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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern blows out Minnesota 81-61 to win third straight

Free Chick-fil-A and a win? It’s a good day to be a Wildcat.

Northwestern Men’s Basketball/@NUMensBball

That makes for three wins in six days.

Northwestern (15-5, 6-3 B1G) took down Minnesota (7-13, 1-9 B1G) 81-61 on Saturday morning in front of a packed Welsh-Ryan Arena. Coming off two straight losses and eight days of no play due to COVID-19, the Wildcats are riding a three-game win streak.

Chase Audige led the way for Northwestern, posting 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point land. He also had four rebounds on the day. Boo Buie also had a great performance, posting 21 points and eight assists. Robbie Beran added 14 points as well.

For the Gophers, it was Jamison Battle who spearheaded the scoring attack with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Ta’lon Cooper also added 12 points, going 3-of-10 from the field.

The Golden Gophers scored early off of the tip-off, but a jumper by Audige evened the score in the first two minutes. Minnesota quickly got back in front 7-2, sinking a three and making a layup, after NU failed to optimize on a turnover opportunity and missed a shot.

The five-point run was stopped by a three-pointer from Beran, but another Minnesota basket kept the Golden Gophers ahead by four points.

After making only two baskets on six shots in the first five minutes, the Wildcats came out of the first media timeout strong. A Buie jump shot and a three from Ty Berry cut Minnesota's lead to only one point at 11-10. On a turnover, Northwestern took its first lead of the game with a layup from Audige. He then extended the lead on a three-pointer for his third basket of the game, giving the ‘Cats a 15-11 advantage.

Continuing his offensive run, Audige drew a shooting foul on a three-point attempt. That brought him to the free-throw line, where he made three baskets — giving the senior his eighth point in less than two minutes.

Following 11 Northwestern points, Treyton Thompson made two free throws, which were the first baskets for the Golden Gophers in over three minutes. Beran and Brooks Barnhizer both added shots to make the score 23-13.

Thompson scored again, but two free throws from Martinelli kept the lead at 10 points. For two minutes, the Wildcats and Golden Gophers went back and forth five different times before a Buie jumper, which Minnesota’s Jamison Battle then responded to with a three.

Coming out of a timeout with urgency once again, an alley-oop from Buie to Matthew Nicholson gave the ‘Cats a 29-18 lead. After making a steal, Buie got a fastbreak basket of his own, and then made a three off of a Barnhizer steal for the biggest lead of the game so far at 34-18.

Keeping up with the pattern, Barnhizer made a layup off of an offensive rebound right after another break.

Jaden Henley was brought to the free-throw line, where he scored the first point for Minnesota in almost three minutes, but after missing the second attempt, the ‘Cats got the ball back and set up a dunk by Tydus Verhoeven, making the score 38-19.

After Battle made a layup, a fadeaway jumper by Audige brought Northwestern to 40 points. Trying to fend off a lead double their score, the Golden Gophers made a three-pointer, which Audige responded to with his own.

Following two minutes, where the Golden Gophers added four points to the board and the ‘Cats added none, Nicholson sunk two free throws for a 45-28 lead at the end of the half.

Continuing their domination into the second half, a shot from Audige and two from Beran extended Northwestern’s lead to 20 points. The ‘Cats and Golden Gophers traded baskets, bringing the score to 58-36.

Audige added a three to the board, making for his 20th point of the night in between Minnesota baskets.

After almost two minutes of no scoring, Beran made a free throw which Nicholson supplemented on a dunk for a 64-43 advantage into the last 10 minutes. A jumper by Battle shortly erased the twenty-plus deficit, but Audige quickly responded with his own.

The momentum continued well into the second half with the crowd erupting on two missed free throws from Henley, making for eight missed Golden Gopher free throws and earning the crowd free Chick-fil-A.

Buie and Audige kept the offense going, as Minnesota added eight points to the board, trailing behind 70-53. The back-and-forth continued into the remaining minutes, but six points from Buie and a three-pointer from Barnhizer put the exclamation point on a dominant 81-61 win.

The Wildcats head to Iowa on Tuesday, looking for their fourth straight win against the Big Ten foe. The game is set to tip off at 8:00 p.m. CT, and you can catch the action on the Big Ten Network.