Wildcats dynamic guard duo lead team to win over Gophers
Nearly six years ago, Northwestern forward Nathan Taphorn threw a cataclysmic all-court pass to center teammate Dererk Pardon for a buzzer victory over Big Ten Conference foe Michigan.
Now the Wildcats (15-5, 6-3 Big Ten) appear to be repeating history with a spirited start to the second half of the 2023 season. NU picked up their third straight conference win in a week after recovering from a 13-day COVID-19 hiatus.
As the Cats have faced trials and tribulations over the past few years, the missing puzzle piece the program was struggling to find surfaced in senior redshirt guard Chase Audige and senior guard Boo Buie . Saturday’s conquest of the Gophers solidified the dynamic duo’s place as NU’s top dogs.
“We were preparing for the zone,” Buie said. “We know (Minnesota) likes to go under ball screens, so we knew if we put ball screens and go under that, you just have to be confident, step in and shoot.”
Audige and Buie combined for 45 of the Cats’ 81 points at Welsh-Ryan, proving that no matter the challenge, the duo is up for the challenge. Whether it was Buie facilitating the ball or Audige driving inside the paint for a jumper, the guards were fueling each other and battling to be a lethal weapon for Team NU on Saturday.
Coach Chris Collins said the two New York natives have been solid for the Cats all season, performing on the field and using their experience to help the team’s young players. As a collective, the duo recorded 10 of 16 team assists against Minnesota and nurtured senior forward Robbie Beran, junior center Matthew Nicholson and grad student forward Tydus Verhoeven.
“(These guys) are competing, and all they’re trying to do is win,” Collins said. “When you have those qualities, you have a chance, especially when you have two elite guards like us. They once again led the way.”
While most Big Ten programs play to size advantage, NU’s leading guards make up for the Cats’ lack of their smaller-sized squad. Buie’s vision for setting up his teammates on the perimeter or inside the charity strip is a skill that NU can use to their advantage this season.
Audige noted the importance of the students in the arena on Saturday, saying the energy of the crowd really fueled the group to take home victory. Although he and Buie played an NBA-esque schedule this week — three games in the space of six days — Audige was far from tired after hosting the Gophers. Wearing a big smile and remaining calm, he said the win was another one under their belt and the Cats are looking forward to their conference schedule.
The upcoming conference schedule is something NU must look to keep near perfect if they are to return to NCAA March Madness, similar to their historic 2016-17 season.
And with former Bryant McIntosh and Taphorn honored at halftime, Audige and Buie could be the next powerhouse team to lead the Cats to a similar fate, earning the ticket to NU’s second NCAA Tournament exhibition.
Regardless of the comments about the Cats squad and their turnaround from last season’s losing record, one thing is certain: Audige and Buie are the critical pieces to secure NU’s wins and losses for the rest of the season. season. As the goaltenders approach the final chapters of their collegiate careers, both players are making their mark on the Cats program.
As NU enter another three game streak this week, Audige and Buie will need to build on their success from Saturday’s game to earn more conference wins over heavyweights Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“After games like today, we relax,” Audige said. “We just try to be smart. We all want to hit the gym and take pictures, but we have to be smart with the minutes that me and Boo play.
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— Quick recap: Northwest 81, Minnesota 61
— Men’s basketball: Wildcats offense turns uncharacteristically cold after second-half loss to Michigan
— Men’s basketball: Second-half struggles cause Northwestern to lose first Big Ten road game to Michigan
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