clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ranking every Northwestern men’s basketball win

The team had more wins than Boo Buie had missed free throws. 21! That’s a lot of wins!

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After what has been a dream season in Evanston that saw the Wildcats tie the program record with 21 regular season victories, let’s take a look back and rank each win from a historic campaign.

Note: This list is not just a ranking of the games in which the team played the best. A mix of team performance, atmosphere, iconic moments, statistical achievements and general vibes were all considered when crafting these completely subjective rankings. Feel free to sound off in the comment section if I ranked your favorite game of the year too low.

21-13: The Non-Conference Wins

Although the ‘Cats had a relatively weak non-conference schedule, they finished 9-2 and built the foundation for a stellar season. A quick whip-around of each game with a highlight is warranted.

21. 61-51 W vs Prairie View A&M (Dec. 11, 2022)

Highlight: Chase Audige’s 11-point, six-rebound, three-assist, three-steal, four-block stat line that showcased his versatility and defensive prowess.

20. 63-46 W vs Northern Illinois (Nov. 11, 2022)

Highlight: Boo Buie becoming the ninth Wildcat to reach 300 assists.

19. 63-58 W vs Brown (Dec. 29, 2022)

Highlight: Audige becoming the 40th Wildcat to hit the 1000-point mark.

18. 60-52 W vs Purdue Fort Wayne (Nov. 18, 2022)

Highlight: Buie becoming the 39th Wildcat to hit the 1000-point mark.

17. 75-63 W at Georgetown (Nov. 15, 2022)

Highlight: A season-high 14 made three-pointers.

16. 66-52 W vs Liberty (Nov. 22, 2022)

Highlight: Winning in Cancún!

15. 92-54 W vs UIC (Dec. 20, 2022)

Highlight: A 50-point second half in a game that featured five Wildcats in double figures.

14. 85-54 W vs Chicago State (Nov. 7, 2022)

Highlight: A career-high 20 points for Robbie Beran.

13. 83-45 W vs DePaul (Dec. 17, 2022)

Highlight: A career-high 28 points for Audige in the debut of the “Chicago’s Own” alternate uniforms designed by the players.

12. 81-61 W vs Minnesota (Jan. 28, 2023)

Although this was one of the best Wildcat performances of the season, as both Buie and Audige finished with over 20, the strength of opponent knocks this game down the list. Regardless, this was one of the most fun games of the season, featuring a nasty Audige dunk, a fan making the half-court promotional shot, and the crowd going wild after Minnesota missed an eighth free throw to give the entire crowd free Chick-Fil-A.

11. 54-52 W at Wisconsin (Feb. 5, 2023)

It wasn’t the prettiest game but Northwestern was able to capture another key conference victory and a win in the Kohl Center for the first time in over five years. This one came down to the wire, but a Tydus Verhoeven block and four clutch free throws from Buie in the final minute clinched an away win in a stellar defensive performance. Despite the close score, the lack of offensive firepower knocked this one down a few spots.

10. 69-63 W at Ohio State (Feb. 9, 2023)

After an ugly loss to the Buckeyes early in the season, the ‘Cats secured redemption on the road while simultaneously grabbing their sixth away win of the season. Brooks Barnhizer and Buie scored 19 apiece en route to head coach Chris Collins’ 150th career win. Avenging the loss from earlier in the season provided a jolt in the locker room and certainly looks good in the eyes of seeding committee. Bonus points for the revenge factor.

9. 78-63 W at Nebraska (Jan. 25, 2023)

The Ty Berry game! On the road in Lincoln, the junior spent the first half trading makes with Nebraska’s Keisei Tominaga, but the Wildcat won out. Berry finished the night with a career-high 26 points, including six treys. The Wildcats ultimately cruised to the victory, handling the Cornhuskers for the seventh consecutive time but Berry’s memorable performance is what ultimately vaults this game into the ninth spot.

8. 66-63 W vs Wisconsin (Jan. 23, 2023)

After a COVID-19 outbreak within the team that caused an eight-day hiatus, Northwestern had a huge matchup with the Badgers to try and remain above .500 in conference play. The game was back-and-forth but the charity stripe ended up being the difference. Wisconsin shot just 9-of-16 from the line while the Wildcats shot 16-of-18, including two key makes from Matt Nicholson in the closing minutes to beat Wisconsin for the first time since 2018.

