Undefeated. For now, at least.
Senior guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige had a slow start, combining for only four points in the first half, but led the Wildcat offense in the second half, scoring 25 for 29 total on the night; Audige scored 17, while Buie scored 12. Junior center Matt Nicholson was also crucial for NU’s success, providing a strong presence in the paint, putting up nine points and nine rebounds.
NU started hot, opening the game with a defensive stop, followed immediately by a three from Audige. Junior guard Ty Berry kept up the momentum, hitting two three-pointers in the next minute to give NU a 9-2 lead with 17 minutes left in the half.
The Hoyas responded promptly, going on an 11-1 run of their own, but a three pointer from NU sophomore guard Julian Roper II quelled their momentum, evening the game at 13.
The rest of the half saw both teams struggle to pull away, each hindered by their own mistakes on both ends of the floor. The two squads combined for 16 turnovers and 21 fouls in the half.
The usual suspects of NU’s offense were nowhere to be found, and as a result, the team struggled to build momentum. NU's leading scorers, the captain trio of Buie, Audige and senior forward Robbie Beran, were all quiet on offense, combining for just nine points in the first half.
Someone had to step up. Nicholson did just that, securing his presence in the paint to be the Northwestern offense’s driving force. Paired with strong showings from Roper and sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer, Northwestern never fell more than three points behind despite the captains’ cold-streaks.
The first half ended with Georgetown on top 35-32, with neither team truly holding the momentum. It was obvious that a cleaner brand of basketball was needed for whichever team wanted to secure the win.
Beran opened NU’s second half scoring with a corner three, beginning a 7-2 run for the ’Cats, but before they could pull away, Georgetown responded with 5 straight points of their own. Both teams had a new energy, going toe-to-toe in a second half that seemed to be shaping up to be far different from the first.
It was at the 15-minute mark that the tides seemed to finally change in the ’Cats favor. Buie connected on his first three-pointer of the game, followed by Audige connecting on two of his own from behind the arc. Another fastbreak jumper from Audige put the ’Cats up 53-44, though Georgetown wasn’t out of it just yet.
After going down 10 points with 8 minutes left in the half, the Hoyas forced a turnover from sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer, leading to a wide open three from Bryson Mozone. This cut NU's lead to seven and prompted a major crowd reaction, forcing a timeout from head coach Chris Collins to slow the Hoya momentum.
Unfortunately for Hoya fans, it was right then that Buie took control of the game, scoring the next seven points for the Wildcats while leading the defensive effort. Beran ultimately had the dagger, hitting a three pointer with three minutes left in the half to put Northwestern up 13 and seal the game.
The Wildcats never let the lead dip below double digits after that, and walked out with a 75-63 road victory.
While a win is a win, NU committed 15 turnovers on the night, and will have to take better care of the basketball in its future matchups. The 'Cats will dig their own graves if they continue giving up the ball that frequently, and better teams will be more than happy to bury them.
On the bright side, the second half showcased what the NU offense is capable of when it gets going. In the second half the Wildcats went an electric 8-of-15 from three, or 53.33 percent. NU will be able to compete with nearly any team in the country if they can shoot like that.
This matchup also showcased the resilience this Wildcat team possesses. Buie, Beran, and Audige kept their edge throughout the match, all hitting crucial shots throughout the second half even after a dismaying start. As well, the performances of Nicholson, Roper, and Barnhizer show that the offense can function even when the starters are struggling.
As each member of this trio has seen only limited playing time, it should excite NU basketball fans to see how the trio can progress as the season goes on.
It wasn’t a perfect night, but the 'Cats walked out of a tough road environment with a win in hand.
The Wildcats will look to remain undefeated this week in the Cancun Challenge.