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Three takeaways from Northwestern’s milestone win at Maryland

For the first time ever, the ‘Cats came out of College Park victorious.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Northwestern men’s basketball team (6-2, 1-0 B1G) beat the Maryland Terrapins (5-4, 0-1 B1G) 67-61 on Sunday, winning its first conference matchup of the year. The contest was back-and-forth constantly, with both teams trading leads throughout. Nonetheless, the Wildcats, aided by the return of Chase Audige, emerged with the win. Here are three takeaways from this weekend’s big win in College Park:

Welcome back, Chase Audige

After missing the first seven games of the season with a hip injury, Chase Audige returned to Chris Collins’ starting lineup Sunday. Last year, Audige lead the ‘Cats with 12.3 points and 1.5 steals per game. His energy on the court has been sorely missed so far this year, but it’s safe to say his teammates, his coaches and Northwestern fans are glad to see him back in purple.

The redshirt junior had a slow start to the Maryland contest, finishing the first half with just four points on 2-of-6 shooting. That being said, he did contribute three rebounds and two assists in the first frame as well. Audige’s second half, however, was reminiscent of his better performances from last year — he dropped a casual 10 points in his 14 minutes on the court, with two of his scores coming in pivotal moments towards the final stretch where the Terps came close to overtaking the lead. The Coram, New York, native was one of three players who ventured into double digits for the ‘Cats in his 2021-22 debut, proving how valuable his presence will be to this team as they enter the thick of conference play come January.

Fouls nearly cost NU the game

Last year, Northwestern averaged about 17.6 fouls per game. Yesterday, the ‘Cats committed 13 fouls in the second half alone; the Terps were already in the bonus before the clock hit 10 minutes left to play. The first half wasn’t quite as bad, but eight fouls in the first frame compared with the catastrophe that was the second means Northwestern committed 21 fouls throughout, and that doesn’t even include the technical foul on Audige.

Four starters, with the addition of Ryan Young, committed three fouls each. Buie earned the title of main culprit with four to his name alone. Though no player fouled out, the ‘Cats gave Maryland the opportunity for 19 free points from the stripe in the second half, of which they sunk 15, before and after the bonus took effect. The matchup was close enough at points that these chances were putting the Terps within one or even tying the game. Minimizing careless fouls will be key to Northwestern holding onto momentum in conference games where the score may be as close as it was on Sunday.

Pete Nance is shaping up to be first-team All-B1G

There was a moment in the broadcast of Sunday’s game where one of the announcers said something along the lines of “Pete Nance is one of the best players in the Big Ten”, and for once, they might actually be onto something. If Nance continues to produce the stat-lines he has been putting up through the ‘Cats first eight matchups, he could catch the attention of more conference coaches and team members than he has been in seasons past.

Against Maryland, Nance notched 17 points and 10 rebounds, which marks his third double-double of the season. He’s averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game — no Northwestern player has come close to this since Vic Law averaged 15 points per game in the 2018-19 carousel. Nance commands attention in the paint that can draw opponents toward him and open up other players around the perimeter. When those players aren’t open, he has been finishing shots himself that he might not have finished in years past. It’s still early, but Nance is on the brink of a very impressive season which might solidify him as one of the best players in the entire conference.