The effort wasn't enough in the Wildcats' sixth straight loss, a 54-47 defeat handed by Nebraska. Still, it's something NU's first-year coach can appreciate.
"I'm really proud of the fighters we have in our locker room," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said.
Nebraska has played its best basketball recently, now winning eight of its last 10 games. Once buried in the Big Ten's basement, the Cornhuskers have legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes. Meanwhile, Northwestern's season has slipped away as injuries and misfortunes have ravaged a rebuilding year.
Yet, that didn't keep the Wildcats from fighting. With Nebraska looking to separate before the halftime break, guard Tre Demps hit a long three-pointer. Down by 10 in the final minutes, Northwestern clawed back with six points from Alex Olah—part of his game-high 20 points—then Drew Crawford drilled a three.
"Today was just a battle," Collins said.
It wasn't until the final 25 seconds where the Cornhuskers took control, as Sanjay Lumpkin was called for a charge. Collins called it "disappointing." For Nebraska, the game was in control.
"It's a huge momentum swing," Nebraska's Shavon Shields said.
The Cornhuskers were able to put it away with free throws while Northwestern's late heaves fell short. It was another offensive struggle for the Wildcats, hitting on just 33.3 percent of their shots from the field.
Defensive kept the Wildcats in the game, as they held Nebraska to just 36.5 percent shooting and 4-of-17 from beyond the arc.
"I'll take this defensive effort every game," Collins said. "We've got to find a way to score more points."
Added Nebraska coach Tim Miles: "If we can be a dominant defensive team, we're going to win the game. We're going to win it with defense."
Northwestern only led once in the game, coming early in the first half. Even Miles admitted he forgot about that moment. Yet the Cats battled back until the clock ran out. It was another hard-fought game, but yet another loss.
For the Wildcats' coach, there's no accepting moral victories.
"When it stops hurting, I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing and the players shouldn't be doing what they're doing," Collins said.
The season isn't over for Northwestern, which still has two tough games ahead before the Big Ten Tournament. The Cats will keep battling until they run out of chances to take the court.
"We've got more games to play," Collins said. "As long as you have more games to play, you keep fighting."