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: Northwestern 90, Minnesota 66

Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern
Sophomore forward Nick Martinelli unleashes his signature lefty floater against Minnesota Wednesday.

Losers of its last two games, Northwestern entered Saturday’s Senior Night contest against Minnesota with more than just pride on the line. 

With a victory, the Wildcats would not only essentially guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but also move one step closer to securing a coveted double-bye in next week’s Big Ten Tournament.

The two squads went the distance in February’s contest, with the Golden Gophers coming away with the overtime win. On the court that game was the senior duo of guard Ty Berry and center Matthew Nicholson, both of whom missed Saturday’s game due to injury.

Despite once again being shorthanded, NU (21-10, 12-8 Big Ten) came out victorious in a statement 90-66 win over Minnesota (18-13, 9-11 Big Ten) to close out the 2023-2024 regular season.

Just seconds after the tip, Minnesota guard Elijah Hawkins launched the ball out of bounds on an errant pass, leading to sophomore forward Luke Hunger’s wide-open layup moments later.

This play seemingly set the tone early as NU jumped out to an 11-2 lead, holding Minnesota to a 1-of-8 start from the field. Within the game’s first five minutes, every starting ’Cat collected at least one basket.

The Golden Gophers responded immediately, storming back to cut the lead to two points on the back of forward Dawson Garcia’s 12-point flurry.

The visitors’ run, however, didn’t stop NU’s offensive outpour as sophomore guard Blake Smith’s layup with 8:59 left in the half helped the hosts gain a 27-20 lead — already surpassing their first half total of 25 points in their loss to Michigan State Wednesday.

The ’Cats’ extended their lead to as much as 15 points after a barrage of five consecutive 3-pointers. NU finished the half going 7-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Key minutes from graduate student forward Blake Preston helped the ’Cats regain a 15-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the period. Preston tallied eight points on five attempts in the first half, electrifying the home crowd after slamming down a dunk on the receiving end of graduate student guard Boo Buie’s alley-oop.

By the intermission, the hosts held a 53-41 lead with junior guard Brooks Barnhizer pacing the team with 14 points on a 5-of-7 shooting clip.

The second half brought more of the same. A pair of free throws by Barnhizer and a quick 3-pointer from graduate student guard Ryan Langborg helped NU take a 58-41 lead within a minute of play.

Garcia continued his excellent night, quickly countering with nine points over the next four minutes, yet despite his best efforts to spark any sort of comeback, the ’Cats refused to give their opponents any semblance of hope.

Over the next four minutes, a scoring drought ensued as both teams combined to miss 13 straight shots.

Once the offense returned, however, it was too late for the visitors. NU resumed its hot night to soar to a 24-point win. Buie and Barnhizer led the ’Cats with 23 points each as Langborg chipped in with 17.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s home victory over Minnesota.

1. The ’Cats jump out to efficient start from the field

NU’s offensive performance against Michigan State was one to forget. 

Though the ’Cats were able to contain the Spartans to a dismal 31.7% shooting percentage, they were no better. In its lowest scoring total all season, coach Chris Collins’ squad put up a mere 49 points.

To put Wednesday’s output into context, NU collected 53 points in only the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s contest. The hosts started out a scorching 10-of-14 from the field and ended the half having made 70% of its shot attempts. 

The ’Cats made sure to share the wealth with five different players notching multiple assists in the first period.

2. NU catches fire from long range

Just when Minnesota seemed to be shifting the momentum — trimming the lead to five midway through the first half — out came NU’s shooters to prevent just that.

During a three-minute span, the ’Cats did not miss from downtown. It started with Barnhizer’s trey to take a 10-point lead with over seven minutes remaining.

Over the next handful of possessions, 3-pointers from Buie, Langborg and sophomore forward Nick Martinelli prevented any potential comeback attempt by the Golden Gophers.

By the break, the backcourt trio of Buie, Langborg and Barnhizer combined to go 6-of-10 from behind the arc, helping secure a double-digit lead.

3. Ball security is key

NU entered Saturday averaging 9.0 turnovers per game, a mark good enough for seventh in the nation. After an uncharacteristic 12 giveaways against Michigan State, the ’Cats turned the ball over a season-low one time Saturday.

As key facilitators, Buie and Langborg logged six assists each, all of which were instrumental in four different ’Cats finishing with double-digit scoring. Buie now has 15 games of six or more assists.

On the defensive side, NU forced nine turnovers, which led to 10 points on the other end. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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