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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Rapid Recap: Rutgers 63, Northwestern 60

Daily file photo by Micah Sandy
Graduate student guard Boo Buie drives the lane.

Four days removed from prevailing in a defensive dogfight against Penn State, Northwestern ventured east for a Thursday tilt at Rutgers. Coach Chris Collins’ group split 2023’s season series with the Garden State foe and looked to nab a victory in Jersey Mike’s Arena for the second straight year.

While the Wildcats entered Thursday’s matchup winners of their last two, the Scarlet Knights successfully defended their home building for a fourth consecutive victory in comeback fashion.

Senior center Matthew Nicholson broke the deadlock less than two minutes into the contest at the charity stripe, but Rutgers guard Jamichael Davis canned a corner three at the opposite end to give the Scarlet Knights a 3-2 lead.

Neither side established any semblance of scoring momentum early, but the visitors forced four early turnovers and secured the primary upper hand. Holding Rutgers scoreless for more than five minutes, NU rode a 10-0 run into the under-12 timeout, mounting a 12-5 advantage.

Scarlet Knight guard Jeremiah Davis snapped his squad’s near-seven-minute scoring drought, canning a layup to cut the deficit to 10 points toward the first half’s midway point. The ‘Cats’ early momentum took a major shot when graduate student guard Ryan Langborg received an ejection on a flagrant two foul.

Leaning on alternative weapons, NU saw sophomore guard Justin Mullins tally his first points in purple on a midrange jumper and notch a block just 17 seconds later. Mullins later drained a trey to extend his first-half tally to five points.

Following a late Rutgers push and a last-second layup from graduate student guard Boo Buie, the ‘Cats entered halftime with a 34-27 lead. Buie poured in 17 of NU’s 34 points in the opening 20 minutes of action.

Although the ‘Cats started the second frame on the front foot, the Scarlet Knights launched a 10-0 run to bring the game back within three points with just under 14 minutes remaining.

In a game of runs, NU and Rutgers responded to every advance with a commanding counterpunch. With just 5 minutes and 36 seconds left, NU held a 51-50 lead. Eighteen seconds later, the Scarlet Knights pulled in front for their first lead of the period.

In the end, the hosts prevailed in a close-run clash with the ‘Cats.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s road loss to Rutgers.

1. Langborg’s ejection diminishes an already razor-thin rotation

Thursday’s game had the appearance of a defensive duel from the outset, as both sides struggled to remove the lid from the basket. However, the ‘Cats constructed a dominant early run built on stingy defense and opportune points.

Then, Langborg received an eyebrow-raising flagrant two foul, ending his evening with two points, three steals and two assists. With senior guard Ty Berry ruled out for the season with a torn meniscus, NU’s thin rotation became even smaller.

Collins stressed the need for his younger players to step into the fold and stay ready when called upon. That situation arose sooner, rather than later.

2. Justin Mullins, welcome to the show

Mullins hasn’t received significant minutes since he transferred into the program from Denver. Collins said Wednesday that Mullins was one of three players set to receive a significant minutes’ boost down the stretch.

Once Langborg received his early exit, Mullins immediately stepped into action. While he took some time to play his way into a rhythm, Mullins displayed the two-way presence that he made his calling card in Summit League play last season.

Although he received just 21 minutes scattered across nine games this season, the second-year more than made up for last time.

Mullins tallied five points on a 2-of-2 shooting clip and amassed two blocks during the first half. Collins called his number again in the second half, with the sophomore reaping the rewards of stellar minutes.

Playing as if he’d been a significant rotation piece throughout the season, Mullins made a significant push for an extended role Thursday night.

3. Road stretch extends at Indiana Sunday

The ‘Cats will have two days’ rest before their next road test — a trip to Bloomington to face Indiana Sunday.

The Hoosiers fell 79-59 to Purdue in their last contest, and both teams will look to return to the win column in a proverbial get-back game.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n 

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Men’s Basketball: Northwestern readies to brave road trip to Rutgers without Berry

Men’s Basketball: Northwestern relies on physicality and aggressiveness in 68-63 win over Penn State

Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s role players ready when called upon in defensive dogfight against Penn State

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