Rapid Recap: Penn State 68, Northwestern 65


Joanne Haner/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior guard Boo Buie drives inside the paint. Buie continued his excellent form in Wednesday’s loss, recording 20 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals.

Aayushya Agarwal, Senior Staffer

At long last – the calendar has flipped to March, a month where Northwestern’s season long program heights will finally be on national display. Hoping to snap their two game losing streak, the Wildcats (20-10, 11-8 Big Ten) hosted Penn State (18-12,9-10 Big Ten) on Senior Night.

While the Cats have essentially clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament later this month, Wednesday’s game still served pivotal for them, as NU entered the day  in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten. With a strong final week to the season, NU could receive a valuable double-bye in the Big Ten tournament next week. 

The two teams struggled offensively in the first half, combining for only 52 total points. By the intermission, senior guard Boo Buie, senior forward Robbie Beran and junior forward Ty Berry each had six points apiece. Entering the locker room, NU held a four point advantage. 

Throughout the second half, both teams exchanged leads. The Cats saw their once double-digit first half lead erased following the intermission, when they trailed by four in the early minutes of the second half. Multiple NU scoring runs allowed for the squad to build an advantage as high as six in the final minutes of the second half. 

As the game went into overtime, the two sides continued to exchange leads. With the game tied at 65 apiece, the Cats inability to corral a defensive rebound was the difference, with the Nittany Lions drilling a corner three with less than a second to play, and leaving Northwestern with its third straight loss. 


1. Forcing turnovers, the Cats stay true to their identity 

One of, if not the biggest, strengths for NU this season has been its ability to have active hands in the passing lanes and force turnovers. The team has constantly created havoc for opposing offenses, making it difficult for them to build momentum.Often times, these turnovers allow for the squad to generate fast break opportunities on the other end.  In Sunday’s loss to Maryland, NU forced seven turnovers — it surpassed this number midway through the first half on Sunday. By the intermission, the Cats had forced nine turnovers and recorded eight points off turnovers. 

Scoring its first points off senior guard Boo Buie’s steal that led to a fast break three by redshirt senior guard Chase Audige,NU held true to this mentality from its first possession. Several possessions later, Buie forced another steal, and the squad had forced three turnovers within the first two minutes of the contest. Midway through the first half, the team turned up the defensive intensity even higher. Audige’s steal led to a fastbreak opportunity for graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven, who stayed involved in the passing lanes. The Cats forced three straight turnovers, from steals by Verhoeven and Audige, who alongside Buie, had two steals apiece by the intermission. 

The Cats found other avenues to continue racking up turnovers, especially through implementing full court traps, as Penn State brought the ball up the court throughout the first half. This forced a ten-second violation and multiple possessions where the Nittany Lions chucked up last-second looks.

When an 8-0 Penn State run early in the second half silenced the Welsh Ryan crowd, it seemed as though all momentum shifted away from NU. Yet, the squad did just what they needed to do to retake the lead — force turnovers. Similar to the first half, the Cats forced three straight turnovers, capped by an Audige steal and a Penn State offensive foul. This sequence propelled a 7-0 NU scoring run, giving the team a three point advantage midway through the second half. 

2.A tale of two halves for Northwestern’s perimeter defense 

A cause for concern in the squad’s consecutive losses this past week was its difficulties in stopping opposing offenses from beyond the arc. In last Thursday’s loss to Illinois, NU surrendered 7 Illini threes on 13 attempts in the second half. Likewise, in Sunday’s loss to Maryland, they could not stop the Terrapins from deep, allowing 14 made threes on 22 attempts. Many of the Cats prolific wins in the month of February consisted of limited high-powered offenses from deep. Notably, the team held Iowa to a season low 3-for-24 clip from deep. For the Cats to win Wednesday’s contest, they needed to limit the Nittany Lions from deep. 

And the squad did just that in the first half – creating difficulties for Penn State to get off any clean looks. Early on, the Cats forced many unbalanced Nittany Lions three point attempts late in the shot clock as a result of excellent switching on the defensive end. While NU surrendered a three on a last-second, bank-shot three, it restricted the next six three point attempts. The Cats only surrendered 3 total threes on 13 Penn State attempts, helping it build a double digit lead at 17-7 midway through the first half. 

However, the second half was an entirely different story. NU faced its first deficit in the contest early on in the second half, after surrendering consecutive threes. Minutes later, an 8-0 Penn State run,capped by a corner three, caused the Cats to face their highest deficit of the night at four. NU was unable to seal the lead it had late in the second half, surrendering eight total Penn State threes on thirteen attempts, including the game-winning shot in overtime. 

3. Buie and Barnhizer’s second half instrumental to Cats’ effort

Throughout the season, the Cats have searched for complementary help to Buie on the offensive end. In recent losses, NU has had the tendency to be very reliant on Buie and Audige on the offensive end, making it difficult to build team-collective offensive efficiency. At the same time, much of its instrumental wins have been as a result of offensive performances aside from the squad’s starting backcourt. 

NU got just this on Wednesday, when sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer continued his recent success, tying a career-high 19 points, including a team-high 14 second-half points. A spinning jumper by the sophomore guard jump started a 7-0 NU run. Soon after, Barnhizer continued ticking the scoreboard, canning his next 3 three point attempts, giving the Catsa six point advantage with six minutes to play. In the second half, Barnhizer was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including four made three pointers. 

Meanwhile, Buie continued playing at the high offensive level he has all season. While the senior guard had a rare off-day in Sunday’s loss to Maryland, he rebounded quite well, scoring 12 of his total 20 points in the second half. When the Cats faced their first deficit of the contest early on in the second half, a three by the senior guard gave the Cats the lead right back. Midway through the second half, Buie tallied five unanswered points, capped by another made three pointer. A running floater by the senior guard gave NU a one point lead with a little more than two minutes to play in overtime. 

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