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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern handles NJIT 70-52

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It wasn’t pretty, but they got it done.

EVANSTON, Ill. — Despite some very sloppy play throughout, Northwestern (7-2, 1-0 B1G) won by a comfortable margin against a much less talented team, as the ‘Cats got by NJIT (5-4, 0-0 AEC) by a final score of 70-52.

Ryan Young led the way for the Wildcats today, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting off of the bench. He also added nine rebounds. Chase Audige and Pete Nance followed close behind with 11 points and 10 points, respectively.

Both teams got off to slow starts offensively, as the ‘Cats made just one of their first four three-point attempts and the Highlanders turned the ball over four times before the first media timeout. Ty Berry cashed in from deep and then found Robbie Beran on a lob to put NU ahead 7-5 early.

Northwestern made life for NJIT on offense difficult early on. The Highlanders went on a scoring drought of over six minutes, due in large part to Young’s interior defense, as he blocked two shots. Pete Nance found his groove from midrange at the other end, knocking down his first three attempts of the game before Young capped off an 11-0 run with some fancy footwork in the post leading to an easy layup.

The Highlanders responded with a 7-0 scoring streak of their own before Audige made his first three of the game. The junior guard then followed that three with a midrange bucket the next possession before another NJIT three brought the score to 20-15. However, outside of those few minutes of action, both Audige and NJIT’s three-point shooting struggled throughout the first half. Audige went 1-of-3 while NJIT made just five of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc through the first 20 minutes.

Some of the Northwestern players began taking their final exam frustrations out on the rim, with Nance finishing off a lob from Boo Buie and freshman Casey Simmons going coast to coast following a steal to put the ‘Cats up 26-15. NU then began to find their way to the charity stripe, with Buie, Ryan Greer and Young all knocking down a pair of free throws before the end of the first half, as they took a 35-23 advantage into the locker room.

Much like the first half, both teams struggled to get the ball to go through the net. Audige got Northwestern’s first points on the board with a layup following an NJIT three. Then, after rebounding a Highlander miss, Nance got by his defender in transition with a sweet behind-the-back move before firing a pass into the corner to a wide open Berry, who drained the ensuing three-point attempt, putting the ‘Cats up 40-26 before the first media timeout.

Coming out of the media timeout, NU went on a 7-0 run, featuring buckets from Young, Simmons and Audige, forcing the Highlanders to call their second timeout of the game. Young continued to assert himself following the stoppage in play, making two more layups and assisting Ryan Greer on an eight-footer. At the other end, NJIT scored six of its next nine points from the free-throw line, before Audige cashed in on two free-throws of his own and Nance denied the Highlanders twice at the rim to keep the score at 55-36 with eight minutes to play.

NJIT began to find some momentum, going on a 10-5 run over the next four minutes, making all three of their attempts from three-point land. Northwestern prevented that momentum from resulting in an improbable comeback and was able to showcase its bench depth in the final minutes, giving the reserves some playing time with the game well out of reach.

The ‘Cats’ season continues on Saturday, December 18 with fellow Chicago-based school DePaul stopping by Welsh-Ryan at 2 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.