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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Men’s Basketball: Agarwal: Northwestern’s inability to close road efforts looms large in Minnesota meltdown

Daily file photo by Alyce Brown
Graduate student guard Boo Buie dribbles the ball down the court. Buie logged a career-high 44 minutes in Northwestern’s overtime loss in Minnesota.

With about six minutes remaining in its contest in Minnesota, Northwestern looked on its way toward putting a grueling overtime loss to Purdue behind them. Graduate student guard Ryan Langborg had just drilled a pair of treys to give the visitors a 54-46 advantage.

The Wildcats (15-7, 6-5 Big Ten) faced a striking 46-8 free throw discrepancy in West Lafayette, Indiana that drew national attention. 

But a defensive dogfight against the Golden Gophers (14-7 Big Ten, 5-5 Big Ten) appeared to be all that was needed for NU’s offense to settle down and find its rhythm.

Despite multiple scoring droughts, the ‘Cats looked poised as they attempted to close out their latest road test — a task that has haunted coach Chris Collins’ squad over the past few weeks. 

After being locked in 63-63 and 65-65 ties in the game’s final minutes at Wisconsin and Nebraska, respectively, NU dropped both contests. And, in Wednesday’s defeat to No. 2 Purdue, the ‘Cats held a five-point advantage with less than three minutes remaining before falling in overtime. 

The same troubles plagued NU Saturday. Through ill-advised passes, tough attempts late in the shot clock and an inability to keep the Golden Gophers off the charity stripe, a once-sturdy lead quickly evaporated.

Following sophomore forward Nick Martinelli’s traveling turnover and senior guard Ty Berry’s missed 3-pointer, the hosts commenced a late game scoring barrage. 

As Williams Arena recharged through the Golden Gophers’ late surge, NU appeared out of sorts — even from the free throw line, a dimension the team has excelled in all season. 

Graduate student guard Boo Buie and junior guard Brooks Barnhizer each split a pair of free throws in the game’s final minutes, which allowed Minnesota to come within one point of the visitor’s lead. 

As shooting woes persisted, the ‘Cats gifted Minnesota trips to the charity stripe. Buie and senior center Matthew Nicholson each committed a foul which resulted in four Golden Gopher free throws. 

Held scoreless from the field during the final five minutes of regulation, NU allowed Minnesota to claim the lead at the 44 second mark — its first advantage since the first half. 

While Buie’s free throws in the final seconds of regulation sent the game into overtime, it was too little, too late. Entering their third overtime in the past four games, the ‘Cats were visibly fatigued — NU recorded just five points in the extra period. 

Following consecutive overtime defeats, NU suffered its first back-to-back losses of the season. While the team is undefeated in home conference bouts, it has only recorded one road conference victory at Penn State. 

With seven Big Ten teams within one game of the ‘Cats’ fourth place conference rank entering Sunday, NU’s margin of error will be razor thin moving forward.

As Collins’ squad returns home to square off against a resurgent Nebraska team, the ‘Cats will need to put a tough week behind them and continue their home excellence.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aayushyagarwal7

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