After a heartbreaking, last-second loss to Pittsburgh last week, Northwestern (3-1, 0-0) bounced back in dominant fashion versus Quincy (1-6, 1-4) on Tuesday and cruised to a 100-48 victory to close out non-conference play. It was also the second time this season that the ’Cats have topped 100 points this season.
Last year, the Wildcats lost three early non-conference games in Evanston in what ended up being a highly disappointing season. This year, however, the ’Cats were able to take care of business during preseason, and fans can already see improvement from the previous campaign.
“It was a really good win for us,” said coach Chris Collins. “It was really good to get out there and play really well before our first Big Ten game of the season on Sunday.”
The Wildcats were led by junior forward Miller Kopp, who scored 23 points, his highest of the year so far. Sophomore guard Boo Buie added 15 points, five assists, and four rebounds, while redshirt sophomore guard Chase Audige continued to pour on the buckets, racking up 14 points in the game to continue a four-game streak of scoring 10+ points per game.
Quincy senior forward Tanner Stuckman scored 10 points for the Hawks, leading the team in scoring.
To start the game, Northwestern went on an 8-0 run and went almost four minutes without allowing Quincy to score. Their unselfish play translated into great ball movement that created many open shots. Defensively, they played elite and forced eight first-half turnovers. Northwestern made seven from beyond-the-arc in the half and went into halftime with a commanding 30-point lead with the score 47-17.
In the second half, Northwestern put their foot on the gas, with the ’Cats going on an early three minute 14-0 run to take a 61-23 lead. Kopp scored 12 of their opening 16 points, and in that three minute span he dropped 10 points, including two 3-pointers, which helped Northwestern pull away from the game.
“Miller has proven now through last year and this year to be one of the better shooters in the Big Ten,” Collins said after the game. “If he gets some daylight and he gets his feet set, I’m usually surprised when he misses.”
Collins also spoke to Kopp’s character, saying, “He is such a leader on this team, and it gives energy to the rest of our team. We all love him.”
Northwestern finished their rout of Quincy with a score of 100-48 and played aggressive to the end: Northwestern forced 19 turnovers, and out-rebounded Quincy 55-23.
“In games like this, there’s a tendency when the game gets out of hand to lighten up defensively,” Collins said. “To come out and hold a dangerous Division II team to under 50 points was something I am very proud of.”
Looking ahead, Collins pointed out that this year’s team is filled with more depth than prior years, which will help them compete with the elite programs of the Big Ten. The emergence of freshman guard Ty Berry and addition of Audige makes Northwestern more of a threat than last year and gives them a few more options offensively. This could help them finish off close games, something they struggled with last season.
Berry has averaged 10.3 points per game while shooting 52.9% from behind the arc and finished yesterday’s game with 10 points and three 3-pointers.
As the Wildcats enter conference play, Collins believes that the way to motivate his players is to give many of them consistent playing time.
He added, “They know they’ve got to give you good minutes in order to get another opportunity. Anytime you have depth, there’s always that fear of going to the bench, and that can be a good thing.”
This Sunday, Northwestern will face No. 4 Michigan State (6-0, 0-0) in Evanston to begin Big Ten play, where the true test of offensive prowess and skill will begin.