Men’s Basketball: Wildcats’ offense falters in road loss to Wisconsin

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Robbie Beran prepares to dribble. The freshman forward scored six points on Wednesday.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


Coming off a tight overtime victory over Nebraska on Sunday, Northwestern hoped to top off what had already been a successful road trip with a win over No. 24 Wisconsin.

Though the Wildcats (7-22, 2-17 in Big Ten) battled back from an early 17-point deficit, the Badgers (20-10, 13-6) endured NU’s defense and foiled its upset bid, 63-48.

“Our defense did enough,” coach Chris Collins said. “It was just our inability to score and keep us within striking distance.”

Wisconsin started off hot and opened up the game early. The Badgers made six of their first seven shot attempts to take a 16-5 lead five minutes into the game, while the Wildcats managed a single Ryan Young layup and a trio of free throws over that span.

The strong shooting didn’t stop for Wisconsin as the Badgers stretched their lead to 17 and seemed poised to run away with the contest. Instead, freshman forward Robbie Beran blocked a Wisconsin shot and made the ensuing three to spark the NU offense, and on the ensuing possession sophomore forward Pete Nance connected on a triple of his own to cut it to an 11-point game. In the final six minutes of the half, the Cats outscored Wisconsin 17-6 and trailed just 34-28 at the break.

Wisconsin’s offense struck in the second half when Badgers Micah Potter and Brevin Pritzl knocked down threes on back-to-back possessions to move their lead back to double digits, but the story of the second half was the NU’s inability to get anything on the scoreboard. The Cats went nearly 10 minutes of the second half without a field goal and couldn’t take advantage of the Badgers’ modest offensive output.

Though NU wouldn’t let Wisconsin run away with the game — only forward Nate Reuvers scored in double digits for the Badgers — the Cats couldn’t put together a run to make a serious late-game threat and fell to 2-16 in Big Ten play.

Aside from the five-minute stretch at the end of the first half, NU’s offense struggled to convert looks from both short- and long-range and finished shooting 31.5 percent from the field and 20 percent from behind the arc. Nance tallied 14 points off the bench and freshman center Ryan Young had nine points and six rebounds, but the Cats’ backcourt was held in check by Wisconsin.

Guards Boo Buie and Pat Spencer were held to a combined nine points on 14 shot attempts. Sophomore forward Miller Kopp, NU’s leading scorer this season and its primary perimeter threat, finished 1-for-9 from the field.

“We didn’t really shoot the ball well all night,” Collins said. “Even in the first half, we were 10-for-27 and we had a couple point-blank layups where we ran great offense and rolled a guy to the basket. They don’t give you a lot of easy stuff, so when you do execute and get a shot you have to take advantage and knock them down.”

NU will close out its regular season at home Saturday against Penn State ahead of next week’s Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis. Up against a Nittany Lion team ranked third in the conference in scoring average, the Cats’ ability to convert offensively will be essential once again.

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