Well, Northwestern certainly proved it can survive close games.
During an affair in which they led by as much as 21, the Wildcats edged No. 14 Indiana, 64-62, thanks to a clutch last-second layup from superstar guard Boo Buie.
The ‘Cats were once again led by their star-studded backcourt of Buie and Chase Audige. Buie had 21 points and six rebounds, while Audige chipped in 14 points and a pair of assists. The Wildcats hit all 14 of their free throws and committed just four turnovers.
Indiana, meanwhile, was led by forwards Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson. Jackson-Davis nearly had a triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Thompson, meanwhile, played one of his best games of the season, scoring 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field.
If there was any fear the ‘Cats would come out flat after their monumental upset of Purdue, it was dispelled by their defensive intensity. Northwestern forced turnovers on the Hoosiers’ first two possessions, and Chase Audige opened the scoring with a silky off-hand layup two minutes in.
However, the Hoosiers quickly proved that they didn’t receive the No. 14 ranking for nothing. A block and a tipped pass on consecutive possessions helped lead to quick points for Indiana, and IU quickly ripped off six straight points.
After that, the contest turned into a back-and-forth affair, with both teams finding success in the paint. The starting backcourts filled up the bucket with Buie and Audige combining for seven points, while Hood-Schifino and Trey Galloway combined for six. The result was a 10-9 Indiana lead at the first timeout.
Both defenses picked up the intensity out of the break, with neither team scoring a field goal for over two minutes. That drought was broken by an open dunk from Jordan Geronimo, but Audige quickly answered with his second three-pointer of the game.
Audige then pulled up from just inside the logo for his third triple of the night, and after an Indiana turnover and foul, Northwestern’s student section began a timeout party with a 17-12 lead. Under nine minutes into the game, Audige already had 11 points.
After the timeout, Audige tried a little too hard to keep his hot streak going, and ended up missing everything on a tough fadeaway three. However, the offensive struggles didn’t seem to matter, with the ‘Cats holding Indiana to a scoring drought of over five minutes.
The frustration was clearly getting to the Hoosiers, and after demanding Boo Buie be called for a travel, Mike Woodson was called for a technical foul. The Indiana bench was also handed a tech, and Buie hit all four free throws to extend the Wildcat run to 10-0.
Indiana’s offense was about as broken as Miller Kopp’s spirit, and its scoring drought hit 5:30 just after the under-eight timeout, when the score was 25-12. By that point, the Northwestern run was up to 14-0 thanks to some Ty Berry free throws. Jackson-Davis finally broke the scoring drought by splitting a pair of free throws, but the ‘Cats responded with yet another three, this time from Buie.
A Woodson timeout appeared to help matters slightly, but Robbie Beran couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, starting the game 0-for-5 from three point range. When he did hit one to make the game 31-15, though, the building erupted.
Audige seemingly erased what would have been an open dunk from Race Thompson but was called for a foul, leading to two more Indiana free throws. However, the ticky-tack call couldn’t derail the Wildcats’ momentum, and by the under-four timeout they led 35-17.
The rest of the first half saw some extremely questionable calls to get Indiana into the bonus, but neither foul led to points thanks to some atrocious Hoosier free throw shooting. The latest scoring drought for Indiana lasted over three minutes, and even more questionable calls could only hand the Hoosiers one point.
By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, Indiana’s field goal drought had hit six minutes and 49 seconds; its only four points from the 6:49 mark onward were free throws. The Wildcats led 39-20, with the defense leading the way. Indiana had as many made field goals as turnovers — six — and Audige and Buie by themselves had outscored the Hoosiers, 22-20.
On the Northwestern side, the key was inside shooting and free throws. The ‘Cats were 6-of-9 inside the arc and 12-for-12 from the charity stripe. And despite being a combined 1-for-10 from three point land, Berry and Beran combined for 13 points.
The second half started much like the first did. Indiana tried hard, but the Hoosiers were no match for stingy defense and a great backcourt. IU brought out a full-court press, but also continued its first-half defensive strategy of leaving Northwestern players wide-open from three.
However, the ‘Cats couldn’t take advantage, and a three-pointer from Trey Galloway cut the lead down to 42-27. Beran immediately responded with his second three-point bomb of the night, but couldn’t get a third despite some Hoosier turnovers.
A Wildcat drought of over two minutes helped get Indiana’s fans back into the game, and a pair of three-pointers cut the deficit to 11. Northwestern needed to quiet the loud Hoosier contingent that made the trip, but couldn’t seem to find the net.
Luckily for them, Kopp hit the side of the backboard on a three, and Buie responded with a pull-up two to push the lead back to 13. A Thompson dunk seemingly answered, and after a bad Audige miss, Jackson-Davis went back to the line for his seventh and eighth free throws.
He hit them both, and the lead was single digits with 12:39 to go. Buie responded with a turnaround hook, but Indiana came right back with a Jackson-Davis layup. Only the under-12 timeout stopped a furious flurry of back and forth basketball, with the score holding at 49-40, Northwestern.
After the timeout, Matt Nicholson made his mark for the first time all game, recording a bucket and a block on consecutive possessions. However, Indiana continued to fight back, and Galloway brought the deficit back to seven.
Audige couldn't find his shot, missing two open threes, and the Hoosier offense was starting to click. A much-needed trip to the free throw line for Beran resulted in two key points, but the lead was still in single digits.
By the eight minute mark, Northwestern hadn’t hit a shot from the field in three minutes. Even worse, a defensive lapse led to an and-one for Thompson, who made the score 53-47. Luckily for Northwestern, Berry hit his first three pointer of the game seconds later, a desperately needed basket.
Berry then added a steal on the ensuing possession, but Northwestern again couldn’t take advantage of an open three pointer. Not even consecutive Hoosier turnovers led to more points on the scoreboard.
As the Wildcat drought crossed the 2:30 plateau, Jackson-Davis hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to just five. Welsh-Ryan Arena began to feel like Skjodt Assembly Hall, but a huge Buie floater brought the purple fans back into the game. With 4:08 to go, the score stood Northwestern 58, Indiana 51.
Less than 90 seconds later, that lead was just two. Jackson-Davis began playing like a man possessed, scoring seven straight Hoosier points, and the arena felt like an Indiana home game, especially after Chris Collins called timeout.
Luckily, Boo Buie knew what to do. He drew a double and dropped a dish to Verhoeven for a much-needed layup. However, Jackson-Davis could not be stopped, and added another layup on the ensuing possession. After an Audige miss, Indiana had a chance to die or lead with under 90 seconds to go.
They chose a lob to Jackson-Davis, an excellent plan — when the lob isn’t off the top of the backboard. Northwestern bled the clock on their next possession, and a Buie layup switched the noise meter firmly back to to purple.
Hood-Schifino responded by hitting Indiana’s sixth straight field goal, and the score was 62-60 with 32.6 ticks on the clock.
Until a steal by Kopp and a layup by Jackson-Davis tied things up. Buie elected to take things himself on the last possession, and take them he did.
A tough double-covered layup with 2.9 seconds on the clock gave Northwestern a 64-62 lead, a shot that proved to be the dagger after a desperation heave by Hood-Schifino fell short.
Northwestern had survived.
After a dramatic win, the ‘Cats return to Welsh-Ryan Arena Sunday to battle the Iowa Hawkeyes. Tip is at 5:30 p.m. CT.