Men’s Basketball: Northwestern leaves 2021-22 in rear view, opens season with 31-point rout of Chicago State


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior forward Robbie Beran gets ready to shoot a free throw. Beran had a game-high 20 points in Northwestern’s 85-54 victory over Chicago State.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

Look beyond the 27 made free throws and 47.6% shooting from beyond the arc. 

While those are impressive marks, the 49 points from Northwestern’s upperclassmen trio is the most important number from the Wildcats’ season-opening 85-54 victory Monday over Chicago State.

Senior forward Robbie Beran, redshirt senior guard Chase Audige and senior guard Boo Buie will be under the magnifying glass as NU’s engine for the season. The three captains will be called on to carry this bunch over the next five months, and they stepped up to the plate against the Cougars.

“Those guys have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” coach Chris Collins said.  “Last year was obviously disappointing because we felt like we had a team good enough to play in the NCAA Tournament. We didn’t get it done, but they’ve gotten better.”

Collins said the trio established a team environment of “grit and determination and fight and toughness” this offseason, which the Cats will need as the season labors on.

Although the 31-point victory might make it seem otherwise, the Monday night clash saw minimal offensive sparks in the opening minutes. Two minutes passed before the first field goal: a three-pointer from junior guard Ty Berry. NU would eventually separate from the visitors courtesy of a 21-5 run in the back half of the opening frame, led by the three captains and Berry.

Beran tallied 14 of his game-high 20 points in the first half while also anchoring a Cats defense that held Chicago State to 21 points and 21.2% shooting. Collins heralded Beran as an “underrated defender” and the captain of the team’s defense, but the Virginia native said the team’s defensive success wasn’t due to his individual play.

“It’s really just a team effort,” Beran said. “We did a pretty good job the whole game staying in our gaps, playing together, playing solid, team defense.”

Alongside Berry, who hit four triples in a 14-point performance, Beran, Audige and Buie propelled NU offensively due to their frequent trips to the charity stripe. The trio shot a combined 24-of-26 from the free throw line, as NU drew 28 fouls against the Cougars.

Collins said Chicago State’s defensive switchability made it hard for the Cats to establish rhythm in their offensive sets, in turn forcing the hosts to “attack pressure” and get in the paint.

“We got downhill, we got ourselves to the free throw line,” Collins said. “When you play teams that pressure like that, you (have) got to combat that with force and physicality.”

While NU lived at the free throw line and hit 84.4% of its attempts, Audige was the focal point of the team creating good looks against the Cougars.

The New York native posted a game-high nine assists, finding teammates on the perimeter and inside throughout the contest. The Cats’ leading assist man last season, Buie, recorded six assists of his own.

“We got great looks,” Beran said. “Coming into the game we said we wanted to pass up good shots and get great shots and I think we did that.”

Despite the scoreline, Collins and company still have several kinks to iron out in the season’s infancy. 

The Cats turned the ball over 14 times after averaging under 10 per contest last season. Chicago State also out-rebounded the hosts on the offensive glass 14-13 and notably held a 10-3 margin at intermission, which Collins said “hurt a little bit.”

Nevertheless, a win is a win — especially when it’s by 31 points.

“All in all, (it’s) great to be 1-0,” Collins said. “Good to get a win (and) a lot of guys played well.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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