Men’s Basketball: Northwestern seizes a win over No. 23 Ohio State in closing minutes

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Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Miller Kopp and Boo Buie high-five. Kopp’s 23 points and Buie’s late three-pointer propelled Northwestern to a 71-70 victory over No. 23 Ohio State on Saturday.

Patrick Andres, Assistant Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


In their narrow wins over Indiana and No. 23 Ohio State, Northwestern has dominated in the final minutes. It’s a stark difference from last season, when the Wildcats struggled to come out on top in close games. The 2019-2020 team won two out of nine matches decided by five points or fewer.

But to coach Chris Collins, NU’s knack for clutch play is not a newfound skill, but rather a natural outgrowth of a team that has drastically improved over the past year, he said.

“Did we do anything different? No,” Collins said after the Cats toppled the Buckeyes 71-70 Saturday afternoon in Evanston. “Our guys are better players than they were in the past.”

These “better players” had their fingerprints all over both teams’ final possessions. First, redshirt sophomore guard Chase Audige — a transfer playing just his third game against a Big Ten opponent — converted a defensive rebound into a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:48 to play. Audige’s shot came in the wake of his strong performance against Indiana, in which he tallied all 17 of his points in the second half.

Then, when Ohio State tied the game at 68, sophomore guard Boo Buie stared down the Buckeyes’ guard CJ Walker and drained a three of his own to put NU up 71-68 with just over a minute left.

“Having a lot of scorers around the perimeter and also inside the paint makes us really hard to guard,” Buie said. “As long as one of us can get open or get someone else open, I think we have a pretty good chance of making a shot like that.”

After Ohio State forward Kyle Young made two free throws to trim the Cats’ lead to one, junior forward Miller Kopp missed a short jumper, giving the Buckeyes one final chance with 12 seconds on the game clock. Guard Duane Washington Jr. missed a layup, and a scrum under the basket ended with the ball in Buie’s hands.

Two seconds of game time later, NU was 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1968.

“You have to bring it every single night,” Kopp said after recording a game-high 23 points. “We started a bit slow today, but we picked it up. 40 minutes is a really long time, so you have time to change how you’re playing and what you’re doing.”

The Cats’ calling card in 2021 — depth — was on full display throughout the game and in crunch time, as eight players hit a field goal for NU for the seventh consecutive game this season. Seven different players saw action for the Cats in the final two minutes, and all except Audige had played in the team’s 8-23 2020 season.

“(The players on this team) are all holding each other accountable,” Collins said, “which makes for a really cool atmosphere on a team when it happens.”

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