In the first matchup between DePaul and Northwestern since 2019, the ‘Cats (8-2, 1-0 B1G) rolled to a 83-45 win over the Blue Demons (6-6, 0-1 Big East) in a game that never seemed in doubt.
Chase Audige had himself a day, as he scored a career high 28 points, five steals and three assists for the ‘Cats. Audige was not the only senior who shined in the ‘Cats senior-designed jerseys, with Boo Buie scoring and Robbie Beran scoring 17 and eight points, respectively. The three seniors single-handedly outscored DePaul, helped in large part by the ‘Cats’ stellar defense that had an absurd 14 steals, with nine of them in the second half.
Following their sluggish 61-51 win against Prairie View A&M, the ‘Cats came out firing from behind the arc, shooting six threes before the under-16 timeout. Although they only converted two of these, courtesy of Ty Berry and Chase Audige, the Northwestern defense allowed them to hold an 8-3 lead.
Following the break, the ‘Cats continued to let it fly from three, as Audige hit a pair of threes, with Buie and Berry adding triples of their own. NU’s hot shooting, accompanied with the Blue Demons’ having only converted one field goal seven minutes into the game, forced DePaul to call a timeout as they trailed 20-5.
Out of the timeout, the teams traded a pair of ridiculous shots, with Brooks Barnhizer hitting a one legged fade away with the shot clock running down and Umoja Gibson knocking hitting a deep, contested three for the Blue Demons.
With DePaul finding little production on the inside, it shifted its focus to outside the arc and was able to bring its offense some life. With three consecutive three-pointers, the Blue Demons were able to cut the ‘Cats’ lead to 27-17 at the under-eight timeout.
As Northwestern began to cool off from its hot shooting start, Robbie Beran, Mathew Nicholson and freshman Luke Hunger kept the Wildcats ahead via the offensive glass, as they all converted baskets following offensive rebounds. In a first half that was for the most part a shootout, these extra possessions not only helped the ‘Cats on the scoreboard, but also kept the Blue Demons offense out of transition.
After yet another Audige three-pointer and a technical foul for taunting by the Blue Demons’ Philmon Gebrewhit after a corner three, the half ended on a sloppy note that consisted of turnovers and missed layups from both sides. Despite how the half ended, the ‘Cats were able to bring a 39-26 lead into the locker room.
Audige led all scorers with 14 at the half, as the senior hit four of Northwestern’s eight first half three-pointers. Although their outside shooting was definitely the main headline for the ‘Cats through the opening 20, their five steals, five blocks and only three fouls on the defensive end highlighted how defensively sound they were, in large part due to Nicholson’s presence down low.
The second half began with NU picking up three quick touch fouls in less than 80 seconds, but this did not slow down the Northwestern defense. After three steals and two Audige baskets, Northwestern extended its lead to 43-26 and forced the Blue Demons to call a timeout two minutes into the half.
This timeout was ineffective, as Chris Collins’ squad came out of it with another Audige layup following a steal. Robbie Beran followed that up with an and-one that gave the ‘Cats a 20-point lead at the under-16 timeout.
DePaul moved to a zone defense following the break, which proved to be effective for a single possession before Audige continued his career game by hitting two more threes from both wings, forcing the Blue Demons back to man-to-man. The ‘Cats’ lead had now ballooned to 25, as the ‘Cats averaged nearly a steal a minute to begin the half to put the game out of reach with over 11 minutes remaining.
Despite the score, the ‘Cats did not take their foot off the gas, as they continued to push the ball in transition. Northwestern eventually increased its lead to 66-32, and forced another DePaul timeout.
The Wildcats did get a bit sloppy in the game’s final minutes, as Chris Collins was forced to frustratingly call a timeout after the team’s defense showed little effort and had multiple lapses. This short lapse was corrected following the timeout, as the defense played disciplined and seemingly made everything for the Blue Demons difficult as the game came to a close.
The ‘Cats lead allowed for many Northwestern bench players to get extended minutes, with Barnhizer and Hunger seeing a lot more run than usual. They effectively complemented the starters, who played throughout the second half before Collins put in Northwestern’s reserves with just over three to go.
Northwestern has now won three straight following its blowout loss to Pitt and looks to be peaking at the right time, as it is only a couple of weeks from the new year and the gauntlet of Big Ten play that it will bring. The ‘Cats will continue their six-game homestand at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday, when they will face the UIC Flames at 8 p.m. CT.