Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s defense remedies poor offensive showing in win against Northern Illinois


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior guard Ty Berry attempts a floater against Northern Illinois. Berry posted 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds en route to his first career double-double in Northwestern’s 63-46 win over Northern Illinois.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

With just under 11 minutes remaining in the second half of Northwestern’s clash against Northern Illinois, coach Chris Collins called a timeout. The Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) had broken the Huskies’ 2-2-1 full court press, but Collins needed to stymie the visitors’ momentum.

After NU gained a 10-point lead just a minute prior, a turbulent possession occurred. Northern Illinois’ Xavier Amos finished through the chest of graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven on a layup. Sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer, alone on the wing, then attempted a three-pointer, which fell short. Amos snagged the rebound before burying a three in front of Barnhizer seconds later to cut the deficit in half. The sequence prompted Collins’ timeout.

“We faced real game pressure when we were up 48-43,” Collins said. “I told the guys we’re being tested … and if you’re not ready to play at a high level, you can lose to anyone. And we really dug down (from there).”

The Cats responded to Collins’ message, closing the game on a 15-3 run — holding the Huskies scoreless in the final four minutes.

Northern Illinois tallied just 19 second-half points on 21.2% shooting from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Following a 15-point first half performance, the Huskies’ leading scorer, Keshawn Williams, recorded just four points on an inefficient 1-of-8 shooting in the second half.

Losing nearly half of its offensive production from last season, Collins has called on his returners to produce more on both ends of the floor. On nights like Friday, when the team struggled to muster much offensively, the Cats will need to hang their hats on their defensive performance.

“It certainly wasn’t our prettiest performance,” Collins said. “Defensively, we really did the job when we needed to. In the first half, we did not do a great job of keeping them out of the paint … we were getting really spread out. But in the second half, we did a much better job.”

The 48-year-old heralded the team’s effort containing Williams and David Coit in particular, who poured in just nine points in 37 minutes.

Individual superlatives for NU may have been few and far between Friday, but junior guard Ty Berry’s play was pinpointed by Collins postgame. Berry’s career-high 11 rebounds propelled him to his first career double-double after also posting 11 points.

When the Cats’ wings, notably senior forward Robbie Beran, get switched on to the perimeter, Collins said it’s imperative that the team’s guards crash the glass, which Berry did to great effect.

“I was just letting the game come to me,” Berry said. “I was really focused on the defensive end tonight. I feel like rebounds sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t and it just kind of depends where you’re at. But I did feel like I was attacking the glass well.”

A basketball player in a white jersey hangs onto a hoop.
Graduate forward Tydus Verhoeven hangs onto the rim after a dunk. (Katie Chen/The Daily Northwestern)

Offensively, NU’s performance was an inverse of its season-opening win against Chicago State.

After hitting 84.4% of their free throws and 47.6% of their three-point attempts Monday, the Cats went cold against Northern Illinois. NU hit just 10-of-17 shots from the charity stripe and connected on a mere 5-of-22 attempts from beyond the arc, good for marks of 58.8% and 22.7%, respectively.

Redshirt senior guard Chase Audige, who Collins said was hampered with “a little bit of a back issue,” struggled shooting, going 2-of-9 from the field and 0-of-6 from deep in 35 minutes. Senior guard Boo Buie was equally inefficient, tallying 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, but did add seven assists and six rebounds.

The one constant offensively? Beran again led the Cats in scoring, posting 15 points, including knocking down a pair of triples.

Despite polar opposite offensive displays in its first two games, Collins and NU will look to carry its early momentum to the nation’s capital as they take on Georgetown Tuesday in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

“It’s the second game of the year, so you’re still figuring out rotations and how to sub, when to bring guys in,” Collins said. “I’m still very much in a learning process with this team. Hopefully over these next set of games, if we can keep guys healthy, we can get into a really good routine.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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