Wildcats blow out McKendree in season-opening exhibition

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

This is year two under coach Chris Collins, but the new era of Northwestern basketball really started Friday with the Wildcats​’​ 102-52 defeat of McKendree in an exhibition.

“This team is a whole different team,” Collins said. “We’re a lot more athletic. We score better. Ultimately, to win the game you’ve got to score points. And when you can shoot and score, it allows your defense a little bit more margin for error. And that’s what we didn’t have last year.”

Division II McKendree was simply outmatched by NU in every way, but so was last year’s exhibition opponent, Lewis. And NU had to claw its way to a 57-46 victory in that game.

On Friday, the Cats showed the more up-tempo style Collins talked about during the preseason while remaining tough on defense. The game reached 70 possessions. NU posted 1.44 points per possession while holding McKendree to 0.76 points per trip. The Cats also dominated the inside game, shooting 72.1 percent from 2-point range and out-rebounding the Bearcats 43-24.

“I don’t know a basketball player who doesn’t enjoy running,” senior guard JerShon Cobb said. “As a team, we’re making that our identity, and I think we showed that tonight.”

NU opened on a 15-0 run and did not take its foot off the gas until the team dribbled out the clock on the final possession. The Cats led 57-24 at halftime, and the Bearcats never got close.

NU received contributions across the board. Every Cats player who played scored, except for sophomore Sanjay Lumpkin and walk-on freshman Nick Segura. But even Lumpkin made his mark as NU’s glue guy, tallying five rebounds, three assists, four blocks and a steal.

Freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh showed tremendous court vision and passing ability. He recorded 11 assists and 15 points for a double-double.

“To be a freshman point guard at this level is not easy, and I’m demanding of my point guards,” Collins said. “He was masterful out there. He managed the whole game. … This kid is gonna have a special career here.”

While a double-double is unfair to expect of any freshman, McIntosh can be a threat for that at points this season because of his ability to score and distribute. And he is willing to fulfill both responsibilities.

“It’s just to make the right basketball play,” McIntosh said of his role. “So if I have an opportunity to score, that’s what I have to do for my team. If I see the opportunity for a teammate, I’ve got to create and get them the ball at the right time.”

Junior center Alex Olah led all scorers with 18 points on 8-for-18 shooting. He also flirted with a double-double, grabbing eight boards.

Junior guard Tre Demps and freshmen Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey also scored in double figures.

“I really feel like this is a team where we have multiple guys who can score the basketball,” Collins said. “I think we’re gonna be one of these teams where on a different day, you’re going to have a different leading scorer. It’s different than last year. It’s exciting to get this (season) going.”

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