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: Langborg ejection leaves undermanned Northwestern unable to solve Rutgers test

Daly file photo by Francesco Thorik-Saboia
Graduate student guard Boo Buie looks to beat his defender.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — With senior guard Ty Berry’s season officially over, Northwestern looked to notch its first road victory since Jan 10. at Rutgers.

The Wildcats (17-8, 8-6 Big Ten) once again failed to close a result outside of Welsh-Ryan Arena against the Scarlet Knights (14-10, 6-7 Big Ten), dropping their fifth consecutive road defeat. 

During Thursday night’s battle, NU looked to garner a positive result while leaning heavily on its consistent performers in graduate student guard Boo Buie and junior guard Brooks Barnhizer. Buie, Barnhizer and sophomore forward Nick Martinelli combined to sit just four minutes in the first half, and the ’Cats pushed their lead as high as 13 points. 

But, NU faced its latest hurdle midway through the first frame, when graduate student guard Ryan Langborg elbowed a Scarlet Knights player and faced a flagrant two foul, ending his night before it hardly began.

“The referees thought it was an egregious, intentional elbow,” coach Chris Collins said. “I’m not sure, knowing Langborg, he plays the game like that … (His absence) hurt our ball handling and made other players have to make plays, and we weren’t able to make (Rutgers) pay.” 

While the ’Cats held a 17-5 advantage at the time, they were down to six regular rotation players. 

Collins turned toward sophomore guard Justin Mullins, who had only appeared in nine games prior to Thursday’s game, to log a season-high 26 minutes.

“I’m proud of Justin for continuing to be ready when called upon,” Collins said. “Obviously, it’s been frustrating for him to not have a chance to be in the rotation. When Ty went down, I met with (Mullins) and reiterated to be ready.” 

Mullins canned two first-half field goals and amassed two blocks and a steal, but Langborg’s ejection still loomed large.

While Buie tallied 17 points and drained five treys, his teammates struggled to take the proverbial lid off the basket entering intermission. Although Barnhizer corralled nine first half rebounds, he tallied just two points on one-of-six shooting from the field.

“He’s a competitor, regardless of whether he makes shots or not. I know he’ll bounce back offensively, but his (ability) to get 14 rebounds against these athletes shows how he was battling all night long,” Collins said of Barnhizer.

Once the second half resumed, NU’s depth problems plagued its victory pursuit. While Buie’s pair of 3-pointers capped an 8-0 ’Cats scoring run and extended the visitors’ lead to 42-31, the offense went completely cold.

The Scarlet Knights capitalized on a pair of six-minute NU scoring droughts, reclaiming the lead with five minutes to play. The ’Cats’ 52-51 deficit was their first since less than three minutes into the first half.

With the Scarlet Knights double — and at times triple-teaming Buie — the rest of the offense failed to compliment their All-Big Ten playmaker. 

“(Rutgers) kept putting two guys on (Buie),” Collins said. “He’s a willing passer, so if you’re going to put two players on one guy, then you’ve got to play four on three. We couldn’t take advantage of that.” 

The ’Cats had an uncharacteristic eight second-half turnovers — and 15 on the evening — which helped the hosts extend their lead to five in the game’s final minutes.

Barnhizer’s late three was the only field goal the visitors mustered over a near-10 minute stretch to close the game. By the end of the contest, Barnhizer and Martinelli combined to shoot 6-of-24 from the field.

“(Martinelli) was our super sixth man before (Berry’s) injury,” Collins said. “Now, he has a starting role and is counted on every night. These minutes for young players are valuable, and he’s a guy who isn’t afraid of the moment. ” 

The ’Cats will face another road test Sunday when they travel to Bloomington to square off against Indiana. 

While Langborg will be back in the rotation, Collins said positive results are of the utmost importance.

“We’re not in the moral victory business,” Collins said. “No one cares that guys are hurt or guys get kicked out of games. Everyone’s trying to win games. We’ve got to step up and be ready. We’ve got to dig down on the road especially and find ways to get close wins when we get to that point.” 

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Twitter: @aayushyagarwal7

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