Men’s Basketball: Fueled by second half explosion, Northwestern beats Georgetown 75-63


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Senior guard Boo Buie dribbles the ball. Buie posted 12 points, all in the second half, in Northwestern’s 75-63 win over Georgetown.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

It was a tale of two halves for Northwestern’s starters in their win against Georgetown Tuesday night.

Entering the game, coach Chris Collins said he planned for the Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) to play largely on the perimeter in an attempt to combat the Hoyas’ rim protection with Akok Akok and Qudus Wahab. He said they also hoped to slow the game down so it wouldn’t turn into a high-scoring track meet.

His game plan worked to perfection in the contest’s opening minutes, as NU opened up a 9-2 lead behind a trio of three-pointers from redshirt senior guard Chase Audige and junior guard Ty Berry.

But Georgetown responded and knotted the game up at nine. From there, the two squads exchanged blows. The Cats got most of their production from a bench contingent of junior center Matt Nicholson, who had a career game with nine points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guards Julian Roper II and Brooks Barnhizer.

Nicholson spent his first two years in Evanston primarily on the bench, playing behind Pete Nance and Ryan Young. Now, Nicholson’s role has expanded and Collins leaned on him heavily Tuesday after graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven picked up two fouls. 

“Now, (Nicholson’s) getting his opportunity,” Collins said. “That’s what’s fun. You see someone who’s been working and stuck with it… And now that his opportunity is here, he’s taking advantage of it.”

Nicholson poured in all nine of his points and snagged all nine of his rebounds in the first half — including five offensive boards. Roper and Nicholson’s chemistry shone too, and, combined with Barnhizer, the trio tallied 18 points – outscoring the starters in the first half. 

The emergence of the bench trio kept NU in the game after poor performances from its triumvirate of captains. Audige, senior guard Boo Buie and senior forward Robbie Beran totaled just nine points on 3-of-18 shooting from the field. Buie even headed into halftime scoreless.

Whether Collins lit a spark at halftime or gave his starters some of “Michael’s secret stuff” remains up for debate, but the Cats’ engine came out of the break firing on all cylinders.

Off an assist from Buie, Beran buried a corner triple to open up NU’s second half scoring. Moments later, streaking down court, Audige scored a wide open transition layup. Collins pinpointed that bucket as the kickstarter to Audige and the starters’ second half surge.

“Our guards got some layups, which was big,” Collins said. “It really unlocked Audige … When you’re a good scorer, if you can get a layup and can see the ball go in (that’s huge).”

Soon after Audige’s bucket, Buie finally got on the board, scoring on a driving layup. Once the Cats’ two lead guards saw the ball go through the nylon, they were electric. 

Down 42-40, Buie and Audige ignited a 13-4 run to turn the tide. Roper’s putback layup capped off a sequence that boasted a triple from Buie, followed by three consecutive buckets from Audige as Patrick Ewing called a 30-second timeout to stymie the Cats’ momentum. 

“We settled in (and) slowed down a bit,” Collins said. “We got some good shots and were able to get a little distance there.”

A three-pointer from Hoyas’ forward Bryson Mozone trimmed the lead to seven with less than eight minutes left before Buie put the game to bed. The New York native converted a pair of layups and a three-pointer in under two minutes to hand NU a 10-point lead. The Hoyas would never cut the lead back to single digits, as the Cats pushed to a 75-63 victory on the road.

It’s no secret NU is going to ebb and flow based on Audige, Buie and Beran’s performances. They are the featured scoring trio this season, recording a combined 40 against Georgetown, and Collins will look to get them the ball often, regardless of whether they’re hot or cold. But if Roper, Barnhizer and Nicholson can replicate their efforts against the Hoyas, they can and will elevate this squad. 

“You always want to learn through winning, especially winning on the road,” Collins said. “There’s been a lot of talk about not finishing games … we really played well those last few minutes. We executed, we got good shots, we defended.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

Related Stories:

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

Rapid Recap: Northwestern 63, Northern Illinois 46

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