Northwestern’s first true road test of the season couldn’t have gone much better.
A young Wildcat team (4-3, 0-0) rose to the challenge away from home Tuesday night, taking down Boston College (4-5, 1-0) by a final score of 82-64. Miller Kopp and Boo Buie were the story of the night, lifting the ‘Cats to victory in the Big Ten/ACC challenge with career-high 20 point games from both players.
The sophomore forward finished 6-for-14 shooting (4-for-8 from three), while the freshman point guard Buie was just as good off the bench on 8-of-9 shooting and 2-of-3 shooting from behind the arc.
As a team, Northwestern shot 45 percent from three-point range, well above its season average of 29.1 percent this season. Contributions from all over the floor ultimately lifted the Wildcats to their highest offensive output of the season. Ryan Young finished with 12 points, and Anthony Gaines added 9 of his own on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.
Northwestern started the game slow on offense, missing its first four shots before Kopp got the Wildcats on the board with a three-pointer to give NU its first points three minutes into the game.
The game stayed tight early on in the first half as both teams traded buckets left and right. Chris Collins chose to rotate early and often with nine NU players (every scholarship guy except Ryan Greer) seeing the floor in just the first ten minutes. Buie saw some substantial minutes early and gave the Wildcats a nice spark in the first half with five quick points.
The Wildcat defense tightened up as NU took advantage of some sloppy offensive play from the Golden Eagles. Playing primarily man-to-man with a sprinkle of zone, Northwestern went on a 14-0 run that saw BC go scoreless for over six minutes. The NU lead jumped to as big as 35-20 in the game’s first twenty minutes, but a small push from the Eagles at the end of the period cut the Northwestern lead to 37-27 at the break.
The majority of the Wildcat offensive production came from beyond the arc in the first half. NU shot 6-of-11 from three in the first 20 minutes, including a nice 2-of-2 mark from Pete Nance. Kopp continued his hot start to the game and led all first half scorers with 13 points thanks large in part to 3-for-4 shooting from three-point land.
The second half was much of the same story.
Kopp and Buie stayed hot out of the locker room, knocking down more threes and helping NU extend its lead to 62-42 halfway through the second period.
Some sloppy play from Northwestern, including an ugly Pat Spencer turnover, sent BC on a quick 8-0 run around the 8:00 mark that cut the NU lead to 10. Spencer had his worst night in an NU uniform after two impressive showings in Fort Myers last week. The grad transfer point guard was held scoreless in the first half, and finished with just 6 points (4 in garbage time) and three turnovers on the night.
Turnovers remain a problem for this young Northwestern team. Despite the win, the Wildcats gave it away 14 more times on Tuesday.
Former Eagle AJ Turner was quiet, yet effective in his return to Chestnut Hill. The senior forward put up just 6 points (2-for-2 shooting), continuing what has been a slow offensive start to the season from Northwestern’s top returning scorer from last season.
BC isn’t a great opponent, but this was still a solid and highly encouraging bounce back win for Chris Collins’ team. Seeing underclassmen like Kopp and Buie step up on the road and carry the ‘Cats to victory should provide a lot of hope for what’s to come as they guys mature and get more experience.
Things are going to be tougher in Northwestern’s next matchup though. The Wildcats will stay on the road as they open Big Ten play against the Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday afternoon.