Men’s Basketball: Poor shooting ends Northwestern’s season

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Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Chase Audige prepares to score. Audige scored six points and seven rebounds in Northwestern’s season-ending loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.

Gabriela Carroll, Web Editor


Men’s Basketball


INDIANAPOLIS — Northwestern’s shooting in their matchup against Minnesota in the opening minutes was, for lack of a better word, awful.

The Wildcats didn’t score their first points until just under seven minutes into the game, and then failed to score again for another five minutes.

NU also ended badly. After rallying from a 14-point deficit to take a seven-point lead, the Cats failed to score in the final four minutes of the game, and ultimately fell to Minnesota 51-46.

Adding all that together, NU failed to score for 17 minutes, almost a full half of basketball. Despite the poor offensive showing, they still had a chance to win in the final minutes.

“If you shoot the ball 31 percent from the field, 27 percent from three and 41 percent from the free throw line, it’s gonna be hard to win,” coach Chris Collins said. “That being said, we had our chances.”

The Golden Gophers aided the Cats’ abysmal 8-for-31 first half shooting performance with a poor offensive performance of their own, shooting 10-for-26. Despite going over 12 minutes without scoring, NU was down just seven at halftime.

In a second-half rally, sparked by sophomore guard Chase Audige’s steal and dunk, the Cats built a lead of seven points with just four minutes left. Sophomore forward Robbie Beran hit a three-pointer, and momentum looked to be in NU’s favor.

They didn’t score another point.

The offensive struggles came after one of the Cats’ strongest offensive performances of the season on Sunday against Nebraska. In that game, NU earned their highest point total of 2021, and six players scored in double figures. Against Minnesota, the Cats had no double-digit scorers. Junior forward Miller Kopp led the team with nine points, and junior forward Pete Nance followed close behind with eight.

“There’s some nights where you have bad shooting nights, and unfortunately, that happened for us tonight,” Nance said. “We got really great looks. I know everybody works on their shots every single day, getting up the shots that they get in the game. Sometimes you make them, sometimes you miss. Today, not a lot of them were going in.”

Nance said the team could not make the necessary offensive and defensive plays in the final minutes. After a strong defensive effort on Golden Gophers star Marcus Carr, Carr responded by scoring eight points in the final five minutes, including four made free throws.

On the other hand, sophomore guard Boo Buie, who made 12 free throws to sink Minnesota in their Feb. 25 matchup, missed two free throws with Minnesota down just three. Those free throws could have pulled the game further in NU’s direction.

Though the Cats closed better this season than they did last, as coach Chris Collins stressed postgame, Wednesday’s Big Ten Tournament matchup felt eerily similar to last year. A first round loss in the tournament to Minnesota? Check. A blown lead in the final minutes? Check.

This season, NU made significant strides from their three-win 2019-20 conference campaign, but their late game collapse is a sign of how far they still have to climb to be a contender in the conference.

“We put ourselves in a position where we had to have a reset,” Collins said. “We said, we’re going to redo it the right way. We’re gonna get some guys in here who believe, who are talented players, and are going to get better, and that’s what they’re doing… I think it’s going to be more realistic for this group going into next year to have real aspirations.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @gablcarroll

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