As we begin to wind down from an iconic season, it’s time to take a deeper look at one of the greatest ‘Cats of the 21st century. Chase Audige spent three years in Evanston, none better than this most recent campaign. Have tissues on hand, because we may have seen the last of a Northwestern icon.
Stats via sports-reference.com:
Audige’s senior season in Evanston was special. He posted career-highs in points, assists, steals and blocks, while being a major contributor for a Northwestern squad that finished second in the conference and advanced to the Round of 32. His 14.1 points per game complemented Boo Buie as the two formed what has widely been lauded as the best backcourt in the Big Ten. Audige has always been a player who could stuff the box score in every category, and that was no different this season as he cobbled up assists and rebounds on a game-to-game basis.
Audige’s shooting percentages improved from a down year in 2021-2022 but remained below the marks he set in his first year in purple. However, with a much higher usage rate, this is to be expected. Audige also vastly improved his free-throw shooting abilities, a skill that proved crucial for the Wildcats in several contests.
The graphic above omits this detail, but Audige finished the season with a whopping 81 steals. The stats don’t even give the full picture of Audige’s defensive dominance, but we’ll dive into that later.
Stats are taken from hoop-math.com:
Under the surface of what was a strong offensive season for Audige, the shooting metrics reveal some inefficiency. Audige’s true shooting and effective field goal percentages are toward the bottom of the team and he takes a surprisingly low portion of his shots at the rim for a player who has both shown an ability to get to the bucket and also has strong shooting metrics from that spot. Nearly a third of Audige’s shots are two-point jumpers and he only hits them at a less-than-ideal 29.8% rate. A strong 83.2% from the charity stripe is nice, but it is clear that with a larger offensive workload, Audige did not maximize efficiency.
“Good” sells short just how special of a defensive player Audige is. His aforementioned 81 steals led the conference and served as a primary reason why Audige was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year. The redshirt senior is also one of four finalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year, which will be announced on Sunday. It’s not just the stats that display Audige’s defensive supremacy; he passes the eye test. All season long, Audige clogged passing lanes, stuck to his opponents like glue and intercepted passes to gain extra possessions for Northwestern. For a team that often struggled to generate offense in the half-court, it can’t be overstated how crucial Audige’s ability to grab steals and kickstart the offense in transition was.
Audige was no slouch on offense either. He became the 40th Wildcat to reach the 1,000-point threshold en route to a Second Team All-Big Ten nod. Audige scored a career-high 28 points against DePaul and there is a legitimate argument that he was the Wildcats’ best player in non-conference play.
Against No. 1 Purdue, Audige scored 10 in the final four minutes to fuel the ‘Cats’ iconic upset of the Boilermakers. Audige showed a resilient mindset all season long and proved he was capable of game-turning heat checks (see: UCLA, Minnesota, Brown, Nebraska and Indiana [Feb. 15] games). He can also make plays like this one:
My goodness, @ChaseAudige— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) January 28, 2023
: @CBBonFOX pic.twitter.com/8L4BMTlgXf
As mentioned above, Audige struggled with efficiency at times this season. His defense always made him worth keeping on the floor, but he was prone to going ice-cold for some stretches. In some instances, No. 1 would settle for threes early in the shot clock or make questionable decisions to shoot low-percentage shots. Some games, this worked to his advantage, but too often during conference play, Audige could not find his rhythm. In the six games prior to the NCAA Tournament, Audige only scored double-digits once and shot 19-of-67 (28.4%) in that span. Fortunately, he turned things around and was effective in both March Madness bouts.
The Bottom Line
Audige has an extra season of NCAA eligibility because the 2020-2021 season was disrupted by the pandemic. Without an official announcement on Audige’s status for next season, for now we’ll assume Audige has closed the book on his amazing career in Evanston. He will go down in the books as one of the best defensive players to ever suit up for Northwestern and will be remembered as a star and staple of one of the greatest Wildcat teams in program history.
After transferring from William & Mary, Audige poured his heart and soul into the Northwestern program and it was evident to all. This past season, he assumed a clear leadership role and embodied the spirit and values of Northwestern. Audige was often the player most responsible for setting the tone on the court and was such a fan-favorite for his two-way effort, as well as his unwavering confidence and passion.
If this is the end of the road for No. 1, on behalf of all Northwestern fans, thank you Chase Audige.