Golden: Northwestern men’s basketball’s 77-73 overtime showed that they still don’t have their go-to guy

Boo Buie makes a move. NU lost 77-73 to Rutgers in overtime.

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Boo Buie makes a move. NU lost 77-73 to Rutgers in overtime.

Andrew Golden, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern fans were just waiting for it to happen: Up by 18 early on and leading by 11 with just under seven minutes left, the Cats’ position felt like all too familiar territory, too early to get hopes up.

And unfortunately, it was.

Sunday’s 77-73 overtime loss to Rutgers game felt like a punch in the stomach. Rutgers has Geo Baker, the guy who can clearly take them to the next level. And no matter how hard the Wildcats (6-16, 1-11 Big Ten) seem to fight and battle, they can’t turn to a player with the confidence and swagger to push the team forward late in games.

On many occasions during NU games this season, the young Wildcats have shown how good they could potentially be. Freshman Boo Buie has shot the lights out, sophomore Miller Kopp has improved significantly from last season and freshman Ryan Young has shown flashes of success against tough opponents.

But NU has somehow found different ways to lose games despite playing well for most of the game. The Cats had a 15-point lead against Maryland in the first half and blew it. NU led by seven points in the second half against Purdue before blowing it.

So the Cats’ early lead against the Scarlet Knights wasn’t surprising, considering they had as good of a start as you could have to a ballgame. But it did make people wonder if this was the game that they would finally break through.

Buie and Kopp came out and set the tone for the game early — each hitting several three-pointers early on. By the end of the first half, NU had shot 50 percent from the field and the team’s defense was playing just as well.

It just seemed like a matter of time until the Cats would blow it, even though for most of the second half, NU seemed under control and had a counterattack for every Rutgers blow. That was except for the final eight minutes.

The Cats were outscored 18-6 and couldn’t find anyone to hit the clutch shots when they needed it. Kopp wasn’t an efficient scorer and Buie couldn’t recreate his earlier magic. But Rutgers’ Baker was unstoppable.

The Scarlet Knights’ No. 0 had something NU lacked — the ability to finish a game off. Rutgers put the ball in their star’s hands and Baker’s last two shots of regulation sent the game into overtime.

Baker showed the Cats how to finish a game — scoring seven of his team’s 11 points, taking the game into his own hands and delivering the finishing blows.

The Scarlet Knights didn’t necessarily play a significantly better game than the Cats. But what makes them a winning squad is the ability to finish teams off, specifically knowing they have a “guy” they can rely on.

One of these days, NU will have their guy. One of these days, Buie will hit the three-pointer to ice a team at home. One of the days, Kopp will hit a game-winning, mid-range jumper to send Welsh-Ryan into a frenzy.

But for now, we all have to wait and watch games just like tonight. And it doesn’t make the pain hurt any less.

Andrew Golden is a Medill junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.