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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern cruises by Illinois-Springfield 90-50

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That was just about what everyone expected.

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern (8-2) committed a gruesome and cruel murder over the course of two hours on Monday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

It was just about what everyone expected, as the Wildcats dominated Division II opponent Illinois-Springfield (4-7) from start to finish, winning 90-50. Pete Nance led the way for Northwestern, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds. Boo Buie and Ty Berry followed him up with 11 points each. Berry shot 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Even though this game came against a Division II opponent, there were no changes to Northwestern’s starting five, with Buie, Chase Audige, Berry, Robbie Beran and Nance all taking the court to begin.

Both teams started slow offensively, but the ‘Cats got the scoring going with a three from Buie nearly two-and-a-half minutes into the contest. Thirty seconds later, Buie nailed another three to put NU up 6-0. After that, Nance added a layup, forcing UIS to take an early timeout just four minutes into the game.

Coming out of the timeout, UIS got its first bucket of the game on an and-one layup from James Kelley. However, he failed to convert the free throw, and from there, the Wildcats continued to pile it on. Not long after the Kelley layup, Northwestern led 15-2. Freshman Evan Altman added a three for the Prairie Stars, but overall, the ‘Cats continued to dominate as they led 20-5 at the U-12 media timeout.

Julian Roper saw some early minutes for the Wildcats, as he entered the game after the media timeout. A few first-years saw action early, with Roper and Casey Simmons finishing with 17 and 20 minutes played, respectively. Brooks Barnhizer checked in late in the first half, as well, and he finished with 11 minutes on the game.

UIS was able to string together a few stops, but on most occasions, the Prairie Stars were simply unable to hit their shots. As such, Northwestern’s lead continued to grow. The ‘Cats were up 27-10 with just under eight minutes to go in the first and showed few signs of giving up their lead.

After the short break, NU continued to pile it on. Nance hit a nice pick-and-pop jumper to extend the ‘Cats’ lead to 19. Not long after, he backed down Kelley in the post, only to sink a hook shot right over him. Nance finished the first half with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

As the half drew to a close, the scoring continued back and forth, with Northwestern’s lead never exceeding 21 points. The Prairie Stars did make some effort to close the gap in the final few minutes, but the Wildcats still held a 47-29 lead after the first 20.

The second half soon began. Within the first minute of action, Audige — who was largely quiet scoring-wise — slapped away an attempted layup by UIS’s Chris Hamil. A few plays later, Audige slammed home a lob from Berry to put the Wildcats up 22. Northwestern was flying to start the second half, with Beran finishing a lob from Audige on the very next possession.

Following a UIS timeout, Audige landed another slam dunk, this time by posterizing a Prairie Star defender. Not long after, Nance got on a fast break and threw one down as well. Eight of Northwestern’s first 10 second half points came via a dunk, highlighting the lack of height on Illinois-Springfield’s lineup — the Prairie Stars had no one above the height of 6-foot-6 in their typical rotation.

As the second half continued, Young got things going a bit in the post, scoring on back-to-back possessions for the ‘Cats. At this point, Northwestern’s lead was fluctuating between just under and just over 30 points. When the U-12 media timeout came around, the Wildcats were doubling up on the Prairie Stars, as they led 66-33.

After the break, UIS did its best to cut down on Northwestern’s lead, but the ‘Cats had too much firepower offensively. While Illinois-Springfield did get a couple of buckets to fall, NU always matched it. As the clock passed the halfway point of the second half, the ‘Cats remained in control with a 35-point lead.

The clock continued to wind down, and the Wildcats soon put in their backups again. Collins and Co. rolled out a lineup of Ryan Greer, Roper, Simmons, Barnhizer and Matt Nicholson with about eight minutes to play. Barnhizer got the first regular season basket of his career on an open three, then added two more points at the charity stripe. Following those free throws, UIS got its subs into the game as well.

As the game wrapped up, scoring began to slow. Nicholson got on the scoresheet with a post hook, but proceeded to miss two free throws soon after. Roy Dixon III saw some action as well and hit Simmons with a nice no look pass at one point. Other than that, there wasn’t a ton to write home about, as the ‘Cats closed out the game and ended up winning by 40.

The Wildcats return to action on December 30 when they play a winless Prairie View A&M team at 4:00 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.