It just gets better and better.
Coming off of back-to-back ranked wins against then-No. 1 Purdue and No. 14 Indiana, the Northwestern Wildcats (20-7, 11-5 B1G) rolled to a 80-60 victory over Iowa (17-10, 9-7 B1G).
The win makes for the Wildcats’ fifth in a row, and puts them over the illustrious 20-win mark for the first time since 2017, and makes for head coach Chris Collins’ first season with 11 conference wins. But Collins isn’t fazed.
“11 wins is great. 20 wins is great… but we want more.”
Northwestern went up 11-3 to open the game, thanks in large part to shooting 3-4 on three pointers. They shot 50% on the game from outside, much higher than their season average of 31.8%.
Fourth-year guard Boo Buie once again led the team in scoring, putting up 23 points and 8 assists. Buie leads the team in points-per-game, and has scored 20 or more in five of his last six games. He credits the run to his teammates.
“Just believing in me, putting the ball in my hands, allowing me to make plays, and making shots.”
Part of that shooting advantage came from third-year guard Ty Berry. Berry went 5-10 from the field and finished with 16 points, second-most on the team, and it all started with his first shot.
“You see your first shot go in, after that it’s all green… the hoop [looks like] the ocean.”
The ’Cats ended the first half up 11, and it wouldn’t have happened without stellar defense. Iowa shot just under 12 percent from long range and had 8 turnovers in the first half alone, which allowed plenty of opportunities for NU to convert on offense early.
In the second half, Northwestern’s offense didn’t lose a beat. Graduate guard Chase Audige hit back-to-back layups to open the half, and the scoring would only keep coming from there. Graduate center Tydus Verhoeven had 8, second-year guard Brooks Barnhizer had 12, and third-year center Matt Nicholson had 9; of the seven players to play more than 10 minutes in the game, all but one scored 2 or more field goals. Collins credited the team for never letting Iowa make a “big run” to close the gap.
The Wildcats continued to take control when after a Tydus Verhoeven dunk, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery acquired two technical fouls, suspending him from the rest of the game, and making for the second game in a row that Northwestern has grabbed two techs from an opposing bench.
The ’Cats were already up 15 at that point, and the suspension took the wind out of the Hawkeye’s sails, leading to the 20-point advantage, and evening up the season series with Iowa after losing to them by 16 back in January.
Since that loss, Northwestern has gone 5-1, secured their spot as a Big Ten contender, eventual March Madness competitor and likely will be ranked in the AP Top 25 next week– statuses most didn’t expect coming into this campaign. They’ll look to keep the wins coming next Thursday on the road against Illinois.
This Northwestern Basketball team is making a claim to be one of the best Evanston has ever seen, and Buie wants the whole nation to take notice.
“We just want them to know that we’re serious. This isn’t a joke.”