For the second year in a row and fourth time under Chris Collins, the Wildcats have begun a season with a 3-0 record or better.
Behind a dominant second-half performance where the ‘Cats outscored their opponents 42-28, Northwestern (3-0, 0-0 B1G) defeated the Georgetown Hoyas (2-1, 0-0 Big East) 75-63 in the nation's capital.
The Wildcats were led by senior guards Chase Audige and Boo Buie. The pair combined for 29 points, with 25 coming in the second half. Junior Matthew Nicholson nearly had a double-double, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds. On the other side, Primo Spears led all scorers with 22 points.
The ‘Cats started hot out of the gate. After a strong defensive stand to open the game, Audige buried a three to open the scoring. Northwestern drew an offensive foul and Ty Berry hit his first three of the game, giving the ‘Cats a 6-0 lead. The Hoyas were able to get on the board with a layup by Akok Akok, but Berry answered with his second triple of the game to give the ‘Cats a 9-2 lead.
Out of a timeout, the Hoyas found their groove on offense. Primo Spears hit from mid-range to get Georgetown rolling, and a turnover by Robbie Beran, followed by a Berry foul on a jump shot by Jay Heath, pulled the Hoyas’ deficit to two. A layup by Qudus Wahab tied the game at nine, with Georgetown on a 7-0 run into the first media timeout.
The ‘Cats went ice cold, missing nine straight field goal attempts until Julian Roper II sank a corner three to tie the game at 13. In addition to the poor shooting, Northwestern also got into foul trouble early, with six fouls in less than ten minutes.
The ‘Cats’ seven-footer, Matt Nicholson, made his presence felt on the court throughout the night. He drew two fouls then, including an and-one to give NU the lead. He also had a massive block to stop a Hoyas fast break, but Roper, wide open, could not corral the ball for the easy basket.
It was a sloppy first half, as both teams played hack-a-Shaq and each team was in the bonus mid-way through the first half. Both teams struggled to maintain the basketball, with seven turnovers on each side. With the ‘Cats leading 16-15, Beran found his shot. He caught heat from the corner, hitting a three and a two with his foot on the line to expand NU’s lead. The Hoyas answered back, as Heath scored a three to cut Northwestern’s lead to one at the media timeout.
Out of the timeout, it was all Hoyas. Georgetown went on an 11-2 run, with Primo Spears and Heath knifing through the Wildcats’ defense and attacking the rim.
Meanwhile, Nicholson continued to spark NU’s offense. He had six Wildcat points in a row to cut the Hoyas’ lead to one and another block on the defensive end. A three by Brooks Barnhizer tied the game at 30 at the final media timeout of the first half.
Coming out of the timeout, Georgetown took control going into the half. A three by Akok and a monster jam by Jordan Riley put the Hoyas up three, but Nicholson drew a foul right before the buzzer and went 1-of-2 from the line to send the ‘Cats to the locker room down 35-33.
In a half that can only be described as chaotic, neither team could establish continued success. The teams combined for 16 turnovers and 21 fouls, contributing to an overall messy game. Northwestern could not find its stroke, shooting just 29% from the field. Comparatively, the Hoyas shot 48%. Nicholson led the ‘Cats with nine points and nine rebounds, as the seven-footer bullied Georgetown inside the paint.
Out of the break, neither team could take control of the game. NU started fast, going on a 7-2 run to open the half; however, the Hoyas responded with a 5-0 run of their own to regain a 42-40 lead at the first media timeout of the half.
The ‘Cats started to click on the offensive side with 15 minutes left in the half. Buie connected on his first three of the game to put NU back up one, then Audige hit three straight shots, including back-to-back threes, to establish a 13-2 run that put the Wildcats up 53-44.
The Hoyas cut the lead to six, but Barnhizer threw a good pump fake and finished at the rim, surrounded by three defenders, to bring the Wildcats’ lead to eight. On the ensuing possession, Verhoeven flipped in a hook shot with no time left on the shot clock to give NU its largest lead of the night, 60-50. A wide-open three by Bryson Mozone cut the ‘Cats’ lead to seven, and sensing a possible momentum shift, Collins called timeout.
Buie got better as the game went on. He drove to the rim for a difficult finish to expand NU’s lead back to nine, but Audige committed his fourth foul on the other end, forcing him to head to the bench. The absence of Northwestern’s leading scorer mattered not, as Buie put the game on his back, drilling a three and drawing an offensive foul on back-to-back possessions. The Hoyas employed a full-court press that the Wildcats could not break, forcing NU to burn a timeout to avoid a five-second violation. Buie turned the ball over after the timeout, but a missed layup by Brandon Murray allowed the ‘Cats to escape scot-free. A layup by Buie and a corner three by Beran put the ‘Cats up 70-57 at the final media timeout of the game.
Northwestern held the Hoyas without a field goal for over five minutes. The ‘Cats did put the Hoyas in the bonus, but the Northwestern lead was too much for the Hoyas to overcome at the line. In the dagger of the game, Audige buried a heavily contested three as the shot clock expired to put Northwestern up 73-58 and end any hopes of a Georgetown comeback.
Northwestern will be back in action Friday in Evanston against Purdue Fort Wayne at 7 p.m. CT.