It takes a certain level of swagger to fire the shot Anton Gill did with about eight minutes left against Northwestern.
And it takes a certain level of swagger to end a game the way Nebraska did Tuesday night.
The Huskers showed a confidence that has been in short supply around their program in recent seasons in closing out Northwestern 70-55 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, ending the game on a 27-13 run over the final eight minutes to improve to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play.
The win was Nebraska’s first in a true road game this season.
“We found some attitude in our team,” said junior forward Isaac Copeland. “We were out there talking back and forth, talking to each other, talking to the other team. And you’ve got to have some grit and some anger … to go on the road and win in the Big Ten."
Copeland showed some anger in Nebraska’s closing surge, hammering down a one-handed dunk over Husker killer Dererk Pardon that sent NU’s bench into hysterics.
His was one of many big-time plays down the stretch that started when Gill hit a tightly contested three-pointer and was fouled with 7:52 left.
Nebraska was leading 43-42 at the time and not doing much of anything. By the end, the Huskers were rolling.
“I think it really, hopefully, solidifies our vision of what we can be. Like, ‘You know what? This is possible,’” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said on his postgame radio show. “If we go out and win by a few or lose by a few, everybody says ‘Oh, (Bryant) McIntosh.’ But you’re up 17 or 18 late, maybe it’s a little more than that, too. I think that was really important four our guys."
McIntosh, Northwestern’s senior point guard, didn’t play after injuring his knee against Brown.
And the Wildcats struggled without him, shooting 29 percent for the game and 27 percent in the second half.
But the way Nebraska (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten) played down the stretch, it may not have mattered if McIntosh had suited up.
In ending a four-game losing streak to the Wildcats, Nebraska blocked 14 shots — the most ever by a Husker team in a conference game.
After shooting 28 percent in the first half and going into the locker room trailing 30-25, Nebraska fired away at a 59 percent clip over the final 20 minutes.
Junior guard Glynn Watson, a Chicago native who scored one point in Nebraska’s last game against Stetson, finished with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Copeland had nine of his 13 points in the second half, and James Palmer exploded for 15 of his 18 in the final 20 minutes. Palmer added five rebounds and four assists. Copeland had eight boards.
The trio of Watson, Copeland and Palmer outscored Northwestern 32-25 in the second half.
The Wildcats (10-6, 1-2), got 17 points and 15 rebounds from Pardon, who continued to be a thorn in Nebraska’s side, but the forward needed 18 shots to get there, going 6-of-18 from the field.
“Our centers, all of those guys were up for playing against him,” Miles said. “They wanted a crack at him. They’d seen what he’d done in the past, and they wanted to put him on the ropes.”
Jordy Tshimanga, Duby Okeke and Tanner Borchardt combined for eight points and 10 rebounds while battling Pardon inside.
It wasn’t always pretty. And the Huskers didn’t mind one bit.
“We didn’t play our best. But it’s not about playing your best — it’s about winning the game,” Copeland said. “So we found a way to get a 'W,' we’re 2-1 in Big Ten play now, and it’s time to get ready for Purdue.”