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: No. 1 UConn 75, No. 9 Northwestern 58

Sophomore+forward+Nick+Martinelli+unleashes+his+lefty+floater+against+UConn+Sunday.
Angeli Mittal/The Daily Northwestern
Sophomore forward Nick Martinelli unleashes his lefty floater against UConn Sunday.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For the third time in program history and the second consecutive year, 9-seed Northwestern vied for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.

Following a dramatic 77-65 overtime victory over 8-seed Florida Atlantic Friday, the Wildcats returned to Barclays Center two days later looking to advance past the second round after failing to do so in the 2017 and 2023 NCAA Tournaments.

Standing in NU’s way, however, was the one team most poised to win it all: the tournament favorite and reigning national champions, No. 1 Connecticut. 

With the odds stacked against them, the ’Cats were unable to capture any underdog magic, falling to UConn in a 75-58 defeat.

The Huskies jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead before the first media timeout, taking advantage of NU’s inability to finish down low. Coach Chris Collins’ squad started the game 1-of-8 from the field while UConn began at a hot 5-of-6 shooting clip.

This trend continued as the ’Cats suffered a scoring drought over three minutes long while remaining unable to contain coach Dan Hurley’s high-powered offense.

By the period’s midway point, NU strung together a few defensive stops, yet its prolonged shooting woes prevented any sort of production on the other end. A 13-4 run propelled the Huskies into the half with a menacing 40-18 lead. 

Much of this lead was built on the back of UConn’s stifling defense that held the ’Cats’ typically high-scoring backcourt trio of graduate student Boo Buie, graduate student Ryan Langborg and junior Brooks Barnhizer to only four points on a combined 1-of-15 shooting.

NU struggled mightily from deep, going 0-of-8 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes. Though the Huskies shot 2-of-11 from long-range themselves, their command in the post — led by center Donovan Clingan — proved to be too much for their opponents to handle.

The second half looked to be more of the same as UConn capitalized on a series of personal fouls that put the ’Cats in more foul trouble than they would have liked. NU collected five personal fouls within the first four minutes of the second half with Buie, Langborg and sophomore forward Luke Hunger each collecting their third.

Having to dial back the pressure, the ’Cats continued to lose the paint battle. Three consecutive dunks from UConn forward Samson Johnson electrified the crowd, seemingly adding insult to injury.

When NU finally took the lid off the basket after a flurry of 3-pointers, it wasn’t enough as the Huskies’ lead never fell below 16.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s loss to UConn.

1. Huskies dominate in the paint early

Quickly building a 7-0 lead off three straight layups, UConn sent a signal that there was more to come.

26 of the Huskies’ first 30 points came down low, exploiting a size advantage granted to them by the absence of senior center Matthew Nicholson, who broke his foot late in the regular season.

Without the rim protection of the 7-foot big man, NU struggled to contain Clingan, who had already collected a double-double of 12 points and 11 boards in just 13 minutes of play. The Huskies’ big man also tallied five blocks over that period.

With both teams struggling to shoot throughout the first period, the battle in the post proved to be the main determinant of success Sunday.

2. Too little, too late

Whatever scouting report or modified gameplan UConn engineered for Sunday’s matchup worked big time.

Buie — a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection averaging 19.3 points per game this season — was held to nine points on a meager 2-of-15 shooting. Buie didn’t make his first bucket until the 10:02 mark in the second half.

The ’Cats’ second and third-leading scorers, Barnhizer and Langborg, had a total of zero and two points, respectively, by the intermission.

The three guards eventually turned it on late in the second half, sparking a comeback attempt that unfortunately fell well short of the mark.

After going scoreless on eight shots in the first half, Barnhizer was perfect over his next six field goal attempts. Langborg also caught fire from long range, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Their efforts, however, were not enough to overcome a deficit that was, at one point, up to 30 points.

3. One last game for the graduates

It had to come sooner or later.

Sunday marked the final game for Buie — NU’s all-time scoring leader — as well as graduate student transfers Langborg and forward Blake Preston.

Though Buie would have liked to go out on a better note, it was nevertheless a storied career for the program legend who brought the ’Cats to unprecedented heights and two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

It was also an unfavorable ending for seniors Nicholson and guard Ty Berry, both of whom were out due to injury. With both seniors retaining one year of eligibility, it is yet to be heard whether they will return for a fifth year.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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