Men’s Basketball: In need of a hero, Northwestern’s offense struggles down the stretch in loss to Rutgers

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.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern kept missing opportunities, shots and often, the rim altogether. The Wildcats led by 11 points with 6:30 remaining, and then the offense fell apart.

Freshman guard Boo Buie took three floaters down the stretch that didn’t land anywhere near the basket. Freshman center Ryan Young got blocked at the rim. Sophomore forward Miller Kopp couldn’t get open.

NU made just one field goal in the last seven minutes in regulation, and the Cats only made two shots in overtime. That led NU (6-16, 1-11 Big Ten) to its seventh loss this season by five points or fewer, a 77-73 loss to Rutgers (17-7, 8-5) in overtime.

“We had some shots down the stretch, me specifically, that I didn’t make,” Buie said. “I’ll take the blame for that loss. I didn’t get a good shot. If I hit one basket, then we win the game.”

Buie was the focal point of the Cats’ offense all game, leading NU with 19 points. But he took 15 shots, and he struggled trying to score one-on-one late.

Rutgers guard Geo Baker led the team back into the game, hitting stepback jumpers at the end of regulation and overtime to carry the Scarlet Knights’ offense. Baker hit a baseline 12-footer with 11 seconds left in overtime to extend Rutgers’ lead to four points, icing the win for the Scarlet Knights.

Baker needed to save the game for Rutgers because the Cats had one of their best first halves of the season. NU led by as many as 17 points in the first half, and the Cats finished the half with six made three-point shots to take an 11 point lead at the break.

“In the first half, we were executing really well,” coach Chris Collins said. “We were getting to our cuts, I thought we were getting into a really good rhythm. Then in the second half, they upped their pressure a little bit, got us off our spots and made it more difficult for us on the offensive end.”

Kopp scored 16 points for NU, and freshman center Jared Jones had a career-high 11 points. But they did most of their scoring in the first half as the Cats’ offense faded for the second consecutive game.

After Purdue beat NU on a last-second shot last week, the Cats faced the same issues against Rutgers. In conference play this season, NU has now lost four different games where the team led by double digits in the second half.

“Sometimes late in the game, you’ve got to step up and make a play,” Collins said. “But it’s not just what we weren’t doing. They’re a physical team, and they really turned it up a notch on the defensive end.”

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