The Northwestern Wildcats dared Isaiah Roby to beat them, and Roby went ahead and did it.
Nebraska's junior forward had a monster game, finishing with 19 points, 16 rebounds, five blocked shots, two steals and two assists to lift the Huskers to a 59-50 win Saturday in front of 12,743 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
"I would say I got challenged by my teammates to be a lot more aggressive on both ends. That was the biggest thing for me," Roby said, suggesting that the language used by his fellow Huskers wasn't exactly PG. "It was a little bit more harsh than that. But I look at them as my brothers, so I expect them to keep it real with me. I appreciated that.
Roby finished a career high in rebounds and tied his career bests with three made three-pointers and the five blocks, finally pulling the trigger from long range in the second half after a first half of passing up the same looks.
The 6-foot-8 forward was just 7-of-19 from the field, something Northwestern coach Chris Collins said he was happy with, but it was clear the Wildcats were daring Roby, who has shown his share of hesitancy throughout his NU career, to shoot.
Roby became the first Husker since Aleks Maric to have at least 19 points and 16 rebounds in a game. Maric had 32 and 16 against Missouri almost 11 years ago to the day — Feb. 13, 2008.
"Every game he has those pick-and-pops where he likes to pump-fake and drive," Huskers senior Tanner Borchardt said. "And he's a tremendous shooter, so he just needs to learn to take those shots. And as you can see, he can make them."
Roby bailed out a Husker offense that was actually outshot, percentagewise, by a Northwestern outfit that looked every bit like the worst offensive team in Big Ten games coming into Saturday.
The Wildcats (12-13, 3-11 Big Ten) came into the game last in the Big Ten in scoring (61.2 points per game) and field-goal percentage (.387), and finished with 50 points on 34 percent shooting against Nebraska.
As poor as Northwestern has been offensively of late — Saturday marked the fifth time in the Wildcats' last six games they haven't scored 60 points — Nebraska still held them to their second-lowest point total of the season.
"If we don't (embrace defense), we won't win," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "I thought we had a very solid defensive effort. And when I say solid, that's not dismissive. It means we were rock-solid."
Nebraska (15-11, 5-10) finished at just 32.8 percent, at one point missing 21 of 25 shots spanning the end of the first half and start of the second. The Huskers were just 11-for-37 from the field in the second half and still put together an 8-0 run and led by as many as 12 in the closing minutes.
James Palmer and Glynn Watson, the focal points of Northwestern's defensive game plan, combined to go 8-for-29 from the field and 2-for-11 from three.
It was a first half that felt like Nebraska should have been up more than the 28-23 advantage it had.
The Huskers hit eight of their first 15 shots. Four players scored between five and seven points in the half, including Roby putting up a seven-point, five-rebound, two-assist, one-steal line.
But NU went cold for the half’s last eight minutes, missing 10 of its final 12 shots, scoring two points in the final 6:05 and zero points the last 3:04.
Luckily for the Huskers, Northwestern’s last-in-the-league offense was as advertised.
Vic Law had 10 of the Wildcats’ 23 first-half points. He finished with a team-high 15. Longtime Husker killer Dererk Pardon had 13 points and 12 rebounds in his final visit to Lincoln.