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: Northwestern’s Brooks Barnhizer rises to supreme occasion in 77-65 victory over Florida Atlantic

Junior+guard+Brooks+Barnhizer+dribbles+against+Florida+Atlantic+Friday.+Barnhizer+scored+13+points+in+Northwesterns+Round+of+64+victory.
Angeli Mittal/The Daily Northwestern
Junior guard Brooks Barnhizer dribbles against Florida Atlantic Friday. Barnhizer scored 13 points in Northwestern’s Round of 64 victory.

BROOKLYN, N.Y.  — With less than four minutes remaining in No. 9 seed Northwestern’s first-half rock fight against No. 8 seed Florida Atlantic Friday, junior guard Brooks Barnhizer darted toward the Barclays Center sideline, pursuing a loose ball that fell just out of reach.

Barnhizer’s legs crashed into the courtside press row, and he toppled over a media table. Teammates gathered around the Third-Team All-Big Ten honoree as he lay motionless beyond the court. 

Not only would Barnhizer immediately return to the floor, but he’d come back to the same spot to celebrate a 77-65 overtime victory to send the Wildcats to their third-ever NCAA Tournament Round of 32 — a win that Barnhizer’s late-game heroics helped secure.

Logging a game-high 45 minutes, Barnhizer said he felt a whirlwind range of emotions early Friday morning, but his nerves settled once he set foot on the hardwood.

“On the way to the game I was kind of getting a little emotional, and I don’t know why,” Barnhizer said. “I think it’s just the climax of everything. I’m texting my brother and my dad — I got the family ties to (Owls coach Dusty May) … As soon as I got on the court, I felt at home.”

A player who said he needed to step up and regroup from the previous week’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Wisconsin, Barnhizer said his high-impact hustle play sprung his senses back into focus.

It’s a play he’s made countless times this season, but Friday’s fall left a more marked impact on Barnhizer’s fans and teammates, silencing the Barclays Center until he rose from the floor. 

“I dove for that ball, and it hurt a little bit, but it kind of just woke me up,” Barnhizer said. “I was like ‘Okay, I’m in an NCAA Tournament game.’ I just tried to make a play for my team.”

After Barnhizer laid everything on the line on a play emblematic of his relentless motor, his team closed the half by forcing five late turnovers. During a 20-minute stretch when coach Chris Collins’ group couldn’t buy a shot, a dogged defensive effort kept NU in contention.

Graduate student guard Boo Buie, who was one of the first players to rush over and check on Barnhizer, said the ‘Cats were dialed in once his co-captain showed his unwavering commitment to NU.

“Once (I saw) my guy go over there, it just reminded me that this is potentially my last game ever,” Buie said of Barnhizer’s hustle play. “I’m already telling myself I gotta leave everything out there on the floor. But, if he’s going to be doing that, risking his whole career … we’re gonna have to give that same type of energy.”

As the ‘Cats trailed 58-56 with 26 seconds left to save their season, all eyes inside the arena and across the nation expected Buie to take the last shot. Instead, Barnhizer, who’d just grabbed a crucial rebound off Florida Atlantic center Vladislav Goldin’s missed free throw, saw his window and attacked.

Eluding Goldin on the perimeter, Barnhizer drove the lane, double-clutching a layup that tapped the glass and blissfully dropped through the bucket. For an Indiana native who made significant strides in each passing season in Evanston, Barnhizer said his clutch moment was a long-time coming.

“It’s a testament to sticking it out,” Barnhizer said. “My freshman year I didn’t play a lot. Last year I was kind of coming into my own. I just love this school, I love this team and I love this program. We’re building it the right way. I just stay patient. Good things happen when you stay patient.”

Barnhizer’s ice-in-the-veins moment bought NU an extra five minutes of overtime hoops, a frame where graduate student guard Ryan Langborg left no doubt.

Buie said the statement equalizing play secured the victory in his mind.

“We talk about every day how we’re the dogs on the team — it’s our job to set the tone offensively and defensively,” Buie said of him and Barnhizer. “Once he did that, I knew we were gonna win. His presence, his toughness, his poise at the end of the shot clock — most people in that situation would’ve just fired something up after a couple of screens didn’t work.”

Now, a team that’s navigated through a bevy of obstacles will face its most daunting challenge yet this Sunday. 

Barnhizer and the ‘Cats will look to manufacture monumental March Madness magic against the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed UConn. 

“What more would you rather have,” Barnhizer said. “It’s such a great opportunity. It’s such a blessing. We can’t be scared going into the game. We know they’re the repeating champion … We just gotta go out there and fight. If we stick to our principles and fight, I think the game will be a lot closer than some people may imagine.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n 

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