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Northwestern beats Nebraska 65-54 for 20th win

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) Alex Olah knew he had to control his emotions. His parents were in the stands, visiting from Romania and watching him play college basketball in person for the first time.

”I don’t know how I kept it in,” said Olah, a senior center.

Olah stayed composed, scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Northwestern to a 65-54 victory over Nebraska in their regular-season finale on Sunday.

”I was really emotional. I tried not to think about it the whole day,” Olah said. ”I kind of put the game before all the emotions. I knew we were going to have to win this game to make history.”

Northwestern (20-11, 8-10) has won three straight and four of six to set a school record for victories in a regular season.

Tre Demps added 17 points for the Wildcats, who secured the ninth seed and a first-round bye in next week’s Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

Wildcats coach Chris Collins was impressed with Olah’s and Demps’ poise on senior day.

”I was worried about that,” Collins said. ”I expected (Olah) to be really emotional and us to kind of have to uplift him early because he was really excited. And it was the opposite. He and Tre got us off to a great start.”

Northwestern tied for 10th in each of Collins’ first two seasons.

”This year, we came in ninth with a lot of injuries,” Collins said. ”The improvement we’re making, guys are getting better.”

Nebraska (14-17, 6-12) has lost five straight and nine of its last 11 to end up with the 11th seed. Tai Webster and Andrew White III scored 13 points apiece and Shavon Shields added 11. Shields, the Huskers leading scorer at 16.7 points, was just 2 for 12 from the field.

”We did a great job defending Shields and White,” Collins said. ”To hold him to 2 for 12 to force Andrew White to take 12 shots to get 13 points, that was our main focus, doing a great job on those two guys.”

Northwestern shot 45.3 percent from the field compared to Nebraska’s 36.5 percent. The Wildcats also outrebounded the Huskers 40-26.

”You miss that many shots and end up turning the ball over 13 times, you got a real problem on your hands,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.

The Wildcats went on a 13-0 run, with Demps scoring seven, to turn a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead with 8:54 to play in the first half.

Bryant McIntosh completed a 3-point play to give Northwestern its largest lead, 37-17, with 54 seconds left before halftime. Shields hit a late 3-pointer, but Nebraska still trailed 37-22 at halftime.

Nebraska, down 19 early in the second half, cut the lead to six with 4:03 remaining on a layup and two free throws by Shields. But Olah and Sanjay Lumpkin scored on the other end for a 59-50 Northwestern lead with 2:19 left. Shields turned the ball over with 56 seconds to play and Falzon made two free throws to push the lead back to 11.

”The fact that we haven’t been able to win, or just play better, has been disappointing for me,” Miles said.

TIP-INS

Nebraska: Shields scored 57 points in his two previous games since returning from a concussion.

Northwestern: For the first time since 2011-12, the Wildcats have won eight conference games. . Northwestern won 20 overall games in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

HONORING SENIORS

The Wildcats honored their three seniors, Demps, Olah and Joey van Zegeren.

Demps is preparing for another milestone. His wife, Heather, is expecting their first child on March 14.

”It’s up to God when the due date is, so we’ll play it by ear,” Demps said.

HE SAID IT

Miles was whistled for a technical foul with 9:21 remaining before halftime, when Nebraska trailed by 18-11. ”It is what it is,” he said. ”Everybody’s grumpy late in the year, right? Including the stripes.”

UP NEXT

Nebraska: Will play 14th-seeded Rutgers Wednesday in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.

Northwestern: Will face eighth-seeded Michigan on Thursday in the conference tournament.

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