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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: Mississippi State 66, Northwestern 57

Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal
Senior guard Ty Berry dribbles the basketball.

After knocking off Rhode Island in its Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament opener Saturday, Northwestern looked to keep its undefeated start alive against another unblemished foe in Mississippi State. 

Despite phases of dominance, The Wildcats (4-1, 0-0 Big Ten) couldn’t fend off the Bulldogs (5-0, 0-0 SEC) in a 66-57 loss.

NU raced off to a lightning start, holding an 11-0 advantage in the game’s first four minutes. The ‘Cats had led by as much as 20 points in Saturday’s victory over Rhode Island. 

However, the Rams sparked a 10-4 scoring run to trim NU’s lead to five points late in the first frame.

Throughout the first half, the ‘Cats maintained the upper hand and snapped multiple scoring droughts. Sophomore forward Luke Hunger’s layup relieved a near-four minute scoreless stretch, and graduate student guard Boo Buie’s jumper snapped a near-two minute dry spell a few minutes later. 

When the first half came to a close, NU held a slim 29-27 lead.

Over the second half, NU trailed for the first time all weekend. Junior guard Brooks Barnhizer reclaimed a one-point lead for the ‘Cats, with nearly-seven minutes remaining. 

“(Mississippi State) did a good job in the second half and wore us down,” coach Chris Collins said. “We weren’t able to get the stops we needed in the second half. A lot of our threes (in the second half) were good looks, but we weren’t able to hit (them).” 

As the game winded down, the Bulldogs used a 11-1 scoring run to increase NU’s deficit to nine points approaching the under-four. In the end, the ‘Cats had no answer for Bulldog guard Josh Hubbard, and their comeback crusade came up short. 

Here are three takeaways from NU’s loss to Mississippi St. 

1.  Langborg and Berry provide offensive relief 

Langborg has become a key cog of the ‘Cats’ system at this early juncture, but the graduate transfer has struggled extending his range lately — shooting nearly 22% from three entering the game. 

With the Bulldogs considered a likely NCAA Tournament caliber foe, Langborg’s offensive contributions were imperative. 

Langborg tallied the game’s first five points. A few possessions later, he capped off an 8-0 NU start by forcing a steal and finding senior guard Ty Berry for an uncontested corner three. By the end of the first frame, Langborg recorded seven points, two rebounds and two steals. 

As both teams started exchanging baskets, Berry stepped up to provide quick offensive relief. The junior guard — who recorded a season-high 13 points Saturday — buried two threes and notched seven points entering the intermission. 

“(Ty) is a huge X-factor to our team,” Collins said. “He’s a guy we’re relying on every night. We need Ty to step up, especially when defenses take (Langborg) or (Buie) away. I thought he took a step forward (this weekend), especially after struggling in a few of our games at home.”

2. NU gets active on defensive end

With the departure of guard Chase Audige, many wondered if the ‘Cats would continue to have active hands in the passing lanes and create opportunities on offense from the other side of the floor. 

In their semi-final victory Saturday, NU forced 14 turnovers and held the Rams to just 26 first-half points. 

On Sunday, NU’s ability to create defense persisted, as the ‘Cats forced seven turnovers by the midway point of the first half. Five players each recorded a steal over this stretch and the squad scored 10 points off turnovers.

This collective defensive effort allowed NU to build an early double-digit advantage, surrendering a mere six points in the game’s first eight minutes. 

“We had really good energy to start,” Collins said. “We were really good in our rotations and felt we were doing a good job against their dribble penetration. We got into some foul trouble, which hurt us.”

3. The ‘Cats’ competitiveness showcases their potential

NU’s ability to remain competitive in Mohegan Sun provides an early picture of the team’s high ceiling.

“We learned a lot about ourselves over these past couple of games,” Collins said. “We weren’t happy with the way we played against Western Michigan (so) to be able to bounce back and play well this weekend was good. (This weekend) was a good learning experience and there are a lot of positives that we can build on.”

Returning back to Evanston with a victory over Rhode Island and a wire-to-wire battle with the Bulldogs demonstrates that the ‘Cats have the necessary caliber to compete against the nation’s top teams.

NU will look to build off the weekend with No. 2 Purdue coming to Evanston in less than two weeks. 

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