Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s struggles continue due to injuries to Turner, Gaines, and Buie


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Chris Collins stares down the court. Northwestern now has seven scholarship players healthy.

Gabriela Carroll, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

When Northwestern posted the injury report before Sunday’s game against Minnesota, coach Chris Collins said postgame it was clear the Wildcats would be “a different kind of team.”

Junior guard Anthony Gaines will undergo a season-ending shoulder surgery and senior forward A.J. Turner is day-to-day with a bruised thigh. Freshman guard Boo Buie, one of the biggest bright spots for NU this season, is also out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. The lone upperclassman in the 7-man rotation is graduate transfer Pat Spencer, who is in his first season of college basketball.

“We only had a couple days to figure out, okay this is our team, what do we do? How you play defense, how you play offense, especially because most of those guys are freshmen,” Collins said. “So for all (those) guys that are really young, to reinvent how we’re trying to play, it was a lot on those guys.”

Depth has been a struggle for the Cats all season — NU started with only ten scholarship players out of the maximum thirteen allowed. With two of its key leaders unable to play in this game, the Cats were forced to play a new starting lineup featuring four forwards and Spencer.

The graduate transfer struggled in the last three games, failing to score more than ten points, and was pulled from the starting lineup against DePaul and Hartford. Spencer bounced back Sunday in a 20 point performance in which he played 39 of 40 minutes. But, Spencer will need to continue to produce at this level playing this many minutes while Buie and Turner are out for NU to make an impact in Big Ten play.

Strong performances from Spencer and sophomore forward Miller Kopp, out of position in the shooting guard role, helped lessen the impact of the loss of Buie, Turner and Gaines. Kopp scored 14 points, including a stretch of three consecutive three-pointers in the second half to help bring the Cats back from a 23 point deficit.

The lack of depth thrust some of NU’s younger players onto the court, and in an untraditional lineup.

“We had seven guys playing a lot of minutes, and we tried to do what we could to mix and match some defenses and rest our guys when we could,” Collins said.

Along with Kopp and Spencer, sophomore guard Ryan Greer, freshman center Ryan Young, freshman forward Robbie Beran all set season-highs in minutes played, and that pace is unlikely to slow down in the coming weeks with no concrete timetable for Buie and Turner’s return.

“This is going to be the group we’re going to have for the time being,” Collins said. “We’ve got to do a good job of figuring out how we can still functionally play with this group.”

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