Men’s Basketball: Northwestern blitzes Northern Kentucky in impressive home performance


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Tre Demps drives toward the basket. The junior guard ​slashed his way to a career-high tying 23 points in a Northwestern home rout​ on Saturday​.

Kevin Casey, Sports Editor

The Wildcats completed an up-and-down non-conference slate with a stellar performance against Northern Kentucky on Saturday, drubbing the Norse 76-55 at home.

In a game where Northwestern (9-4) produced easily its best offensive performance since its 101-point showing against Mississippi Valley State, the Cats were electric on the court, but only for the final 25 minutes.

The opening frame was uglier. The Norse (6-7) ran out to a 5-0 lead in the initial minutes and from there the struggling offenses batted, with nine lead changes over the first 15 minutes and a 22-22 score.

Then NU finally got to the hoop, beginning a number of impressive drives and transition points from junior guard Tre Demps and freshman guard Scottie Lindsey. This enabled the team to close on a 14-2 scoring run to go into the half up 36-24.

Demps struggled from the outside, shooting just 2-of-7 from three, but he was unstoppable in the paint. His supreme driving work led him to 9-of-18 from the field, despite the outside drought, and a career-high tying 23 points.

Meanwhile, Lindsey and sophomore forward Sanjay Lumpkin brought the entertainment with a pair of impressive dunks amid the Cats’ offensive explosion.

In the second half, NU didn’t find as much luck in the driving lanes, but the offense still clicked. The Cats got inside with a more transition-heavy game, scooping up a number of layups and free throws on those fast break possessions. The offensive glass contributed as well, with nine second-half offensive rebounds offering the Cats key opportunities.

The lead was up to 17 at 47-30 with just over 16 minutes to play when NU dropped back to Earth for a bit. The Cats struggled with turnovers, fouls and poor shooting, and the Norse took advantage, sneaking to within 9 points with about 10 minutes left.

But NU’s offense found its way back and sucked away the opponent’s hope with 20 points in that final frame for a 76-55 final margin.

The Cats turned to Demps often, but also found life on the offensive end from freshman guard Bryant McIntosh, who scored 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Lumpkin contributed 9 points of his own, and Lindsey was a killer from inside and out with 12 points off the bench courtesy of a pair of threes and excellent work from close range.

NU was efficient in the paint and from the free throw line, outpacing the Norse 36-22 inside and connecting on all 18 of its attempts from the charity stripe. When the Cats relied on the outside shot, its scoring suffered. The team was 6-of-21 from three-point range, a dismal 29 percent.

The defense wasn’t as sharp as it was against Illinois-Chicago, despite producing some timely steals and blocks.

The Cats start Big Ten play at Rutgers on Tuesday. It’s going to be a challenge to win in such a difficult conference, but NU can take some confidence in this performance heading forward.

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