Men’s Basketball: Agarwal: Northwestern lives and dies by Buie and Audige, suffers home loss to Michigan


Gabe Bider/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior guard Boo Buie dribbles the ball with redshirt senior Chase Audige running behind him. Though the Cats’ veteran duo attempted more than half of NU’s shots, the lack of other offensive contributions accounted for Thursday’s loss.

Aayushya Agarwal, Reporter

Stone cold. Those two words summarize Northwestern’s (15-7, 6-5 Big Ten) offensive performance Thursday night in a disappointing 68-51 home defeat to Michigan (12-10, 6-5 Big Ten).

As shown in a poor final ten-minute stretch in Iowa a few days ago, the Cats never seem to get anything going on the offensive end. A pull up three by senior guard Boo Buie provided the Cats’ first made field goal three minutes into the game. 

His success continued, with a strong first half and excellent second half that brought the team twelve points, five assists and four rebounds. The other half of the offensive duo, however, had a game to forget. Redshirt senior guard Chase Audige recorded ten points on 4-for-16 shooting, including bucketless from deep on seven attempts.

By the under-12 media timeout, the Cats were only able to put eight points on the board. Over the following several minutes, NU went on multiple three-minute scoring droughts, and the lack of other offensive sources may have led to its downfall. 

Audige’s uncharacteristic shooting struggles shined the spotlight on him, and coach Chris Collins sought to avoid performances like Thursday night down the road. 

“I trust him to be a proper decision maker,” Collins said. “There are going to be nights where he takes 15 to 20 shots, but let’s just make sure they’re good ones. He’s a guy (whom) we want to be aggressive and make the right reads.” 

Buie’s performance dominated the court. The New York native hit all three of NU’s beyond-the-arc shots, with the team shooting 9-for-26 from the floor and 3-of-13 from three by the intermission.

But as a leader of the team, he recognized mistakes he and Audige made that contributed to Thursday’s downfall.

“We’ve been a team all year that takes the best shot available,” Buie said. “We pride ourselves on making the right passes to each other. We kind of got downhill and could have played off each other a little better. We had opportunities and we could not capitalize.”

A once-roaring Wildside crowd rapidly became quiet as the Cats missed shot after shot. The Cats went scoreless on six attempts from beyond the arc in the second half, narrowly topping the first half by one point. 

With an increased role on the court this season, sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer spoke on what players like himself need to do on the offensive end for better results. 

“We live and die by (Buie and Audige) — they are our leaders and team captains,” Barnhizer said. “Guys like me or Julian or anybody can pick it up offensively and capitalize. It just benefits everybody — we’ve got to win as a team.” 

NU’s recent success has centered around season performances from players apart from its dynamic duo. The team, led by junior guard Ty Berry, cruised to victory last week in Nebraska with his career-high 21 points and 14 received points from senior forward Robbie Beran in last Saturday’s victory over Minnesota. 

Tonight, however, was a different story. It’s one thing if points were shot and missed — it’s another when the rest of the offense fails to even make attempts.

Outside of NU’s veteran duo, the rest of the offense combined to score 18 of the Cats’ 51 total points, with four players scoring fewer than three points apiece. But, Buie and Audige combined for 35 of the Cats 56 shot attempts, making it difficult for NU to gain any sort of momentum down the stretch when shots were not falling from the two seniors.

Berry’s driving fast-break layup and sophomore guard Julian Roper II’s pullup jumper constituted four of the Cats’ mere six second-half points from players besides Buie and Audige.

Though impressed with the duo’s performance, Collins took responsibility for the team’s inability to get its complementary players more involved on the offensive end. 

“I have to do a better job of getting more from the guys outside of (Audige and Buie),” Collins said. “You have a night like tonight where Chase doesn’t have it going and you can’t win in this league with just one guy producing.”  

The Cats will now have a couple of days off before traveling to Madison on Sunday to take on Wisconsin (13-8, 5-6 Big Ten) and hope for a more collective offensive performance. If the Cats want to avoid following a perfect week with a winless one, they will need to receive offensive contributions from players outside of their starting backcourt. 

Collins stressed his team’s capability of bouncing back from its consecutive losses and striving toward potentially playing in March Madness.

“Back to the drawing board,” Collins said. “We’ve got to be able to find the open player by getting rid of the ball and moving. We’ve got to put our other guys in positions where we can find some contributions in other areas. We’ve got to get back on track and somehow and some way find a win so that we can keep up with what we’re trying to do here. 

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Twitter: @aayushyagarwal7

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