ROSEMONT, Ill. — Tanner Borchardt showed in Nebraska’s 70-55 victory at Northwestern that he’s no one-hit wonder.
The center from Gothenburg, Nebraska, who earned a scholarship Dec. 22, provided what coach Tim Miles called “critical” minutes in helping the Huskers (11-5, 2-1) claim their first true road victory of the season and break a four-game skid against the Wildcats.
In 12 minutes, Borchardt hit both field-goal attempts, grabbed two rebounds, blocked two shots and added an assist without committing a turnover.
In NU’s previous game against Stetson, the 6-foot-8, 265-pound junior helped blunt a potential upset with eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes.
As important as Borchardt’s work was against an under-sized, low-major opponent, his production against a Big Ten foe that was a preseason Top 25 pick will turn heads.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins noticed. His center, Dererk Pardon, scored 17 points but took 18 shots, of which he missed 12.
“Our main emphasis was to get the ball inside,” Collins said. “We thought we had the matchup there. Dererk got the touches … but Borchardt came in and gave them good minutes.”
Borchardt’s sound defense was a key to Nebraska’s game plan, Miles said.
His ability to hound Pardon — a Nebraska-killer in previous games — into an inefficient night without requiring a double team allowed the Huskers to blanket the perimeter.
The result was Northwestern shot 29.2 percent for the game. The Wildcats’ top three outside shooters went 1 of 6, 2 of 11 and 4 of 14.
“Tanner is our most physical player and has a real feel for the game,” Miles said. “He knows angles, he knows how not to give up angles. He did a great job just chesting up and making it hard for Dererk.
“Tanner sat on his good shoulder and forced him the other way. Dererk is a really good player, but Tanner did a nice job on him.”
Borchardt’s offensive awareness also sparked a sluggish Nebraska attack in the second half.
Twice, Borchardt beat his man down the floor and got into position in the lane. Point guard Glynn Watson found him with slick entry passes in transition that led to layups during a 10-1 run that gave Nebraska the lead for good.
Though Borchardt just got his scholarship, his playing time could soon match or surpass that of sophomore starter Jordy Tshimanga and senior backup Duby Okeke.
Miles said “overall production” is what he wants from his centers.
“We need production,” he said. “Duby is very good on screen-and-roll defense and he blocks shots. But sometimes we struggle on offense.
“With Tanner on offense, if you put him in the right situations, he can get guys like Glynn free with some solid screens. But he’s not a shot blocker, except on occasion.
“And Jordy just hasn’t quite got going. So what do you do?”
Big-man matchups will be featured when Nebraska plays Saturday at No. 13 Purdue, which improved to 14-2 and 3-0 in the Big Ten after beating Rutgers 82-51 on Wednesday.
The Boilermakers’ starting center is 7-2, 290-pound Isaac Haas, who averages 14.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. His backup is 7-3, 250-pound Matt Haarms, who averages 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Haas and Haarms have combined for 67 blocked shots. Nebraska’s three centers have 30.
“With Purdue next, they’ve got Isaac Haas and plenty of other guys it seems,” Miles said. “We’re going to have to run all three guys at Isaac.”