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Northwestern welcomes Big Ten schedule grind, meets Rutgers

Jan 8, 2023; Bloomington, Indiana, USA;  Northwestern Wildcats guard Boo Buie (0) passes the ball around Indiana Hoosiers guard Trey Galloway (32) during the second half at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Bring on the Big Ten gauntlet.

That’s the mantra of Northwestern coach Chris Collins, and why not? Coming off Sunday’s 84-83 win at then-No. 15 Indiana, the Wildcats (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten) feel they’ve flipped the script on past struggles.

And they are eager for Wednesday’s visit to Evanston, Ill., from upstart Rutgers, which downed then-top-ranked Purdue at the beginning of the month.

“Fortunately for us, we’ve won some close games,” Collins said. “We’ve taken a lot of flak throughout the years for not being able to close. These guys deserve some praise for closing (Sunday). … We’ve closed some games this year that hopefully some of the experience and maybe not doing well in the past has rubbed off on this year.”

Rutgers saw its five-game winning streak end with Sunday’s 76-65 home loss to Iowa.

The Scarlet Knights (11-5, 3-2) trailed by 12 points at halftime and by 18 early in the second half, and they were unable to recover. Cam Spencer (13 points) and Caleb McConnell (12) were Rutgers’ lone players in double figures as the team struggled to 38.1 percent shooting, including 27.8 percent from behind the arc.

“We missed a lot of layups, timely baskets,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “They got off to a good start. They’re a really good passing team. There’s not one guy on their roster that has a negative assist to turnover ratio. So every guy can pass. They got the ball moving around.”

Boo Buie scored 26 points to pace the Wildcats against Indiana. Chase Audige is Northwestern’s top scorer, averaging 16 points a game on 39.6 percent shooting.

The Wildcats forced 16 turnovers and had 14 steals against the Hoosiers.

“Even though we gave up 83 (Sunday), our defense has been our calling card,” Collins said.

Northwestern leads the series with Rutgers 7-6. The Wildcats’ 79-78 home victory against the Scarlet Knights in February snapped Rutgers’ four-game winning streak in the series.

–Field Level Media