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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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Men’s Basketball: Barnhizer scores career-high 20 points in Northwestern victory over Western Michigan

Anna Watson/The Daily Northwestern
Senior guard Ty Berry helps up junior guard Brooks Barnhizer. The junior scored a career-high 20 points against Western Michigan on Tuesday.

With just over nine minutes remaining in the second half of Northwestern’s Tuesday tilt with Western Michigan, junior guard Brooks Barnhizer notched a steal and took the ball coast-to-coast to convert a layup — his 20th point of the game.

The finish handed Barnhizer a career-high point total in the most Barnhizer-esque fashion of defense leading to instant offense.

During the Wildcats’ 3-0 start, the Indiana native has averaged 17 points per game, a steep improvement from 7.6 points during the 2022-23 season. Coach Chris Collins said everything appears to be coming together for the 6-foot-6 junior.

“He’s just completely immersed into the competition of the game, and because of that, his activity is all over the floor,” Collins said. “His scoring, his rebounding, assists, steals, blocks. He’s just doing a little of everything, and he’s just a really good all-around player that impacts the game in many ways.”

Midway through the first half, NU had registered just 12 points. Barnhizer made his first imprint on the scoreboard at this juncture, knocking down a 3-pointer off graduate student guard Boo Buie’s assist. 

With the offense struggling to find a rhythm, the ’Cats looked to Barnhizer to swiftly assume control. Barnhizer poured in 13 of NU’s final 23 points in the first half, getting his buckets in a multitude of ways. The junior put on an all around scoring clinic — from designed post-ups, attacking closeouts from a scrambling defense and from fastbreaks.

“Guys with my stats aren’t really going to outjump a lot of people, so I tend to use my strength and angles to try to get good looks for us,” Barnhizer said. “If I’m a post presence with our team, that opens up a lot of the perimeter, so I was really just trying to work on that. The more effective I can be in the post, the more effective our offense will be.”

Barnhizer made a number of quality passes from the post to create open 3-point looks for teammates, but the shots seldom sunk for the ’Cats. The team shot a collective 6-of-26 from three point range.

Entering the second frame with a seven-point advantage, it took Barnhizer just 14 seconds to convert an and-one on a fast break. He scored NU’s ensuing basket, extending his output to 18 points in a proverbial snap of a finger. 

Although he only tallied two more points down the stretch, Barnhizer’s impact resonated at both ends of the floor.

In addition to his first 20-point performance, Barnhizer recorded seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block. Buie picked up the second half scoring load, adding 13 second-half points to the equation.

Now averaging three steals and 1.3 blocks per game, Barnhizer may just be the next focal point of Collins’ defensive renaissance that began last season. After the ’Cats bought into a newfound defensive identity last season, spearheaded by Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year Chase Audige, NU reached soaring heights it hadn’t ascended to since the 2016-17 season. 

With Audige graduated, Barnhizer has appeared to fill in as defensive stopper for the ’Cats — a role the junior said he’s ready to embrace.

“We’re just listening to our coaches. I have my hands up and try to be active, try to get at the ball, but a lot of that is just because of the way we play defense,” he said.

Ultimately, the ’Cats narrowly escaped with a 63-59 victory over the Broncos in Barnhizer’s career night.

For a team that were the  heavy favorites, the four-point victory didn’t necessarily live up to NU’s expectations, which gave Barnhizer mixed feelings about Tuesday night’s game.

“It feels good,” Barnhizer said about reaching his career best in points. “My head was more in other places. It’s cool to see that, but it’s not really anything I’m really worried about.”

The ’Cats will leave the comfort of Welsh-Ryan Arena this Saturday, traveling to Uncasville, Connecticut, to face Rhode Island in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CharlieSpungin

Related Stories: 

Rapid Recap: Northwestern 63, Western Michigan 59

Men’s Basketball: Chris Collins engineered an incredible NCAA Tournament run last season. Can he do it again?

Men’s Basketball: ‘The right fit at the right time’: How a 2018 California AAU tournament united Chris Collins and Boo Buie

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