The Buie-Nicholson tandem can’t be stopped.
Northwestern (5-1, 0-0 B1G) soundly defeated Northern Illinois (5-2, 0-0 MAC) 89-67 after trailing by one at the half.
Boo Buie led the ‘Cats with 23 points. Matthew Nicholson and Ty Berry also chipped in 15 and 14, respectively. On defense, Brooks Barnhizer had eight rebounds and Nicholson had six.
For Northern Illinois, sophomores Xavier Amos and Zarique Nutter led the charge. Amos chipped in a career-high 26 points, and Nutter added 15.
The Huskies won the tip, but Yanic Konan Niederhauser airballed a three to start the action. On the other end, Nicholson found Buie for a layup and the first points of the game.
After a few back-and-forths, Berry slapped the ball away and threw it off a Husky to keep possession with the ‘Cats. Off the inbounds pass, Nicholson flushed it all over Konan Niederhauser and hit the free throw to put NU up 5-0.
Buie and Nicholson continued to show off their chemistry, as Buie lobbed a no-look pass to Nicholson for another dunk. Entering the first media timeout, the ‘Cats were up 7-4.
After a missed three by Philmon Gebrewhit, Nicholson backed into the post for an easy baby hook. Huskies guard David Coit threw the ball away on the next possession, but Buie couldn’t hit the layup. On the other end, Berry nabbed a steal and flushed it home to put NU up 11-4.
With 12:30 remaining in the first frame, Buie found Nick Martinelli for an effortless baseline floater. Amos responded with a layup for the Huskies, cutting the lead to 16-11. Yet again, Buie tossed a beautiful lob to Blake Preston for a dunk. After a miss by the Huskies, Berry hit a three and drew a foul to make it 21-11 but came down hard on his ankle. He was helped to the bench by his teammates after the under-12 timeout.
Out of the break, Preston converted Berry’s and-one to put the ‘Cats up by 11. In a matter of seconds, the Huskies cut the lead to five after a side-step three from Coit, an NU turnover and a three-point play from Nutter.
Off an inbounds pass, Buie hit Martinelli for another quick floater at the rim. On the other end, Coit responded with a swift lay-in of his own, keeping NU’s lead at six. With 9:21 to go, Buie was called for an offensive foul, but the Huskies couldn’t capitalize. On a ‘Cats fastbreak, Buie faked out two defenders and dumped the ball off to Nicholson for another two-handed slam. On NU’s next possession, a turnover and frustration foul by Buie took the ‘Cats into the under-8 timeout.
With seven minutes to go, Barnhizer couldn’t hit a transition layup, but Preston was fouled on the second-chance shot. He missed both free throws, keeping NU’s lead at 26-20. On the other end, Nutter swooped in for a bunny at the rim to cut their deficit to four. Ryan Langborg missed a three for the ‘Cats, and Amos hit a shot from deep for the Huskies to make the score 26-25.
Off a Northwestern timeout, Amos flashed his speed for a layup to put the Huskies up 27-26. Berry returned to the court during a break in the action after an earlier injury scare. He immediately made an impact with an assist to Buie for a three from the left wing, putting the ‘Cats up 29-27. With 4:41 to go, Martinelli fouled Gebrewhit on a shot at the rim. He hit both free throws, knotting the game at 29 apiece.
Martinelli made up for his mistake, hitting a corner three on the other end. But the Huskies would not be denied, as Amos canned a deep shot of his own to tie the game at 32. On the other end, Buie cut into the defense for a simple lay-in. Amos missed a jumper, and Martinelli hit another baseline floater to put NU up 36-32 and force Northern Illinois to call a timeout.
With 2:25 remaining, Coit canned a three to slash NU’s lead to one. Barnhizer hit a floater on the other end, but Coit hit yet another deep ball to make the score 38-37. Amos hit a corner three of his own, but Barnhizer drew a foul at the rim and sank one of two freebies, putting the ‘Cats up 41-40.
On the Huskies’ last possession of the half, Nutter barged to the rim for a shot in the paint. For the ‘Cats, Barnhizer couldn’t hit the buzzer-beater three, leaving the purple-and-white down 42-41 entering halftime.
At half, Nicholson and Martinelli led NU with nine points each. Buie added seven points and six assists with a team-best plus-minus of +11. For the Huskies, Amos dropped 19 points on an efficient 8-for-9 from the field and 3-for-3 from deep. Both teams hit over half of their shots and 40% of their threes as a transition offense dictated the flow of the game.
Entering the second half, Amos continued his hot shooting with an easy layup for the Huskies, putting them up 44-41. On the other end, Buie drew a foul on a shot in close and hit both free throws, cutting NIU’s lead to one.
Just over a minute in, Langborg hit a straight-on three for his first bucket of the game, putting the ‘Cats up by two. A minute later, Buie hit a deep shot of his own from the left wing to make NU’s lead 51-48. Berry hit a three from the same spot and expanded the lead to six. With 16 minutes remaining, Buie canned an absolute bomb and prompted the Huskies to call a timeout down nine.
Konan Niederhauser converted a close shot out of the timeout, but Berry responded with a layup at the other end of the floor. Barnhizer added a reverse lay-in to put NU up 61-50. With 14 minutes to go, Zion Russell hung in the air for a Huskies layup. Buie drew a foul on the other end and hit one free throw to make the score 62-52.
In his first minutes on the floor, Luke Hunger hit a mid-range jumper for the ‘Cats to expand their lead to 12. Berry swiped his fourth steal and glided in for a bunny at the rim before the under-12 timeout.
With 10:36 to go, Buie canned a three from the right wing and ballooned NU’s lead to 69-52. On the other end, Nutter converted an and-one for the Huskies to cut their deficit to 14. Martinelli hit a turn-around layup off an inbounds pass from Berry, but Coit responded for the Huskies with a short-range jumper to make the score 71-57.
Nicholson drew a foul with 8:41 to go and cashed in both of his attempts at the line before hitting the bench for a breather. Under a minute later, Buie sliced to the rim for an easy layup, growing NU’s lead to 18. Amos stopped NU’s run with a three from the right wing, giving him 26 points on the night.
After the media timeout, Hunger hit two free throws to put the ‘Cats up 77-60. Nicholson found Berry on a cut to the rim with 6:11 to go. On the next possession, Buie found Nicholson on a monstrous one-handed dunk to stretch NU’s lead to 21.
With 4:48 to go, Nicholson rose up for a slam and dangled on the rim for his sixth make in seven tries. A minute later, Barnhizer drew a foul driving to the hoop and hit both free throws to put the ‘Cats up 85-61.
Langborg hit a soft elbow jumper before Chris Collins took out his starters with 2:30 remaining in the game. Two ugly possessions for NU’s reserves resulted in four easy points for the Huskies, but Justin Clayton righted the ship with a tip-in with 35 seconds to go. The ‘Cats closed out the game without much drama from there.
Northwestern will play its Big Ten home opener at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday night against Purdue. The ‘Cats will look to take down the top team in the country for the second season in a row. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus at 8 p.m. CT.