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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Rapid Recap: Northwestern 63, Western Michigan 59

Anna Watson/The Daily Northwestern
Junior guard Brooks Barnhizer dribbles around the perimeter.

After passing its previous nonconference test versus Dayton last Friday, Northwestern looked to knock off Western Michigan and pick up its third consecutive victory Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) have won their past 13 matchups with the Broncos (0-3, 0-3 Mid-Atlantic Conference) and seemed to hold a sizable upper hand over their MAC opponent on paper.

Both teams started off cold offensively, exchanging a series of scoring runs. Western Michigan offset a 7-0 NU scoring run with a pair of 6-0 runs to jump out to a 12-7 advantage eight minutes into the game. 

After the ‘Cats took a one-point edge with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half, they wouldn’t relinquish their upper hand until the break, entering the locker room with a 35-28 lead.

NU ‘s twelve-point lead — its highest of the game — seconds into the second half dissipated down the stretch. An 8-0 Western Michigan scoring run paved the way toward a 54-54 tie with nearly four minutes remaining. 

The ‘Cats then used a 5-0 run to quickly recapture the lead and seal the game late.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s victory over Western Michigan. 

1.  NU shores up three-point defense after initial struggles

In the squad’s victory over Dayton last Friday, Collins’ bunch struggled to defend beyond the ‘arc. The Flyers kept the game within striking distance with their ability to bury the ‘Cats from deep — shooting 12-for-23 from distance. 

Immediately following the opening tip, it seemed like the ‘Cats could replicate a similar miscue. The Broncos nailed their first two three-point attempts, scoring the game’s first six points. 

When the ‘Cats started to generate offensive momentum later in the first half, they surrendered costly three-pointers that kept Western Michigan well within reach.

But, NU significantly tightened its perimeter pressure, forcing several missed Broncos three-point attempts over the final minutes of the first half — leading to a near-five minute Western Michigan scoring drought. By the intermission, the ‘Cats restricted the visitors to shoot at a 30.8 % clip from beyond the arc. 

2. With shooting struggles, NU turns defense into offense 

After the ‘Cats mightily struggled shooting from the floor, they found other avenues for offensive production. With the shots not falling, NU used its defensive identity to spark instant offense. 

Barnhizer’s steal led to a quick-and-one layup from sophomore forward Nick Martinelli. A couple of possessions later, graduate student guard Boo Buie’s and-one layup off a steal handed the ‘Cats a four-point lead with eight minutes left in the first half. By the end of the first frame, NU had forced eight turnovers.

Although the Broncos remained within striking distance throughout the second half, the ‘Cats continued to score points off turnovers — pouring in six more off Western Michigan miscues during the  frame.

3. Barnhizer provides much-needed relief 

With NU’s offense struggling throughout the first half — shooting 4-of-17 from three — it desperately needed another offensive contributor. 

Enter Barnhizer. With the junior’s rejuvenated scoring presence, NU generated significant offensive momentum in the latter stages of the first half — this proved especially imperative with graduate student guard Ryan Langborg held scoreless in the first 20 minutes of action.

Barnhizer was heavily involved in the offense, canning his first points off a made-three halfway through the first frame. A few possessions later, the junior guard scored four consecutive points and provided NU with a three-point advantage, before bringing his first-half output to 13 points.

Out of the locker room, the Indiana native continued to lead the ‘Cats offensively. Opening the scoring for NU with his third made-and-one shot, Barnhizer scored NU’s first-five second half points and gave the team a double-digit advantage. By the end of Tuesday’s victory, he recorded 20 points, propelling the ‘Cats to their third consecutive win to begin the campaign.

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