Graduate guard Boo Buie smashed Northwestern men's basketball's all-time scoring record midway through the Wildcats' victory over Michigan Thursday night. Photo by AJ Anderson/North by Northwestern 

Thursday night at Welsh-Ryan arena, one question was on everyone’s mind: how exactly would Boo Buie make history?

As of 8 p.m., the graduate guard had scored 2034 points at Northwestern, four away from tying the program record and five away from breaking it. He was bound to surpass the mark sometime in Northwestern’s (19-8, 10-6 B1G) first half against Michigan (8-18, 3-12 B1G). The only uncertainty that remained was the kind of bucket that would put Buie over the top. Would it be one of his classic fancy dribbles to the hoop? A shot from beyond the arc? Or an anticlimactic free throw?

Buie opened the scoring with a layup on Northwestern’s first possession, but fans would have to wait nearly 10 more minutes of play for the big moment. The ’Cats got off to a slow start, hitting just two of their first 13 shots. This poor offensive performance, combined with a series of threes from Michigan, allowed the Wolverines to capture an early lead that they defended nearly through the end of the half.

“We really struggled defensively in the first half,” head coach Chris Collins said after the game. “They [Michigan] were kind of getting whatever they wanted.”

The tide began to shift for Northwestern when graduate transfer guard Ryan Langborg cut to the basket and layed the ball in, drawing the foul in the process and converting the three-point play. The basket cut into Michigan’s 11-point lead, their largest of the game, and brought a surge of energy to the arena as the student section chanted Langborg’s name.

Two minutes of play later, the moment the crowd had been waiting for finally came. Buie collected the ball four feet behind the three-point stripe. He paused. He pulled up. He drained the shot, scoring his 2039th career point and catapulting into first place on Northwestern men’s basketball’s all-time leading scorer’s list.

“There’s no way that we could let him break the record with a loss,” third-year guard Brooks Barnhizer said of the way Northwestern picked up the pace once Buie hit the monumental shot. “He did a great job kind of getting us going… everybody just kind of followed suit, and I think that’s what our team’s about. We always have guys step up.”

As the ’Cats fought to gain the lead, the half turned into a battle of three-pointers, with Northwestern hitting seven and Michigan draining six. Barnhizer knocked down three from beyond the arc, while Langborg and Buie each hit two. Langborg’s baseline three with two seconds left in the half finally gave Northwestern the lead, and the half closed with the ’Cats ahead 37-34.

The Wildcats came out of the halftime locker room swinging, as Barnhizer hit a jumper and then a layup to extend Northwestern’s lead to seven. Although an ensuing flurry of eight points in just over a minute from Michigan’s graduate guard Nimari Burnett temporarily put the Wolverines back on top, it was the last lead of the game that Michigan would enjoy. Northwestern upped the energy, pulling away and never looking back.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the ’Cats claimed the 76-62 victory, capturing their 10th conference win of the season for the second time in as many years.

Northwestern’s improved second-half shooting percentage – from 38.2% to 56.7% – allowed them to pull out the win, combined with grit, scrappiness and a refusal to give up the ball. Northwestern collected 14 offensive rebounds to Michigan’s five, turned the ball over five times to Michigan’s 11, and scored 22 points off turnovers while Michigan scored just three.

The ’Cats grabbed a total of 36 rebounds as opposed to Michigan’s 27, marking the sixth game in a row that Northwestern has rebounded better than their opponent. Barnhizer recorded 12 rebounds, in addition to 19 points, two blocks and three steals, while second-year forward Nick Martinelli pulled down nine boards.

Langborg had a standout game, scoring a team-high 20 points, including five three-pointers. He has been back with a vengeance following his early-game ejection at Rutgers on Feb. 15. And Buie, beyond taking his place atop the all-time scoring list, added 16 points for the ’Cats, dished out seven assists and grabbed two steals.

“I know coming into the game it’s not all on me, it doesn’t have to be all about me,” Buie said of his pregame mentality in the face of the looming scoring record. “That just helps it be even easier to just go out there and just play free.”

Northwestern is undefeated in the conference at home, a feat that only #3 Purdue (24-3, 13-3 B1G) and Nebraska (19-8, 9-7 B1G) have matched this season.

“To have 10 wins [in the conference] back to back years… is an unbelievable testament to these guys and to this team,” Collins said.

The final two weeks of the conference season are upon us. Northwestern has two home games remaining and two away, against mostly middle-of-the-pack teams. In a conference where upsets are common and home-court advantage makes the difference between winning and losing, every game will be a battle. The ’Cats, with 19 wins in their back pocket and a practiced ability to control the game, are ready and armed.

Thumbnail photo by AJ Anderson/North by Northwestern