Men’s Basketball: Wildcats throttle Minnesota 82-58 to snap five-game losing streak

Bryant+McIntosh+dribbles+up+the+court.+The+sophomore+guard+set+the+Northwestern+school+record+for+most+assists+in+a+single+season+Thursday.

Aleah Matthews-Runner/The Daily Northwestern

Bryant McIntosh dribbles up the court. The sophomore guard set the Northwestern school record for most assists in a single season Thursday.

Max Schuman, Assistant Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


Taking the podium after Thursday’s game, a hoarse coach Chris Collins said his Wildcats’ recent five game losing streak wore on him.

“When you lose, you don’t get a lot of sleep. It’s just an accumulation of being in the fight,” he said. “I’ll be better tomorrow.”

For one night, at least, Collins can sleep easy. Northwestern (16-8, 4-7 Big Ten) controlled the game and ran away from an overmatched Minnesota (6-17, 0-11) in a 82-58 victory at home, snapping the Cats’ five-game losing streak in resounding fashion.

Senior guard Tre Demps followed up his career-high 30 points against No. 3 Iowa on Sunday with an efficient 23 points to go with a career-high eight assists, while sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh got back on track after a tough game against the Hawkeyes, scoring 20 points of his own on 7-for-14 shooting.

NU got off to a fast start powered by hot shooting from distance. Before the first media timeout, Demps and freshman forward Aaron Falzon each hit two 3s and junior forward Sanjay Lumpkin connected on one to give the Cats a 19-8 edge.

It was the beginning of a solid shooting evening for NU, as a team that has so often struggled with its shooting in conference play connected on 12-of-27 3s on the night, a step up from its 27.7 percent average in Big Ten games.

McIntosh said the team was focused on getting out and running to help their offense.

“I felt that’s when we played our best, when we got up and down the floor, got an open court,” he said. “That just allowed the ball to move naturally.”

On the other end, the Cats came out in their matchup zone and bottled up the Minnesota offense. The Golden Gophers struggled to get into the paint and create easy shots in the halfcourt, scoring just 18 points in the paint en route to a 33.3 percent showing from the field in the game.

NU didn’t offer much else offensively beyond its shooting early — the Cats scored just 13 of their 37 first-half points from inside the arc or at the foul line — and allowed Minnesota to hang close despite their struggles to score, with the Golden Gophers cutting the lead to 29-23 with 3:32 remaining in the first half.

But NU took a 37-23 lead into halftime after an 8-0 run to finish the first half, keyed by several big plays on both ends by Alex Olah. The senior center, struggling with injury and replaced in the starting lineup for the game by freshman center Dererk Pardon, scored a layup, swung a pass from the post to a wide open Scottie Lindsey in the opposite corner for an open 3 and blocked two shots to give the Cats momentum heading into halftime.

NU stretched its lead early in the second half behind McIntosh, who scored 12 of his 20 points after the break and quieted speculation that he was wearing down under the weight of heavy minutes. McIntosh drained 3s, hit difficult floaters in the lane and, with three assists on the night, set the school record for assists in a season with 159, surpassing Tim Doyle’s 157 set in the 2006-2007 season.

“He’s the guy that we’re going to follow behind,” Demps said of McIntosh. “He had a strong voice, a strong presence that I think gave everybody a sense of relaxation.”

McIntosh’s record-setting assist came on a feed to Demps, who lofted in a shot in the paint that gave the Cats a 61-34 lead and forced a Minnesota timeout with 11:46 remaining. From there, NU coasted to the finish line, with the Golden Gophers never getting the lead to less than 21 points the rest of the way.

After a five-game losing streak which included four losses to ranked teams, the Cats got a reprieve against one of the Big Ten’s bottom-dwellers. But NU shot well, defended well and took care of business early, giving the team’s fans something to smile about for the first time in a few weeks.

“It’s been a long couple of weeks,” Collins said. “I’m really proud of the guys. This was a big game for us.”

This story has been updated with postgame quotes.

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