Men’s Basketball: McIntosh delivers ‘vintage’ performance in rout of Iowa


Rachel Dubner/The Daily Northwestern

Bryant McIntosh dribbles off a screen. The junior guard recorded his first double-double of the season against Iowa.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Midway into the first half of Sunday’s showdown with Iowa, Bryant McIntosh left his feet, ready to pass to sophomore center Dererk Pardon in the post. But the defenders backed off, forcing McIntosh to change course mid-air and attempt a shot.

He did, hoping Pardon would clean up the miss. Instead, the ball fell cleanly in.

“That’s when I knew I had it going,” McIntosh said after the game.

The floater came on the heels of a 4-for-5 shooting start from the guard. And with momentum finally tipping in the right direction for the junior, it provided the foundation for McIntosh’s inspired 20-point, 10-assist effort that lifted NU over the Hawkeyes, 89-54.

From start to finish, McIntosh played with a confidence unseen in the games prior. Four minutes in, the Wildcats led 10-2 with McIntosh responsible for 8 of the points — 3 on an assist and 5 of his own. By the end of the half, he was attacking the rim, firing Magic Johnson-esque lasers in transition and carrying NU with veteran poise — the kind many expected on a nightly basis entering the season.

“Tonight was vintage B-Mac,” coach Chris Collins said. “It was his game tonight. He had the game under control, he got our guys into the right spots. … he had a great pep to his step. It was just fun to see him having so much fun out there playing.”

McIntosh’s performance was not special simply because it featured a wildly efficient 9-for-11 shooting clip and masterful orchestration. Rather, it stands out against a series of scoring duds that had defined the junior’s campaign before Sunday.

McIntosh’s shot chart against the Hawkeyes. (The Daily Northwestern)

But none of that mattered against Iowa. In the opening minutes, McIntosh ignited a near flawless offensive attack from NU and kindled the flame during the game’s lone test — a second-half 11-2 Iowa run punctured by a McIntosh assist. The pass, an entry dish to Pardon for a dunk, set into motion a 26-3 run by the Cats during which the duo connected frequently as the Hawkeyes disappeared in the rearview mirror.

“When I put the ball in the basket, it causes other people to converge and then I can do what I do best,” McIntosh said. “It really helped us out tonight just because I was able to create for others.”

With NU’s tournament prospects seemingly contingent on each individual game the Cats play from here on out, McIntosh, in true veteran form, awoke just in time.

NU is McIntosh’s team — a reality Collins has maintained through his guard’s slow start. Amid his struggles, the Cats never seemed to reach their collective potential. But as evidenced in the 35-point rout Sunday, peak McIntosh can turn games into 40-minute highlight reels and lift NU to new heights.

“The last few games, you’ve seen him getting back to having fun playing,” Collins said. “When I’m seeing him smiling and making plays like that, it makes me feel good because I feel like we’ve got him back.”

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Twitter: @GarrettJochnau