Men’s basketball: Wildcats play well but fall to Butler in Indianapolis

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

INDIANAPOLIS — Another tough nonconference opponent was too much for Northwestern to handle in the team’s third straight loss Saturday.

The Wildcats (5-3) fell 65-56 to No. 23 Butler (7-1) in a game that was close throughout. But after staging an unsuccessful late-game comeback in its last contest against Georgia Tech, NU never really put itself in a position to win this game.

“Today for us was a good step in the right direction,” coach Chris Collins said. “We’re disappointed in the end result, but this is the best we’ve played in a while.”

Collins shuffled the starting lineup in hopes of avoiding the slow start the Cats had against the Yellow Jackets, inserting reserve senior Dave Sobolewski at point guard and usual sixth-man Tre Demps at shooting guard.

The results were mixed, with the pair contributing just 7 points in 24 first-half minutes. Demps in particular struggled, shooting 1-of-5 in the opening frame and showing poor court vision by dribbling excessively on several of the Cats’ possessions.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sobolewski played 15 minutes but failed to take a single shot from the floor. His presence was indicative of Collins’ continued experimentation with his rotation. After the game, the coach also expressed a preference for veteran players in a tough road game.

“We were in a tough environment,” Collins said. “I wanted to put the onus on our older guys. … I just felt today was a day for (them).”

The offense as a whole was improved, keeping pace with Butler throughout the game. NU shot 41 percent from the field, including 6-of-18 from three-point range.

Freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh was NU’s most effective weapon. Coming off the bench, he played 28 minutes and scored a team-high 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting while also adding five assists. Despite the different role, McIntosh wasn’t fazed by playing in relief duty.

“It’s not a different mindset,” he said. “You’re just still playing basketball. I’m not putting too much thought on it.”

Some unlikely offense also came from sophomore forward Nathan Taphorn, who made all 3 of his shots in limited playing time to score a season-high 7 points.

The Cats needed every bit of scoring because despite the game’s low point total, NU struggled on the defensive end of the court. The team was called for a total of 26 personal fouls, allowing Butler to score 16 points from the free throw line.

“We were reaching a lot and couldn’t keep them out of the paint,” freshman forward Vic Law said. “A lot of those fouls are our fault.”

NU struggled to contain Bulldogs guards Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham. The backcourt duo combined for 31 points and five offensive rebounds and took all but one of their shots from inside the arc. As a team Butler only attempted five three-pointers, a stat Collins hailed as a success.

“I give (Dunham) credit,” Collins said. “I thought he manufactured his shots tonight. Our whole thing with his was no threes and no free throws.”

The team is taking a break for final exams before returning to the court Dec. 14 to face Mississippi Valley State in the first contest of a five-game home stand that will wrap up the Cats’ nonconference schedule.

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