EVANSTON, Ill. — One of these games — or maybe next season — the Nebraska women’s basketball team will take a big lead, keep it and not have to sweat the finish.

For now, the young Huskers will gladly accept Thursday night’s 71-64 win over Northwestern, which had a nearly identical script to an 82-71 win over Michigan State on Sunday, where a 21-point fourth-quarter lead was whittled down to eight before NU closed the game.

Against Northwestern, Nebraska’s 17-point fourth-quarter pad got slashed to 63-60 with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game. The Huskers’ defense clamped down from there, holding the Wildcats without a field goal until just 10 seconds remained. Nebraska’s offense didn’t fare much better down the stretch, but three late free throws helped clinch a second straight win.

“It did feel that way,” NU coach Amy Williams said on her postgame radio show when asked if the game was similar to the MSU win. “But I thought we bounced back, found a way, once again. To do that on the road is even more challenging than when you have your home crowd spurring you along.”

Nebraska guard Hannah Whitish led all scorers with 19 points — hitting five 3-pointers — while senior forward Maddie Simon, four days before her final home game, had 15 points and five rebounds off the bench. Simon didn’t miss a shot from the floor.

“She was fantastic,” Williams said of Simon. “The crazy thing is, I had been feeling — she’s been practicing really confidently and practicing really well.”

Simon scored the last five points of the first quarter as Nebraska took a 20-15 lead. The Huskers stretched out the lead to 40-26 by halftime, thanks to 3-pointers from Taylor Kissinger and Leigha Brown.

Nebraska (13-14 overall, 8-8 Big Ten) led 48-28 90 seconds into the third quarter. Northwestern (15-12, 8-8) sliced that to 10 twice, but Nebraska carried a 60-44 lead into the fourth.

After the teams traded baskets to start the fourth, that’s when the drought hit. It’s happened to the Huskers often on the road in Big Ten play, leading to narrow losses at Wisconsin and Michigan. Northwestern’s 14-0 run threatened to deliver NU its most devastating loss of the season. But a team that features four freshmen and three sophomores has begun to “grow up,” Williams said.

“I sure wished we could have stopped that run a little earlier,” Williams said. “But to bounce back from that after that timeout, I thought we really kind of locked in.”

Whitish hit a jumper to give Nebraska a 65-60 lead with 4:40 left. Neither team scored again until freshman guard Sam Haiby’s layup with 1:19 left. By then, Nebraska’s lead was on solid enough ground that Northwestern was forced to foul and rush 3-pointers. The Wildcats hit just 5 of 17 shots from 3-point range, which negated a big game from senior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds.

The win puts the Huskers into a four-team logjam in the Big Ten standings. The Huskers, Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern are all tied in sixth place at 8-8. Should NU win its last two games, it could still finish in a tie for fourth.

“There’s just some very evenly matched teams where, on a given night, somebody could step up and get a win,” Williams said.

Nebraska (13-14, 8-8)................20 20 20 11 - 71

At Northwestern (15-12, 8-8)......15 11 18 20 - 64

NU: Whitish 7-14 0-0 19, Cain 2-5 2-2 6, Brown 1-3 2-2 5, Mershon 0-1 4-4 4, Eliely 3-6 0-0 6, Veerbeek 1-2 0-0 2, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Simon 6-6 1-2 15, Kissinger 1-5 0-0 3, Haiby 3-6 4-8 11. Totals: 24-48 13-18 71.

NW: Pulliam 5-21 3-3 14, Burton 3-8 1-2 8, Kunaiyi-Akpanah 8-13 3-6 19, Wood 1-4 1-2 3, Scheid 3-8 0-0 8, Sancataldo 0-1 0-0 0, Wolf 3-5 1-2 7, Galernik 1-3 2-2 5, Hopkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-64 11-17 64.

3-point field goals: NU 10-18 (Whitish 5-8, Brown 1-1, Simon 2-2, Kissinger 1-4, Haiby 1-3), NW 5-17 (Pulliam 1-4, Burton 1-5, Wood 0-1, Scheid 2-5, Galernik 1-2).

Rebounds: NU 30 (Simon 5), NW 34 (Kunaiyi-Akpanah​ 13). Assists: NU 18 (Whitish 5), NW 18 (Burton 9).

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