There are good days, there are bad days, and there are average days; not everything can go exactly right or wrong every day. On very rare occasions, however, there will be one perfect day – a day in which you can seemingly do no wrong and enjoy the greatest of spoils.
Enough waxing poetic: that day finally happened for Northwestern men’s basketball (11-10, 4-8 B1G), as they absolutely destroyed Nebraska (6-17, 0-12 B1G) Saturday afternoon, beating out the Cornhuskers 87-63. It was complete domination for the ’Cats from start to finish, as they took a 30-15 lead over the Huskers in the first ten minutes and never trailed for the entirety of the game.
“Needless to say, this was a big win for us today,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “We knew we were going to face a hungry team coming into today, we had just come off a win ourselves after some real tough losses, so it’s an important game for our guys. I thought they showed it with their energy … to come on the road, especially to get a road win, was really good, so [I’m] really proud of my team today.”
In the victory, the ’Cats enjoyed a career performance from junior guard Boo Buie, who shot a career-high six three-pointers and swished 27 points in just 26 minutes of game action. Also starring for Northwestern were junior guard Chase Audige, who scored 16 points, and junior center Ryan Young, who picked up 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. In a fantastic showing, the ’Cats saw an unbelievable effort behind the perimeter, shooting 13 three-pointers, 10 in the first half alone.
“Our backcourt was really good today,” Collins said. “I thought Buie was tremendous, we were able to get him some clean looks early to get going from three, and then he was able to get downhill and drive the ball really well, and in the second half. I thought Chase was fantastic.”
Nebraska was led in their effort by first-year guard C.J. Wilcher, who scored 15 points off the bench in the losing effort, and senior guard Alonzo Verge Jr., who scored nine and picked up four rebounds.
As suggested by the final score, the game was lopsided from the start. Following an opening layup from Buie, ’Cats opened the game with six straight three-pointers from across the lineup, running out to a 30-15 lead after ten minutes.
After the first ten minutes, Northwestern wasn’t content to just coast out the rest of the game, as they kept pushing their perimeter play. Boo Buie shined to close out the first half, sinking three downtown shots to push the Wildcats’ halftime lead to 49-27 – their largest this season.
“I expected it to be a really close game,” Collins said. “All we do is play close games, but the thing I was really proud of is we hit 10 threes in the first half, and that gave us the separation. Anytime you can hit double digit threes in a half and couple it with some pretty good defense, we got the 20 point lead there.”
Despite the large lead, Buie and the ’Cats weren’t content to sit on their laurels just yet, and they came out of the locker room swinging to start the second half. Continuing his hot streak, Buie kept pushing the shots from downtown, sinking on two consecutive attempts to bring his total to six: a new career high.
Running up the score, Audige and Young took over the middle minutes in the second half, each contributing key points to keep the ’Cats up big. Audige, in particular, kept the ’Cats pushing pace with stellar two-way play. With five minutes to play, the Wildcats had completely dominated the Huskers, running up to a 35-point lead.
Scoring their final basket with five minutes to play, the ’Cats were happy to sub in the end of their bench and coast to victory, securing their second-largest road B1G win since 1950.
There’s not much to analyze here: Northwestern was unbelievable offensively, as they have been all season. Racing out to a 22-point lead at halftime certainly helps – especially with those 10 first-half threes – but the ’Cats also locked down defensively, holding their opponent to just 7-for-18 from downtown, and allowing the Huskers to take just 19 free throws.
In short, it was a perfect day for Northwestern, and one they may certainly need for confidence as they head into a make-or-break game for their season: a home matchup against Indiana (16-6, 7-5 B1G) and former program star, senior forward Miller Kopp.
If there’s a redemption arc in the cards, let’s enjoy it.