Indiana will start its game against Northwestern on Wednesday having not allowed a point in its last 5:12 of action.
But the last time they faced the Wildcats, a veteran backcourt duo scorched that now surging IU defense.
Chase Audige and Boo Buie combined for 47 points in early January as Indiana struggled to contain both of them off the drive.
And what Audige and Buie did a month ago to Indiana was nothing new.
A year ago in Evanston, Buie had 18 and Audige 12 as Northwestern beat a shorthanded IU squad.
Back in Dec. 2020, Audige scored all of his 17 points in the final nine minutes to lead a 27-17 closing run in a Wildcats win in Bloomington. Audige scored 19 a couple months later in Evanston.
Northwestern is the biggest surprise in the Big Ten in 2023, and Buie and Audige are the primary reason why. The pair may be the best backcourt duo in the league this year.
Buie is averaging across the board career highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals. Audige is average career bests in points, assists and steals and could end up winning the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year. Both are averaging more than 34 minutes a game, and both have usage rates north of 25 percent.
Basically, everything goes through the duo, and they are delivering.
“Those two guards, man, they’re two of the best I think combo guards in the Big Ten. We got to combat that and we got to combat it for 40 minutes, man, because they going to play minutes until they’re in foul trouble,” IU coach Mike Woodson said on Monday.
“I thought they hurt us here (in Bloomington). Our focus has just got to be, we got to go in with a defensive mentality.”
This may not be the last time Indiana sees one or both of Audige and Buie. Both have another year of eligibility remaining.
But both are veteran guards playing in their fourth season of college basketball.
And it’s that experience that is paying off for the Wildcats.
“It’s just their maturity and their poise this year,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said of Audige and Buie on Monday. “They’ve always shown flashes of their ability to have that kind of talent, but just their decision making, their shot selection, the leadership, and their chemistry with each other.
“It’s really cool when you have a backcourt like that. They play off of each other and feed off of each other. The (other) guys on our team know that they’re the guys, and they play their roles at a really good level.”
MILLER KOPP GETS ANOTHER SHOT AT NORTHWESTERN
Indiana forward Miller Kopp is 0-2 against his former team.
A year ago in Evanston, Kopp made just 1-of-7 shots and scored three points in his return trip to Welsh Ryan Arena. Of course that was a game that was doomed before it started when five of his teammates were suspended the day of the contest.
In January against the Wildcats, Kopp took just two shots and scored five points in 26 minutes.
Kopp played three seasons for Northwestern from 2018 to 2021, and he was on the floor and scored 13 points of his own in Assembly Hall when Audige erupted in the second half in 2020. The pair will likely be matched up at times on Wednesday.
Woodson said he planned to talk to Kopp before his third and likely final meeting with Northwestern.
“He didn’t play particularly well up there last season. I’m sure that’s on his mind,” Woodson said. “I’m going to talk to him a little bit about just relaxing and just play, man. When it comes your way, you got shots, take ’em. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to really perform and play well.
“At the end of the day we’re going to need a total team effort from everybody, not just Miller, to beat this team there.”
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