Rapid Recap: No. 2 UCLA 68, No. 7 Northwestern 63


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staff

Sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer drives baseline on UCLA’s Tyger Campbell. The guard played 32 minutes in the down-to-the-wire loss to the Bruins.

Lawrence Price, Senior Staffer

SACRAMENTO, Calif — No. 15 Princeton over No. 7 Mizzou. No. 8 Arkansas defeated No. 1 Kansas. Upsets rang throughout the March Madness world on the first day of Round of 32 games. 

More importantly, though, the stars were aligning for No. 7 Northwestern to join in on the fun as they prepared for their battle against No. 2 UCLA. With 89 percent of ESPN brackets picking UCLA to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, NU was playing with house money. 

Sadly, this wasn’t enough mojo to advance the Cats (22-12, 12-8 Big Ten) past the Pac-12 regular season champions in the Bruins (31-5, 18-2 Pac-12), losing 68-63. With the loss, NU’s historic season wasn’t able to be capped off with the program’s first ever trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

With two of the best defenses in the country squaring off, the Cats and Bruins went back and forth in the contest’s first 10 minutes — only six points separated the two. However, as the half continued and NU’s shooting struggles carried on, UCLA’s began to warm up. Behind guard/forward Jaime Jaquez and guard Amari Bailey, the Bruins lead extended to double-digits as the half went on.

By the break, the duo combined for 25 of UCLA’s 35 points, whereas senior guard Boo Buie and redshirt senior guard Chase Audige collected five of the Cats’ 25. NU had a lot of work to make up.

But that’s the saying coach Chris Collins and his team heard before the season, during, and now. By the 11 and a half minute mark, the Cats had tied the game following Kenneth Nwuba’s goaltend on Buie’s layup. 

NU and UCLA went back-and-forth for the rest of the second half, keeping it between six points for the remainder of the game. However, following the Bruins’ fast break three pointer by David Singleton with less than two minutes left, and the Cats’ inability to score on their next possession, NU’s fate was sealed. 

Here are three takeaways from the Cats’ loss to UCLA.


  1. Hot shooting versus Boise State stalls against UCLA in the first half.

By the final buzzer in NU’s Round of 64 matchup against No. 10 Boise State, it looked like the shooting woes that were prominent a week prior against Penn State were gone. The starting guard trio of Buie, Audige, and junior guard Ty Berry dropped 55 of the team’s 75 points. Overall, NU had one of its best shooting performances against one of the nation’s top defenses — shooting 49.1% from the field and 38.1% from three.

However, UCLA presented an even more difficult matchup, even without their best defender in guard Jaylen Clark. KenPom’s No. 1 team in adjusted defensive efficiency made things difficult for the Cats. With athletic big men like Kenneth Nwuba and Pac-12 freshman of the year Adem Bona hovering the paint, outside of Nicholson NU struggled to convert much in the paint. In the first half, the Cats shot 35.7% from the field and even worse from three, 22.2%.

Even though the Cats were able to cut down the Bruins lead completely in the second half, if NU didn’t have to come from behind, who knows what the end result would have been.

  1. UCLA’s clutch basket puts the nail in the coffin for the Cats.

By the 11 and a half minute mark, the NU bench and crowd erupted. UCLA’s Kenneth Nwuba’s goaltend on Buie’s high-glass layup attempt meant the game was tied at 45. 

These cheers continued till nearly the games end, as the contest stayed between six points until the final buzzer. However, in all honesty, the Bruins made one more clutch shot down the stretch than NU. This was David Singleton’s transition three with less than two minutes to play, the only bucket UCLA made in nearly the last five minutes of the contest. This brought the Bruins lead up to six, while the Cats’ next basket happened about a minute and a half later.

By that point, NU’s only hope of chopping down the Bruins lead was by misses at the charity stripe. UCLA’s luck came alive at the right time for them. 

  1. A round of applause for the Cats’ historic season.

Breaking program records. Big Ten and national honors. Second-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The list goes on and on. 

Although NU was unable to book their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen and Las Vegas, having the opportunity to play for this chance deserves lots of credit and speaks volumes. After being predicted to finish 13th in the Big Ten during the preseason by Sports Illustrated, losing three-plus year frontcourt players in forward Pete Nance and center Ryan Young, it’s safe to say that most didn’t expect the Cats to make it this far. 

Yet, even with these setbacks and being counted out, coach Collins and his team turned it out around like no other.

Of course, NU’s future is up in the air with Buie, Audige, and senior forward Robbie Beran sitting with the decision to return for another year or not. But before looking ahead, it doesn’t hurt to bask in the glory that the NU’s program and fanbase longed for.

 Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @LPIII_TRES

Related Stories:

Men’s Basketball: ‘I can’t talk enough about the support’: Northwestern fans journey from far and wide to support the Wildcats in the Big Dance

Men’s Basketball Notebook: Ahead of Saturday’s second-round clash against UCLA, Northwestern treads carefully

Men’s Basketball: What to Watch For: Still dancing! Northwestern readies for clash with No. 2 UCLA in Round of 32