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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: Northwestern rides Langborg’s 26 points in bounce-back victory over Indiana

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Sophomore forward Nick Martinelli attempts a 3-pointer.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When graduate student guard Ryan Langborg was ejected after picking up a flagrant two foul midway through the first half against Rutgers on Thursday, it was a devastating blow for a shorthanded Northwestern squad.

“It was the first time I’d ever been ejected in my life,” Langborg said. “It hurt to be in the locker room watching these guys battle and not being able to help.”  

After logging just 10 minutes in an eventual loss, Langborg bounced back and tied a career-high 26 points to guide the Wildcats (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten) to a 76-72 road victory over Indiana on Sunday.

Foreshadowed by graduate student guard Boo Buie’s personal foul just five seconds into the game, NU’s early foul trouble forced coach Chris Collins to tweak his game plan. 

Buie proceeded to collect a second personal foul halfway through the period with junior guard Brooks Barnhizer also picking up his second a few minutes later. Collins subsequently benched both guards as Langborg assumed the primary ball-handler role. 

Langborg responded with 12 first-half points on top of three assists and a pair of 3-pointers.

“(Coach) talks to all of us about just letting it rip. Be aggressive, make plays,” Langborg said. “Obviously take care of the ball, but you got to put pressure on the defense and take what they’re giving you.”

Behind the guard’s output, the ’Cats built an eight-point lead heading into the intermission.

A makeshift lineup including sophomore guards Justin Mullins and Blake Smith accompanied Langborg –– both of whom have played limited minutes this season. With neither Buie nor Barnhizer — NU’s two highest scorers — on the court to close out the half, Collins’ choice of grouping may have surprised many, even himself.

“We had a lineup on the floor, maybe the last eight to 10 minutes in the first half that I never, in my wildest imagination, thought would be on the floor at Indiana in a late-season game that we needed to win,” Collins said. “For us to go into the half up eight was a huge stretch.”

Though they didn’t show up much in the box score, sophomore duo Mullins and Smith provided a defensive spark that allowed Langborg and sophomore forward Nick Martinelli to carry the offensive burden.

Even with Buie on the bench, the ’Cats outscored the hosts 23-14 over the last 11 minutes of the period.

“I thought the defense was awesome during that stretch,” Collins said. “Blake Smith and Justin (Mullins) coming in — they are two 6 foot 5 athletic kids, they have length. I thought they were able to create some havoc.”

Over the next 20 minutes of play, NU never surrendered its lead. Despite the Hoosiers (14-11, 6-8 Big Ten) beginning the second half on a 7-0 run and cutting the lead to one, Langborg and senior center Matthew Nicholson fended them off.

When the hosts threatened once again midway through the period, it was Nicholson and Buie who responded to sustain the lead. Buie, after going 0-of-8 from the field to begin the match, converted on three straight baskets to give the ’Cats a game-high 16-point advantage with six minutes remaining.

But the game proved to be far from over as Indiana responded to NU’s 15-2 run with an 11-0 run of its own, putting the score at 63-58 with just under three minutes on the clock.

It was, however, too little too late for the Hoosiers as the ’Cats iced the game from the charity stripe.

Despite shooting a modest 35% from the field, NU gave the ball away just three times and forced 11 Hoosier turnovers. The ’Cats also dominated on the offensive glass, turning 14 offensive boards into 12 second-chance points.

Nicholson, in particular, turned in a dominant performance — finishing with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, seven of them coming from the offensive end.

“Whenever you get a second chance to make a basket, it’s huge,” Nicholson said. “It makes them have to play defense longer, makes them get more tired and lets us set up to get a second look at things.”

Also contributing to the boards was Martinelli, who finished with a double-double of 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

Buie — who entered the game just 18 points from tying John Shurna for the school’s career scoring record of 2,038 points — recorded 14 points on a cold 3-of-14 shooting clip.

The graduate student will have a chance to break the record at home against Michigan on Thursday.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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