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The Daily Northwestern

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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: Injury-riddled Northwestern falls 87-80 to Iowa

Carlotta Angiolillo/The Daily Northwestern
Graduate student guard Boo Buie prepares to attempt a free throw against Iowa Saturday night.

When senior guard Ty Berry suffered a season-ending meniscus tear last month against Nebraska, it took a concerted team effort to replace his career-best efficiency and elite 3-point shooting. Two weeks later, graduate student guard Ryan Langborg’s sprained ankle forced Northwestern to tweak its lineup once again in its matchups with Maryland and Iowa.

Although the shorthanded Wildcats (20-9, 11-7 Big Ten) secured a road victory last Wednesday, they were unable to repeat their successes at home against the Hawkeyes (18-12, 10-9 Big Ten) Saturday, falling 87-80 for their first conference home loss of the season.

With Langborg a late scratch from the game, coach Chris Collins started walk-on sophomore guard Blake Smith — marking his second career start — while sophomore forward Nick Martinelli assumed his usual duties filling in for Berry.

Though Smith and Martinelli lack the experience and production of veteran teammates, the sophomore duo held its own against a hot Hawkeyes squad, combining for 28 points.

“There’s no sob stories from anybody about injuries,” Collins said. “We’re not an excuse-making program. We’re going to figure it out. And I promise that our guys are going to keep fighting.”

In fact, it was Smith kickstarting NU’s offense in the beginning moments of the game, quickly draining a corner 3-pointer and layup in consecutive possessions.

Iowa later responded with an 11-0 run in just over two minutes, but graduate student guard Boo Buie knocked down his second and third treys of the match to tie it up at 20 apiece at the half’s midway point.

With both teams starting out 4-of-6 from 3-point range, the game proved to be a shootout as the ’Cats entered intermission up just one. Buie led the team with 11 points at halftime, going a perfect 4-of-4 from the field.

However, the injury bug struck again. This time, it was senior center Matthew Nicholson.

Just three minutes into the second period, Nicholson hobbled off the court with a right foot injury and headed to the locker room for the remainder of the game.

The center’s absence was almost immediately palpable. With Nicholson on the floor, NU outrebounded the Hawkeyes by two in the first half but was outrebounded by nine over the rest of the game.

“Matt does a good job of protecting our paint. His voice, as well — he talks and really directs the traffic on the defensive end,” Buie said. “There’s not that many people that are seven foot and capable of doing what he’s doing so it was unfortunate when he went down.”

Forced to play yet another makeshift lineup, Collins’ squad went down by as much as 11 in the second half. Yet a 15-5 run, highlighted by seven points from junior guard Brooks Barnhizer, made it a two-point game with 5:43 left on the clock.

“They hit us in the mouth, so it was really like ‘how are we going to respond?” Barnhizer said. “There are no moral victories but (we) did show something there.”

This effort was not enough, however, as Iowa took advantage of the vacancy left by Nicholson down low, scoring its next three buckets in the paint and extending its lead through the final whistle.

Though Buie scored 16 second-half points, the Hawkeyes’ offense was hotter. The visitors shot at a 19-of-30 clip following the break, including 16 points from sophomore guard Josh Dix, who finished with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting for his third-consecutive 20-point game.

“We just had some breakdowns at inopportune times,” Collins said. “Right now for us our margin for error is slimmer. So to give up 51 in the second half is not going to be really a great recipe for us going forward.”

Despite the loss, Buie put up yet another impressive performance with 27 points, including 6-of-7 from behind the arc, and seven assists. Saturday marked the guard’s 13th game this season with seven or more assists.

Barnhizer added six boards and 20 points of his own — his first 20-point game since the ’Cats’ overtime victory against No. 10 Illinois in January.

NU will look to regroup in its penultimate regular season game when it travels to Michigan State Wednesday.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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