7. 70-63 W at No. 20 Michigan State (Dec. 4, 2022)

In the conference opener, Northwestern traveled to the Breslin Center to take on a Spartan team that had already beaten Kentucky and Villanova and lost to No. 2 Gonzaga by a single point. Northwestern never trailed in the second half, shocking the country with an upset of Michigan State. The Wildcats were able to win back-to-back games against the Spartans for the first time since 1962, the first sign of what would become a truly unforgettable Northwestern season. The fact that this only falls at number seven is a bit jaw-dropping, as in almost any other season this would be in the upper echelon of wins. For many college basketball fans, this game was the first indicator that the ‘Cats needed to be taken seriously as a contender.

6. 65-53 W at Rutgers (March 5, 2023)

It wasn’t the ‘Cats cleanest game of the season, but the significance of this game is the motivation for the high placement on this list. Heading into the final game of the Big Ten regular season, Northwestern knew the stakes. A win, and they would secure the No. 2 seed and double-bye in the conference tournament. A loss would send them plummeting down to No. 9. Northwestern was up to the challenge, getting revenge on the Scarlet Knights for an earlier loss and winning its program-record 12th conference game. Barnhizer was the hero in this one, recording a double-double and making several huge shots in the second half to close out the regular season and snap a three-game losing streak. Be honest: if someone had told you prior to the season that Northwestern would finish second in the conference, you would have laughed and may questioned if they had watched the past five years of Big Ten basketball.

5. 80-60 W vs Iowa (Feb. 19, 2023)

In what may have been the most complete game of the season for Northwestern, the ‘Cats took it to a Hawkeye program that beat them earlier in the year and has historically had Northwestern’s number, winning each of the last nine contests between the two squads. The Wildcats led this game start-to-finish, winning their fifth straight on the back of Buie’s 23 points and eight assists in front of a sold-out Welsh-Ryan Arena. The crowd had plenty to cheer for, as they were treated to Northwestern’s twentieth win of the season and a fiery ejection of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. The fantastic all-around vibes lock this into the top five.

4. 84-83 W at No. 15 Indiana (Jan. 8, 2023)

A 26-point gem from Buie, with 19 points from Chase Audige, helped fuel a second massive away win against a ranked opponent in the early portion of the conference gauntlet. For a majority of the season, Northwestern was the sole team to beat the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall and remain just one of two teams to accomplish that feat. The ‘Cats overcame Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino’s 57 combined points to steal the one-point win. Without a doubt, this is one of the most impressive road wins for any Big Ten team this season. If the Michigan State game was the first inkling that this team was special, this game was a blaring, flashing sign that said “NORTHWESTERN IS THE REAL DEAL.”

3. 73-60 W vs Illinois (Jan. 4, 2023)

Simply put, wins against in-state rival Illinois are just a little bit sweeter. No, this was not as close of a game as many of the other entries. And no, Illinois was not a ranked opponent, but the atmosphere at this game was electric. This was the first game that truly captured what Northwestern envisioned when they rebuilt Welsh-Ryan Arena: a stadium filled to the max with wild fans cheering on a legitimate contender. A 24-4 run in the second half and an egregious 40 free throw attempts swung the game in the ‘Cats favor. Audige led the charge with 21 points as he and the team slayed the Fighting Illini and celebrated with the exuberant home crowd.

2. 64-62 W vs No. 14 Indiana (Feb. 15, 2023)

This game nearly sent everyone in attendance into cardiac arrest. Northwestern took a 19-point lead into the half but the Hoosiers quickly stormed back as it was beginning to look like an all-time heartbreaker in Evanston. Tied at 62, Buie assumed his role as Superman, sinking an electric game-winner with only a few ticks left on the clock.

Did Buie push off? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Do I care? Nope. I’m not a referee, not my job. The win was the Wildcats fourth win against a ranked opponent of the season and virtually punched the ‘Cats ticket to the dance. The sheer adrenaline and high stakes of this one make it an easy choice for the silver medal.

1. 64-58 W vs No. 1 Purdue (Feb. 12, 2023)

What else could’ve been number one? This game immediately became one of the most iconic sports moments in Northwestern sports history. Anyone who watched this game will be telling their children and grandchildren about the time when Northwestern upset Zach Edey and the top team in the country on Super Bowl Sunday. Objectively speaking, watching Welsh-Ryan Arena get stormed by students is the coolest thing to happen in the history of all things (not hyperbole). Once again, Buie was the hero with 26 points as the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run in the final minutes to steal the lead and beat the No. 1 team for the first time ever.

This game catapulted Northwestern into the national spotlight and made Chris Collins the obvious choice for Big Ten Coach of the Year. It is not an exaggeration to say this game is not only the pinnacle of this season, but arguably the apex of Northwestern basketball, and maybe even twenty-first century Northwestern athletics as a whole. Zach Edey has nightmares about the Welsh-Ryan Arena, and for that reason, this game is the shoo-in for the top spot.