Men’s Basketball: With Lindsey back in lineup, Cats seek revenge against Illinois

Scottie+Lindsey+skies+for+a+dunk.+The+junior+is+excited+to+return+in+full+against+Illinois+on+Tuesday.

Daily file photo by Rachel Dubner

Scottie Lindsey skies for a dunk. The junior is excited to return in full against Illinois on Tuesday.

Ben Pope, Reporter


Men’s Basketball


For two weeks, Northwestern’s leading scorer, Scottie Lindsey, watched the Wildcats play and watched other college and NBA teams play.

But while suffering from mononucleosis, the junior guard couldn’t play himself.

“Bored, frustrated — I went through everything,” Lindsey said. “I wasn’t that sick when they diagnosed me, and the weeks I was out I wasn’t really that sick either. But that’s what they diagnosed me as, so the risk of rupturing my spleen was too big for me to keeping playing even though I felt pretty good.”

After winning six consecutive games prior to Lindsey’s diagnosis, NU (20-7, 9-5 Big Ten) lost three of four during his absence, including this season’s first meeting with Illinois (15-12, 5-9) on Feb. 7.

Finally cleared to return to practice last week, however, Lindsey played 24 minutes and scored 6 points in Saturday’s narrow victory over Rutgers. He said he’s feeling “awesome” entering Tuesday’s rematch with the Fighting Illini.

“The thing that can get me back to 100 percent is just my game legs,” he said. “My wind is fine. I’m not really getting that tired in the game.”

Lindsey’s presence will not only bolster the Cats’ starting lineup, it will also allow secondary contributors like freshman guard Isiah Brown and senior forward Nathan Taphorn to shift back into bench roles.

“Hopefully it’ll be a little bit more seamless of a transition, knowing that we played a big chunk of our season with that rotation,” coach Chris Collins said. “It gives us more depth, and that’s something we’ve got to lean on.”

That rotation adjustment could help counterbalance a deep Illinois roster that outscored NU 30-13 in bench points in Evanston earlier this month. That night, Malcolm Hill tallied 14 points and 9 rebounds and junior guard Bryant McIntosh committed four turnovers in the game’s final three minutes as the Fighting Illini upset the Cats.

Senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin, who was held off the scoresheet that game, said his team is seeking revenge Tuesday.

“We’ve got to fight them,” Lumpkin said. “Everything kind of goes out the window in a rivalry game … We know we dropped one at home against them, which made it even worse for us, and it definitely is a motivating factor.”

Against the Big Ten’s second-worst shooting percentage defense, the availability of Lindsey should be a major advantage for NU.

Collins said he hoped, but failed, to restrict Lindsey to 20 minutes against Rutgers, but won’t have him on a time limit against Illinois.

“You’re talking about a guy who, until he got sick, was putting up an all-league-type season,” Collins said. “We’re not on a pitch count or a minutes restriction or anything like that, it’s more just (based on) feel.”

And for Lindsey himself, who went home twice to visit his family in Hillside, Illinois, while being held out of action, that freedom is sweetest of all.

“I wanted to be out there and help my team in games I thought we could win with me or without me, so playing against those top teams and just watching from the sidelines was tough,” he said. “I love being able to be out there again.”

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