For the first time ever, Northwestern finished a regular season with 20 wins.
Yes, the 2015-16 edition of the Cats became the first in program history to reach 20 victories in a regular season, accomplishing the feat with a 65-54 win over the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sunday afternoon in Evanston.
Northwestern got big performances from its two starting seniors in their final home games. Tre Demps scored 17 points, and Alex Olah scored 19 points while playing in front of his family — which flew in from Romania — for the first time as a college player.
The Cats actually trailed seven minutes into the game, but they streaked away on a 13-0 run to turn that two-point deficit into an 11-point lead. A separate 10-0 run came later in the first half, part of a bigger 13-2 run that achieved the 20-point margin. Demps scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes, going 5-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range. Olah scored eight points in the first half, while the Cats as a team shot 53.8 percent from the field.
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Things cooled down significantly after the break, as Northwestern shot just 37 percent over the final 20 minutes. That allowed Nebraska to chip away at the big lead, which was 15 at the break and reached as high as 19 in the early stages of the second half. At one point, the Cats went more than eight minutes with just one made basket, and during that stretch, the Huskers closed the lead to single digits. A burst of six straight points brought Nebraska within six, 55-49, with four minutes to play. But Olah hit a big shot, and Bryant McIntosh found Sanjay Lumpkin for a bucket to boost the lead back to nine. When the Huskers turned it over on the following possession and Aaron Falzon knocked down a pair of free throws, the Cats had the game on ice.
Demps' production fell off dramatically after the strong first half, as he scored just five second-half points on 2-for-10 shooting, going 0-for-4 from 3-point range. Olah, though, did most of his damage after halftime, scoring 11 points in the second half.
Nebraska shot just 36.5 percent from the field on the game, while Northwestern finished with a 45.3-percent shooting mark. The Cats had a monstrous 40-26 rebounding advantage and blasted the Huskers, 34-18, in points in the paint.
The win sent Northwestern to 20-11 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten. The Cats finished the regular season with three straight wins and secured the No. 9 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament.
With the loss, Nebraska dropped to 14-17 overall and 6-12 in the conference. The Huskers ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak.