Men’s Basketball: Northwestern continues to shoot lights out in rout against Minnesota


Esther Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Senior guard Boo Buie drives to the rim. Buie tallied 21 points and had a game-high eight assists in Saturday’s 81-61 victory over Minnesota.

Aayushya Agarwal, Reporter

If you told Northwestern (15-5, 6-3 Big Ten) it would have a perfect week after an eight-day layoff, the athletes would have been thrilled. If you told them that two of those wins would be convincing victories, they would be ecstatic. 

Coming off of a hot-shooting night in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Wildcats cruised toward an 81-61 victory on Saturday when it hosted Minnesota (7-13, 1-9 Big Ten), winning back-to-back conference games by 15 or more points for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. 

During the first five minutes of the game, NU struggled offensively. A turnaround jumper by redshirt senior Chase Audige and a corner three by senior forward Robbie Beran were the only points NU put up on the board. By the first media timeout, the Cats faced a 9-5 deficit. 

However, coming out of the timeout, NU wrote a different ending to their story, replicating its performance against Nebraska just a few nights prior and drowning the scoreboard on the Gophers. A running floater by senior guard Boo Buie and a reverse layup from Audige gave the Cats their first lead midway through the first half. 

Once they pulled ahead, NU did not look back. A deep three by Audige, followed by three successful free throws, led to a ferocious 11-0 run over the next four minutes. The New York native started Saturday’s contest off red hot, having scored the Cats’ first 10-of-18 points and going three-for-three early from the field. 

Audige spoke on his continued offensive success, and how he treats every game individually, regardless of the results in previous contests. 

“I try to do what the game gives me,” Audige said. “In the first half, they were giving me shots, so I took them. Every game is a new game, so I don’t try to take it from game-to-game.” 

The Cats continued to receive contributions from multiple players on the floor, set up by brilliant passing from Buie. The senior guard set up Beran for another three and sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer with a reverse layup, giving NU its first double-digit advantage of the contest. Buie finished Saturday’s victory with 21 points and eight assists, with six coming in the first half alone. 

Buie addressed his ability to find his teammates while continuing to score throughout the game. 

“My team was doing a good job of playing off of me,” Buie said. “They were stepping up and making shots, so credit to them. We’re cutting and playing downhill, so I found some guys under the rim, and others for some threes. I was just trying to get in there and make the best play, whether that was to pass or to score.” 

On the defensive side of the floor, the Cats’ pressure remained intense, enabling them to extend their lead down the stretch in the first half. With junior guard Ty Berry and junior center Matthew Nicholson facing foul trouble throughout the half, the Cats needed to rely on players who generally do not see extended action like graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven and freshman forward Nick Martinelli. 

Verhoeven sparked the Cats defensively, thanks to multiple blocks from behind on Minnesota shooters. The graduate student had his best defensive game in an NU uniform, finishing with three blocks and a steal. Steals by Buie, Barnhizer and Audige on three consecutive defensive possessions propelled the Cats toward 15 forced turnovers and 14 points off turnovers in the first half alone. 

In the final minutes of the first half, Audige continued his strong play on the offensive side of the floor. Crossing up his defender to bury a jumper pulling up for a three, the New York native helped the Cats have a 45-28 advantage at the intermission. The redshirt senior scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, on five-for-seven shooting from the field. 

Minutes into the second half, the Cats offense continued to shoot lights out. A fadeaway jumper by Audige followed by a corner three by Beran assisted by the Coram, New York native, ensured the Gophers did not cut into the Cats’ lead. The two seniors helped extend the Cats lead to a game-high 25 point advantage, thanks to a fastbreak pullup jumper by Beran and a pullup three by Audige. The three pointer allowed Audige to hit the 20 point mark with nearly 13 minutes left to play in the contest. 

Collins said the team was able to shoot at a high level — 51.7% from the field and 45% from deep. 

“We didn’t just settle for threes,” Collins said. “We’re trying to put our guards in a position where they’re the playmakers by putting them in opportunities where they can attack and then try to place guys in the right spots.” 

Down the stretch in the second half, the Cats maintained their lead, not letting their advantage fall below 15 at any point. Buie took over late, scoring eight straight NU points, starting with a reverse layup and rounding it out with a steal and fast break running layup. Audige put the cherry on top with a ferocious dunk that got most of Welsh-Ryan Arena on its feet. The veteran trio of Audige, Buie and Beran finished Saturday’s victory having scored 59 of NU’s 81 total points. 

With Saturday’s victory, Collins’ squad is tied for second place in the Big Ten. Looking ahead to their final game of the month and February, Collins has one message for his team — stay the course —- as people murmur about a possible second March Madness appearance in Cats’ program history. 

“A lot of the people that are going to be saying the nice things now are the same people that picked us last,” Collins said. “You’ve got to take it, good and bad, and ignore the outside noise and stay focused on what you’re trying to do.” 

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Twitter: @aayushyagarwal7

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