Rapid Recap: Rutgers 77, Northwestern 73


Ella Brockway/The Daily Northwestern

Ella Brockway, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

PISCATAWAY — On the night of the movie industry’s biggest awards show, Northwestern fans were treated to a very familiar script.

The Wildcats (6-16, 1-11 Big Ten) nearly pulled off the overtime upset of Rutgers (17-7, 8-5), but once again blew a lead down the stretch and lost 77-73 in the Garden State Sunday night.

Rutgers star guard Geo Baker finished with a game-high 25 points, seven of which came in overtime. Freshman guard Boo Buie was NU’s leading scorer with 19 points.

NU opened the game with a new-look lineup — Buie, graduate guard Pat Spencer, freshman forward Robbie Beran, redshirt freshman center Ryan Young and sophomore forward Miller Kopp — and it worked wonders for the game’s opening ten minutes. A pair of back-to-back Boo Buie threes within three minutes silenced the lively Rutgers crowd to put the Cats up early, and NU went into the under-16 timeout with a 10-point lead.

As the Cats were finding their rhythm on the offensive end, they still kept things sound on the opposite side of the floor. Rutgers shot a woeful 3-for-10 in the first ten minutes of the opening half and went the entire first 20 minutes without hitting a single shot from deep.

The Cats’ lead grew as large as 17 in the first half, and whenever the Scarlet Knights started to get momentum and cut into the deficit, NU answered with a bucket of its own. The visitors maintained the advantage and headed into the break with an 11-point lead.

Rutgers opened the second half with a loud alley-oop dunk to snap the double-digit lead, but Buie punched back immediately and drained a deep 3-pointer late in the shot clock.

The Scarlet Knights began to bite back at the lead midway through the second half, but the Cats continued to answer with their own big plays. Rutgers star guard Geo Baker finally found his rhythm late in the second, scoring 10 points and shooting 4-for-6 from the floor.

When Buie exited the game with four fouls and over five minutes to play in the game, the Scarlet Knights cut NU’s lead down to five. And then Baker put the night in his own hands, hitting a three to tie the game at 66 with less than a minute to play. The Cats had the ball with 11 seconds left, but couldn’t make anything happen and sent the game to overtime.

Rutgers hit a three with two seconds left on the shot clock to take a four-point lead with 90 seconds to play in overtime, and seconds later Baker hit a game-winning jumper to deny the Cats their first road win of the season.


1. NU had no answer for Geo Baker once he got hot.

Buie did a solid job defensively on Rutgers’ leading scorer for the first half, but once Baker got hot in the second, he didn’t stop. Nearly all of Baker’s 25 points came in the second half, and with Buie on the bench with four fouls late in the game NU’s defense could do nothing to stop him. Baker led Rutgers’ comeback from as many as 17 down, and had the RAC crowd rocking when he hit a deep, pull-up three-pointer to tie the game at 66 with 48.3 seconds to play, and he took advantage of a defensive mismatch against Miller Kopp to score the winning basket for the Scarlet Knights at the gams end.

2. And the Cats got cold at the worst possible time.

NU hit six threes in the first half, and for a team that averages only 6.3 made threes per game, that was reason enough to be happy. It continued the hot-hand first-half trend: The Cats hit five threes in the opening frame against Purdue on Feb. 1, but as they kept firing in the second couldn’t keep their rhythm and went 4-for-15. The second half started off strong, but late in the game, with Buie on the bench with four fouls and Kopp struggling to find an open opportunity — and the RAC at full capacity and volume — NU went more than four minutes without a basket and couldn’t make anything happen offensively.

3. Chris Collins may have found his best starting lineup, but didn’t stick with it.

The Cats switched it up to start their Sunday night in Piscataway — Beran started over sophomore Pete Nance at the four, and Buie started at point guard alongside Spencer — and it worked like a charm. NU built a 10-point lead with that group of five on the floor and shot a perfect 4-for-4 from field-goal range. But these five that set such a strong tone for NU in the opening minutes appeared only sporadically as a quintet for the rest of the game as the Cats battled foul trouble.

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