Quick Response: Northwestern defeats Boise State 75-67 for first NCAA tournament win since 2017

SACRAMENTO – At Northwestern’s selection Sunday party at the Welsh-Ryan Arena, Chris Collins said a one-song dance isn’t fun. To his great delight, these cats will continue to dance.

The No. 7 Northwestern (22-11, 12-8 B1G) defeated the No. 10 Boise State Broncos (24-10, 13-5 Mountain West) 75-67 to advance to and earn the Round of 32 to secure the NCAA men’s first tournament win in nearly six years. It was a competition of consistent goals, almost the exact opposite of the defensive slugfest that many expected from both teams.

Boo Buie led Northwestern’s most balanced attack in over a month, scoring 22 points in 8-of-14 shooting. He became the second Northwestern player, after Bryant McIntosh, to score over 20 points in an NCAA tournament game. He also added five rebounds and five assists.

Three other wildcats hit double digits. Chase Audige dropped 20 points with a 5-of-12 mark, including three three-pointers. Ty Berry also had one of his best games of the season, shooting 3-of-4 from three-point land and 5-of-7 from the field to earn 13 points. Brooks Barnhizer also added 10 points with a 4-of-10 mark from the field.

The Broncos also shot well from the field, making 40% of attempts. Max Rice led Boise State with 17 points while Naje Smith, Chibuzo Agbo and Marcus Shaver Jr. contributed 12 points each.

After a few misses at both ends, Matthew Nicholson started with an and-one in a packed suit. Audige soon blew past his defender for a layup of his own. While Boise State could get on the board with an Agbo 3 on the ensuing possession, NU only added to their hot offensive start by responding with a Robbie Beran Trey to win 8-3 over the Broncos.

Despite its cold shooting start, Boise State hammered the offensive boards and picked up three in the first four minutes of the game. It culminated in another agbo three where he caught a technical foul on a flop. Coming from the U16s, Buie hit one from the charity strip to give the ‘Cats an 11-8 lead.

A tipped pass from Beran resulted in another buie score. NU extended their lead when Brooks Barnhizer somehow caught a putback after an Audige miss, and gained even more momentum when the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist plugged a fast lane and allowed Nick Martinelli to complete a fastbreak layup. With that bucket, the ‘Cats took a 17-8 lead with just over 13 minutes to go.

Northwestern couldn’t have started much better offensively. The Wildcats forced five turnovers in the first eight minutes, speeding up the team’s transition scoring. Everyone seemed to be engaging – both as a playmaker and a goalscorer – and most of NU generated most of their offensive attack without much of an early goal from Buie. Chris Collins was even able to give the star guard a breather early in the game.

However, the Broncos added three layups going into the U12s, cutting Northwestern’s lead to 20-14. Naje Smith’s poster dunk over Beran put another dent in the edge, but Buie responded with a layup at the other end. Barnhizer regained momentum with a post hook that gave the Wildcats a 24-16 lead.

After a couple of errors, Smith got the Bronco faithful going with another pathetic dunk and threw in a reverse jam. Boise State continued to look like the Idaho chapter of Phi Slamma Jamma after Lukas Milner slammed another dunk home, but Berry responded with a three.

Given that the game was played at the Sacramento Kings’ home stadium, both teams appropriately continued to display NBA-like athletics. Buie and Shaver traded acrobatic layups before Berry dumped another trey to give Northwestern a 32-26 lead. Of the under-4s, however, Rice responded with a long bomb of his own when the shot clock ran out.

When Buie pulled a foul on the next possession, Shaver went down hard and apparently injured his leg. The Boise State Guard limped off the ground with support and went straight to the locker room. In their first possessions without him, however, the Broncos continued to click offense as Smith buried another three from a layup from Buie to cut the Northwest lead to 36-32.

Barnhizer added two more free throws to Northwestern’s total, giving Northwestern their highest first-half score since their home win over Indiana on February 15 in points on 7-of-14 shooting.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Berry and Barnhizer each scored six points. For Boise State, Agbo and Smith put down 10 and nine points, respectively, and hit three of the Broncos’ four three-pointers at halftime. The constant goal reactions contributed to a pace that was almost exactly the opposite of the slow, defensive rock fight that most expected from these teams entering the game.

The Broncos drew first blood in the second half with Rice’s second three-pointer, and Tyson Degenhart cut the Northwest’s lead to one with a layup. After Nicholson responded with a bucket of his own, Rice hit another shot from long range to level the score at 40-40. Not to be outdone, Audige pivoted a turn three down the far end to regain the lead.

After two free throws from Rice, the three-point party continued as Berry made his third three after a skillful feed from Buie. It gave Northwestern a 46-42 lead in the U16s.

After the stoppage, Berry fired with a mid-range shot to score in double digits on the day. Shortly after, however, Rice hit 10 for the half. The redshirt senior made a fastbreak layup and converted a turnaround jumper. It forced Collins into another timeout, cutting Northwestern’s lead to 48-46 with 12:38 left.

Buie immediately made a layup and then dropped an and-one floater to put Northwestern up by six. He failed to complete the three-point game, and neither could Dengehart after drawing a Barnhizer foul while converting a layup.

Shaver — who came back into play early in the second half — cut Boise State’s deficit to two with a floater of his own. But Buie, who continued to pass answer after answer, buried another three-pointer on the ensuing possession.

Boise State struggled off the field and went to a stretch where it went 1-of-10, but Agbo kept the Broncos going with a putback. That didn’t stop Audige from unleashing a powerful punch himself as he rattled home another three-pointer that went into the U8s. It gave Northwestern a 58-52 advantage with 6:40 to go in the contest.

Two free throws from Shaver cut the lead to two, but Audige then blew two of his own. However, Degenhart responded with an and-one dunk to a putback. After that, Buie sent this author into the depths of the thesaurus to find synonyms for “answer” after scoring another layup on the next possession.

Berry continued his great day with another bucket, giving Northwestern a 64-56 advantage. Despite continuing to bring down the boards on offense, Boise State failed to bring down anything for several minutes. Smith’s charge foul on a bang-bang game with Buie added fuel to the fire as NU maintained their eight-point lead at the U4s.

That didn’t stop the momentum as Barnhizer hit a one-handed putback to push the Wildcat’s lead into double digits. From there, both teams traded free throws as the game progressed. Despite the late-game madness that followed in earlier games, Northwestern finished the contest without much pressure.

The Wildcats await the winner of Saturday’s round of 32 game between the UCLA No. 2 and the No. 15 UNC Asheville at the Golden 1 Center. The start time of the game has not yet been determined.

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