Men’s Basketball: Bryant McIntosh looks to lead Northwestern through competitive stretch


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Junior guard Bryant McIntosh dribbles a ball to start an offensive possession. McIntosh is expected to lead the Wildcats through its tough stretch of upcoming games.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Web Producer

Men’s Basketball

Heading into the 2016 season, few could challenge the notion that Northwestern was Bryant McIntosh’s team. But two games in, success from other sources have seemingly pushed McIntosh out of the forefront of the conversation.

However, as the Wildcats (2-0) prepare to enter a challenging non-conference stretch, the junior point guard knows the team will turn to his leadership even as others take steps forward on the court.

“I’ve got to get the guys ready to go,” McIntosh said ahead of Wednesday’s contest at Butler (1-0). “We have a tough matchup, so (I’m) just preparing them as much as I can.”

The matchup with the Bulldogs is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual series between the Big Ten and Big East. Last year’s Butler team made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Bulldogs stand as the first major hurdle for the Cats, who then travel to Brooklyn to participate in the Legends Classic with three former tournament teams.

Even with two season-opening wins under its belt, NU is going to have to be at its best to contend with a program with such an impressive track record.

Sophomore forward Vic Law has been explosive in his return from injury, but figures to have his hands full on the defensive end with forward Kelan Martin, one of the Big East’s most prolific scorers.

That leaves McIntosh having to potentially shoulder a heavier scoring burden than he did in the opening few games, meaning he’ll have to — at the very least — match his 18-point, 7-assist output against Eastern Washington on Monday.

“We need his scoring,” coach Chris Collins said. “We need his leadership. We need his ability to be a floor general, but we need him to score too.”

Against Eastern Washington, McIntosh jumped at the opportunity to get into the paint. That’ll be key with officials calling games tighter than ever, though the point guard will also have to recover his shooting stroke after a 1-for-7 start to the season from beyond the arc.

While Butler undoubtedly poses a bigger challenge for McIntosh and company, it also gives the Cats the opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage.

“I have amazing respect for their coach, their program, their tradition,” Collins said of the Bulldogs. “And certainly Hinkle (Fieldhouse) is one of those special places to play, so we’re excited about it.”

Though the tough upcoming slate means McIntosh will have to step up, he certainly won’t be alone. Law is off to a terrific start on both ends of the floor and should factor in offensively, even if his energy is spent primarily on the defensive end.

Elsewhere, freshman guard Isiah Brown has made an immediate impact, averaging 11 points in his first two collegiate games. Junior guard Scottie Lindsey also looks ready to ditch the role player label, having averaged 14.5 points thus far.

“This team is well rounded offensively,” Law said. “Last year, we had to lean on some guys like Tre (Demps), Bryant and (Alex) Olah, but I think this year we’re a balanced team.”

But even with more scoring weapons in the lineup, McIntosh is one of the few proven commodities the Cats claim.

And with the road ahead rockier than ever, the star point guard will finally have to prove why Collins’ tabbed him as the face of NU basketball.

“I think (Collins) says that mostly from a leadership standpoint,” McIntosh said. “It’s not, ‘this is your time to score,’ … It’s ‘(this is) your team to lead’.”

Twitter: @GarrettJochnau