourished.
Demps put 17 points on the board for Northwestern and picked up 2 steals on defense. Olah led the team with 19 points, shot an efficient 70 percent from the field and also grabbed seven rebounds.
“I’m just so happy for [Demps and Olah], that they were able to play like this on senior night, in front of their family, in front of our fans, just makes it a special ending,” Collins said.
The ‘Cats struggled to get the lid off the basket at the very beginning of the game, but went on an extended 28-13 run to end the first half. Defensively, the ‘Cats shut down the Cornhuskers in the first half, in which Nebraska was held to 22 points on 33.3% shooting.
“You miss that many shots and you turn the ball over 13 times, and you got a real problem on your hands,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said.
Northwestern succeed in stopping Nebraska’s top scorers. Shavon Shields was held to just 11 points on 2-12 shooting and turned the ball over twice, while Andrew White III had 13 points on 12 attempts.
“That was our main focus, we wanted to do a great job on those two guys [Shields and White], and we did that,” Collins said.
The ‘Cats will now travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to participate in the 2016 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, where they will face the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday.
The last time the two programs met, Northwestern suffered a nine-point loss. Coach Collins is excited for the rematch.
“It’s going to be a heck of a game,” he said.