Rapid Recap: No. 13 Auburn 43, Northwestern 42


Daily file photo by Katie Chen

Redshirt senior guard Chase Audige. Audige led Northwestern with 10 points in their 43-42 loss against No. 13 Auburn Wednesday.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

With a chance to return to the United States with its first-ever multi-team event title, Northwestern gave No. 13 Auburn all it could handle in a low-scoring, 43-42 slugfest loss Wednesday in the Cancun Challenge Riviera Division championship.

The pair of teams struggled to convert anything offensively in the first half. Both squads’ coaches, Chris Collins and Bruce Pearl, have said their teams will lean on their defenses as their offenses continue to evolve. That was evident throughout the first 20 minutes, with the Tigers (6-0, 0-0 SEC) and Wildcats (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) hitting just nine total shots en route to a 19-19 scoreline at halftime.

NU took its first lead of the game three minutes into the second half on a pullup jumper from junior guard Ty Berry. The Kansas native also canned the Cats’ first triple of the game after 28 minutes of basketball, pushing the advantage to six points.

But Auburn responded in ample fashion, reclaiming the lead following a 10-0 run. NU and the Tigers exchanged blows for the rest of the game, with the contest coming down to the final possession. Redshirt senior guard Chase Audige’s fadeaway jumper sailed over the rim as the Cats’ attempts at an upset victory fell just short.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s bout with Auburn.

  1. Stagnant offenses, energetic defenses turn heads in first half

Neither team could hit the broadside of a barn in the contest’s opening 20 minutes. 

Chalk it up to the defensive energy or poor shot selection, but the two squads headed into the intermission knotted up at 19-19.

Fittingly, 19 players saw the floor in the first half between the pair of teams, combining to shoot 9-of-51 from the floor. The Tigers posted marginally better shooting splits than the Cats at 18.5% from the field compared to 16.7%. 

Though NU was often forced into contested jumpers as the shot clock ticked down, the Cats’ defense and free throw shooting kept it close. 

Despite a clear size and athletic disadvantage and shots not falling from the perimeter, NU continued to drive into the heart of Auburn’s defense. They were subsequently rewarded with frequent trips to the charity stripe. The Cats attempted 14 throws in the first half, hitting 11. At the break, NU’s free throw tally nearly tripled its total made field goals – four. 

  1. NU unable to close game despite late push

In a game where buckets were few and far between, the lead changed hands four times in the final three minutes of play. 

Following a pump fake that sent an Auburn defender flying by, senior guard Boo Buie took a couple dribbles into the paint before hitting a floater to cut the Cats’ deficit to two points. A couple possessions later, Buie found junior center Matt Nicholson diving to the rim, with the 7-footer dunking the ball to tie the game 37-37.

After a pair of free throws from the Tigers’ K.D. Johnson, Audige hit NU’s second three-pointer of the game to take a 40-39 lead. Auburn’s Wendell Green Jr. scored his first bucket to reclaim the advantage, but Audige responded with a layup to make it 42-41 in favor of the Cats.

Nevertheless, despite NU’s best attempts, Allen Flanigan’s transition layup off a Nicholson turnover was the game-winning bucket. Audige’s late heave never hit the rim and the ensuing melee for the miss ran out the clock as the Cats’ fell a bucket short of some hardware.

  1. The Cats can carry momentum from Cancun

Despite being handed its first loss of the season, there are a number of positives to take from NU’s performance so far in November.

For one, the Cats’ intensity and energy never wavered despite their offensive struggles Wednesday. This time last year, NU would have likely crumpled under such pressure, but the Cats remained locked in defensively to keep the game competitive and within reach. While the Tigers’ defensive pressure led to poor shot selection and few buckets, other good looks simply didn’t fall. Sometimes, it’s just one of those nights.

For a full 40 minutes, NU went toe-to-toe with a top-15 team in the country and, for spurts, looked like the better team. This squad remains committed on the defensive end and continues to compete in the face of adversity. 

Now, NU returns to Evanston as focus shifts to a pair of matchups against Pittsburgh in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the start of conference play versus No. 12 Michigan State. Ultimately, it’s a pair of marquee contests that the Cats should head into with some confidence.

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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