Northwestern head coach Chris Collins is forever on the hunt for wing players who can match the skills and athleticism of other wings in the Big Ten.
Collins believes he has found a keeper in William & Mary transfer Chase Audige, who delivered 16 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes when Northwestern crunched Arkansas-Pine Bluff 92-49 Wednesday night in its season opener.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Audige, who averaged 9.6 points and earned a spot on the Colonial Athletic Association’s All-Rookie team before deciding to test himself in the Big Ten, makes his second appearance in purple when Northwestern (1-0) hosts Chicago State (0-4) on Saturday.
“Chase had not played a game in more than a year, since he was at William & Mary,” Collins said. “He was champing at the bit. He’s an aggressive, hungry player. He can get his own shot. He can get out in transition and get to the basket. He shoots threes. He can get fouled. When you play in the Big Ten against really good defenses, you need guys that can create when things break down.”
Audige hit 6 of 12 shots against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, including 3 of 8 from 3-point range. He wasn’t the only newcomer to excel in Northwestern’s backcourt. After the Wildcats built a 61-35 lead, freshman shooting guard Ty Berry proceeded to reel off 15 points over the final 13 minutes.
Berry drilled three of his four attempts from long range — something Northwestern desperately needs after hitting just 31.3 percent of its long-range tries over the past two years. Led by junior forward Miller Kopp, who went 4 of 7 on Wednesday, the Wildcats canned 14 of 29 of their 3-point attempts.
“Ty Berry is another guy who’s a real weapon out there,” Collins said. “I think one of the things you guys are seeing is the improved shooting this year. I feel like we have a lot more weapons. Offensively, I think we can space the floor better.”
Northwestern won’t necessarily have to rely on its 3-point touch against Chicago State. The Cougars have dropped their first four games by an average of 33.5 points, and they’re allowing opponents to shoot 60.3 percent inside the arc.
But it’s not only the defense that has prevented Chicago State from holding a lead since the opening 5:26 of the season — when its 9-7 edge over Ohio on Nov. 25 was washed away.
The Cougars are canning just 33 percent of their own shots. That helps to explain the team’s inverted assist-to-turnover ratio of 35 assists vs. 69 turnovers. However, associate head coach Rodell Davis saw progress Thursday during a 78-56 loss at Eastern Illinois.
“As we continue to grow as teammates, we’ll cut our turnovers down,” Davis said. “You saw that in the second half. We had 15 in the first half and wound up with 18 for the game.”
Davis takes over on game days for head coach Lance Irvin, a two-time cancer survivor who has asked to stay off the sideline to protect his health. Junior swingman Jordan Polynice, nephew of long-time NBA big man Olden Polynice, paces Chicago State with 8.5 points per game.
–Field Level Media