Rapid Recap: Northwestern 67, Minnesota 59

Sophomore+guard+Boo+Buie+releases+a+shot+against+Ohio+State+on+Dec.+26.+Buie+scored+25+points+in+Northwestern+67-59+win+over+Minnesota.

Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore guard Boo Buie releases a shot against Ohio State on Dec. 26. Buie scored 25 points in Northwestern 67-59 win over Minnesota.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


On Thursday night, Northwestern found its formula to winning games in 2021 — defense. 

The Wildcats overcame a disastrous start and 12 first-half turnovers against host Minnesota with its strongest defensive effort in Big Ten play. NU (7-14, 4-13 in Big Ten) held the Golden Gophers (13-11, 6-11) to 4-27 from behind the three-point line and held Minnesota scoreless for long stretches of the game. 

The triumphant final result: a 67-59 road win, the Wildcats’ first victory in 14 games. 

For a game that looked on the brink of blowout status in the opening minutes, NU’s 31-25 halftime deficit was an accomplishment on its own. The Cats turned the ball over nine times in the game’s opening nine minutes, allowing Minnesota to build a 17-3 lead over that span.

NU curtailed its turnovers with just three in the remainder of the half. With more offensive discipline, the Cats battled back and tied the game with a 16-2 run. 

Minnesota responded with a quick strike, blitzing NU with three baskets in just 33 seconds and capitalizing on the Cats’ lapses in transition. The spurt helped the Golden Gophers finish their up-and-down first frame with a 31-25 lead.

NU found its star in the second half in point guard Boo Buie. The sophomore guard hit a pair of threes and a jumper to give the Cats eight quick points in the first four minutes of the second half. Buie’s outburst, paired with a strong defensive effort that held the Golden Gophers scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half, flipped the halftime deficit into a two-possession NU lead. 

Just like their first half blitz, Minnesota took back its lead by forcing the Cats into turnovers and converting on the offensive end with nine straight points. Both teams struggled to seize momentum in the final minutes in regulation, until Buie hit a long three to turn a slight NU margin into a 58-51 advantage with 1:37 to go. The Cats held onto their lead to clinch their first win in the calendar year.

Takeaways:

1. NU Holds Marcus Carr in Check

The Cats’ schedule, ranked hardest in the nation by KenPom, has pitted NU against some of the nation’s best teams, but also some of the elite players. Against Minnesota, the Cats were tasked with stopping Golden Gopher guard Marcus Carr. NU dedicated defensive attention to Carr in the first half and held him to a single field goal and seven points in the first half, though backcourt mate Jamal Mashburn Jr. took advantage by making his first four field goals in the first half. The trend continued in the second half. Carr was wildly inefficient from the field with a 5-17 shooting performance, but he made his mark from the free throw line by making eight attempts. Even though Carr finished with a respectable 21 points, the Cats’ defensive performance had to be considered a win. 

2. Cats Recover from Disastrous Start

NU’s effort against Minnesota rehashed multiple Wildcat staples from turnover issues to rough three-point shooting, but the Cats’ ability to battle back from disastrous starts proved prescient once again. Nine days after rallying from down 25-7 at Illinois, NU looked discombobulated in The Barn in the first nine minutes of the half, struggling to even attempt shots because of turnover woes. Once the Cats’ defense buckled down and NU cut its turnovers, NU pulled back within contention with its 16-2 run. 

3. Undermanned Golden Gophers Keep Pace with Cats

For all of the issues that have plagued the Cats’ during the 13-game losing skid, health has not been one of them. Minnesota entered the night down center Liam Robbins and his absence was apparent. The Golden Gopher bench didn’t keep up their end, contributing just two points on the night and putting the burden on the Minnesota starting five. 

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Twitter: @john__riker

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