Rapid Recap: No. 25 Rutgers 64, Northwestern 50

Chase+Audige+elevates+for+a+dunk+attempt+in+the+Cats%E2%80%99+loss+to+Rutgers+on+Jan.+31.+NU+was+unable+to+avenge+their+earlier+loss+in+a+64-50+loss+to+the+Scarlet+Knights.

Chase Audige elevates for a dunk attempt in the Cats’ loss to Rutgers on Jan. 31. NU was unable to avenge their earlier loss in a 64-50 loss to the Scarlet Knights.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


Only a couple days removed from a gutting double-OT defeat at home to Indiana, Northwestern headed east for another challenge, a road matchup against No. 25 Rutgers.

The Wildcats (6-12, 3-11 in Big Ten) stayed competitive against the favored Scarlet Knights (12-7, 7-7), but in a low-scoring, defensive-minded affair, NU’s anemic offense doomed the Cats’ chances in a season-worst offensive performance. The 64-50 road loss in Piscataway extended the Cats’ skid to 11 games.

The Cats looked anything but lethargic to start off their afternoon, racing out to a 14-4 lead over their hosts with contributions from across the starting lineup. NU kept its lead for most of the half, junior guard Anthony Gaines led the charge with a season-high 11 points in only his third game in the starting lineup, lifting the Cats’ offensive unit.

Rutgers recovered, overcoming an atrocious 1-10 showing from beyond the arc by pounding NU inside. The Cats had no answers for the Scarlet Knights’ star Myles Johnson, who connected on three dunks and finished the half shooting 5-5 from the field with six rebounds. Rutgers finished the half shooting 55.2 percent from the field, compared to just 39.3 percent from the Cats. 

The disparity was especially apparent in a 10-0 run by Rutgers to end the half. With the game tied at 27, the Scarlet Knights blitzed their visitors with buckets on four straight possessions to take a 37-27 lead into halftime. 

After going through a stretch of almost 10 minutes without a field goal, NU put together an 11-0 run midway through the second half to pull within a possession. The Cats’ defense was just as essential to the comeback — Rutgers’ offense stalled out with eight scoreless minutes.

When the Scarlet Knights finally got back on the scoreboard, NU’s offensive struggles returned. Rutgers boosted its lead back to double digits and put the game out of the Cats’ reach. NU’s 50-point offensive output was its lowest of the season.

Takeaways

1. Rutgers stifles NU’s frontcourt

The Cats’ two starting big men, Pete Nance and Ryan Young, have been among their most consistent performers over the past month. Against Rutgers, the two were inefficient on the offensive end and were exploited early on defense. Nance and Young each tallied eight points, but the two combined to shoot 6-19 from the field. Credit the two big men with slowing down the Scarlet Knights frontcourt for most of the second half, but when Rutgers needed points the most, they turned inside. 

2. NU’s bench goes silent

Freshman Ty Berry’s absence kept one of the Cats’ best offensive spark plugs out of the picture, and the rest of NU’s reserves couldn’t find their rhythm. Sophomore guard Boo Buie, who was 0-8 from the field against Indiana, connected on a single field goal against Rutgers either across 22 minutes. Sophomore forward Robbie Beran accounted for the Cats’ only other bench field goal. The lack of bench help put the brunt of the minutes on a starting lineup coming off a double OT marathon. 

3. Cats show second wind in second half

Down by double digits at half on the road in their third game in the past eight days, the Cats had plenty of excuses to tune out. Instead, NU locked down on the defensive end and demonstrated rare grit for a team with 10 consecutive defeats. A resounding block by sophomore guard Chase Audige was particularly emblematic of a defense that held Rutgers to a 1-11 start from the field to open the second half. The stretch was crucial in getting the Cats back in contention, even if the final result was all too familiar. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @john__riker