Northwestern racks up third victory of the week, cruises over Minnesota
By Ethan Segall
Northwestern men’s basketball (15-5, 6-3 B1G) continued the positive momentum with an impressive 81-61 win against Minnesota (7-13, 1-9 B1G) on Saturday.
Despite the early start time and snowy conditions, students packed Welsh-Ryan Arena and enjoyed one of Northwestern’s most complete performances of the season. Chase Audige led the way with 24 points. Boo Buie was also stellar, tacking on 21 points to go along with eight assists.
The ‘Cats came out of the gate a little sluggish, allowing the Golden Gophers to grab an early 7-2 lead. But the Wildcats quickly closed the gap and claimed the lead roughly seven minutes into the contest. From that point, Northwestern never surrendered its chokehold on the matchup, maintaining the scoring advantage to the final horn.
Northwestern scored a season-high 45 first half points on the back of Audige and Robbie Beran, who finished the afternoon with 14 points and made several clutch shots from beyond the arc.
The Golden Gophers were without leading scorer Dawson Garcia. In his absence, Jamison Battle stepped up for Minnesota and dropped 20 points. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough as the visitors lacked offensive firepower and struggled to convert free throws in a raucous Evanston environment.
Although the game was teetering on a blowout throughout the second half, a few highlights jolted the home crowd. After an eighth missed Minnesota free throw, the purple faithful went wild – not because of the opponent missing a shot, but rather, everyone in the crowd winning free Chick-Fil-A.
During the next media timeout, a Northwestern student nailed the promotional half-court shot, invigorating the crowd once again. Minutes later, Audige drove to the basket and threw down a nasty dunk, completing the triad of incredible moments that transformed Welsh-Ryan Arena into a party Saturday afternoon.
The ‘Cats will need to carry the good vibes into their upcoming stretch: a gauntlet of crucial matchups against conference foes jockeying to climb the Big Ten hierarchy. With a 6-3 conference record, the Wildcats are primed to be playing meaningful February basketball with a tournament bid seeming more and more like a legitimate possibility.
Northwestern packs up for a brief road trip to face Iowa on Tuesday in the first of two critical matchups between the Hawkeyes and Wildcats within a three-week span. The ‘Cats then head home for a Thursday night contest with Michigan, looking to redeem themselves after losing to the Wolverines on Jan. 15.
Ally Navarrete and Bradley Locker will be on the call for WNUR Sports with the game set for 6 p.m. CST.