Men’s Basketball: Late turnovers doom Northwestern in loss to Illinois

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Sara Gnolek/The Daily Northwestern

Bryant McIntosh drives with the ball. The junior guard tallied six turnovers in the loss to Illinois.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


With 23 seconds left in their game against Illinois Tuesday, Northwestern trailed by four and needed a miracle. Instead, a broken inbounds play out of a timeout resulted in Bryant McIntosh’s fifth turnover — a fitting stamp to a contest brimming with sloppy mistakes from the Wildcats.

NU (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten) finished with 14 giveaways in the 68-61 home loss to the Fighting Illini (14-11, 4-8), its highest mark since Dec. 17. McIntosh was responsible for six of them, four of which came in crunch time as mistakes doomed the Cats to their second-straight loss.

“Our turnovers in the last three minutes were really costly,” coach Chris Collins said. “We weren’t able to get a shot at the basket there for a couple of possessions.”

The opportunities that NU did get were often rushed — a theme that followed the Cats through the game. With its leading scorer, junior guard Scottie Lindsey, sidelined for the second-straight game due to an illness, NU once again struggled to find a scoring punch.

Lindsey’s replacement, freshman guard Isiah Brown notched more turnovers (3) than field goals (2) in 18 minutes of play. Sophomore forward Vic Law paced the Cats on the offensive end in the opening half but turned the ball over and rushed three-point looks on key possessions after the break. McIntosh, who missed his opening eight shots, later found a rhythm but fell victim to the turnover bug when the team needed him most.

Collins acknowledged that McIntosh’s mistakes were “probably” a product of the guard’s increased burden with Lindsey out, visible in his 37.3 percent usage rate.

“There’s a lot on (McIntosh) now,” Collins said. “When you take 16 points out of the lineup, there’s going to be more on those guys.”

McIntosh entered the game fresh off two 20-plus point performances and was the clear focus of the Fighting Illini defense. Illinois coach John Groce said his team keyed in on McIntosh, whom he described as “a handful.”

“We tried to make him uncomfortable,” Groce said. “That’s hard to do.”

But Illinois succeeded, leaving NU’s point guard unable to work his magic and energize the Cats’ offense.

The few looks that NU did get in the closing minutes were rushed and fell badly off target, offering a perfect snapshot of the team’s game-long offensive woes that ushered in its eventual demise.

“Offensively tonight, we had some costly turnovers, some bad shots,” Collins said. “You’ve got to play smarter. That’s what we have to kind of try to iron out as we move forward.”

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Twitter: @GarrettJochnau

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