Men’s Basketball: Northwestern shakes off recent shooting woes, puts on incredible offensive display in 20-point rout of Iowa


Katie Chen/The Daily Northwestern

Sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer runs in transition. Barnhizer had 12 points and seven rebounds in Northwestern’s 80-60 win over Iowa.

Alex Cervantes, Senior Staffer

In a span of four days, Northwestern successfully defended home court against its visitors from Indiana, mounting a pair of upset bids over No. 1 Purdue and No. 14 Indiana. The homestand stretch rivals few others in terms of historical magnitude, and the Wildcats (20-7, 11-5 Big Ten) did it all while surviving some tremendous shooting struggles. 

In both performances, NU shot under 42% from the field and under 25% from beyond the arc. The Cats’ backcourt tandem of senior guard Boo Buie and redshirt senior guard Chase Audige combined to shoot 15-of-36 against the Boilermakers and 12-of-29 against the Hoosiers.

For a team that attempts more than 24 three-pointers a game and relies so heavily on the production of Buie and Audige, it would have been logical to assume such dismal shooting splits would precipitate back-to-back defeats. Still, NU squeaked out victories in both contests.

Entering Sunday’s matchup with Iowa, coach Chris Collins’ bunch was searching for a complete offensive performance, and they got it. 

“You got a lot of guys who produced today: Barnhizer, Berry, Nicholson and Verhoeven,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said postgame. “When they’re playing like that, they’re different. They’re hard to beat.”

The Cats came out of the gates firing against the Hawkeyes (17-10, 9-7 Big Ten). Junior guard Ty Berry, who entered the contest having made just four of his last 25 attempts from beyond the arc, finally saw the ball go through the nylon. He knocked down a pair of triples in the game’s opening five minutes to build a 14-5 NU advantage. 

Berry’s hot hand extended across the team, too, with the Cats hitting six of their first 10 attempts from the field. Collins’ proverbial “green light” has yet to waver this season, equally applying across all of his players. It was evident early, as NU boasted five different scorers by the 14:04 mark.

“It goes for any good shooter in college basketball: You see your first shot go in and after that, it’s all green,” Berry said. “You feel like the hoop is the ocean and so seeing that first shot (drop), it really gives you a lot of confidence throughout the game.”

Despite the fast start, NU quickly hit a cold spell midway through the half. After graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven’s dunk, the Cats endured a near six-minute scoring drought. Nevertheless, the hosts’ defense kept a dynamic Hawkeye offense relatively quiet during the stretch. 

But as they so often do, Collins and company turned to Buie for answers. Over the final nine minutes of the half, Buie attacked various Hawkeye mismatches, pouring in 11 of NU’s 21 points. At the end of the half, Buie had registered a team-high 14 points on an efficient 4-of-6 shooting.

Collectively, the apparent lid on the basket in recent conflicts lifted for the Cats. NU connected on 6-of-13 attempts from beyond the arc and shot a razor sharp 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, coalescing in a 37-point output and 11-point lead at halftime. 

The second half mirrored the first in many respects, with the Cats continuing to pick apart Iowa’s defense. 

Buie was once again the ignition for NU’s offense, though this time as a creator, not a scorer. Time and time again, Buie retreated back to half-court before exploding by his defender into the lane and finding a teammate open for a layup or jumper. Buie put on an offensive clinic in a third straight game, finishing with a game-high 23 points and eight assists to just one turnover.

After weathering an early burst from the Hawkeyes out of halftime, which trimmed the lead to seven points, buckets from sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer and freshman forward Nick Martinelli stymied the visitors’ advance. Propelled by an all-around scoring effort, the Cats continued to stave off Iowa for the rest of the game, cruising to a 80-60 victory. 

“It’s big,” Collins said of the collective scoring output. “We can’t count on (Buie and Audige) to just carry (us). … If you look across the board, you get nine out of Matt (Nicholson), you get 16 from Ty (Berry), you get 12 from Brooks (Barnhizer) and you get from Tydus (Verhoeven). If we start getting some production like that, we become harder to beat.”

As the final buzzer sounded on NU’s fifth straight victory, all eight members of Collins’ core rotation had scored. Coming off the heels of games in which the backcourt duo had attempted more than half of the team’s shots, Buie and Audige combined to take just 18 of the Cats’ 55 attempts.

Berry shook off his recent struggles and poured in 16 points, Barnhizer added 12 points and NU exited a massive three-game homestand undefeated.

It was a resounding and complete offensive performance in a resounding and complete win. The Cats shot 49.1% from the field, 50% from beyond the arc and 80% from the free throw line. You can’t ask for much better than that. 

“This team is on a different mission,” Buie said. “We’re playing for pride, we’re playing for joy and we’re super connected.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

Related Stories:

Rapid Recap: Northwestern 80, Iowa 60

NU’s magical season continues with win over No. 14 Indiana

Northwestern’s win should make them a lock for March Madness