Men’s Basketball: Rejuvenated Scottie Lindsey pushes Wildcats into March


Daily file photo by Jacob Morgan

Scottie Lindsey dribbles. The junior guard emerged as one of Northwestern’s leaders this season.

Tim Balk, Managing Editor

Men’s Basketball

When a combination of sickness and back problems sidelined Scottie Lindsey for much of February, it didn’t just momentarily derail his stellar season. It nearly derailed Northwestern’s.

The Wildcats ended January on a high. A six-game winning streak had just earned them their first ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll since 2009 and, with 18 victories already to their name, they seemed a near lock for a program-first trip to The Dance. But then Lindsey went down, and NU lost three out of four with the junior guard on the bench.

If any doubts lingered about how much Lindsey means to this year’s squad, the stretch quickly did away with them. After pacing the team in scoring for the first three months of the season, the 6-foot-5 swingman had no choice but to watch in frustration.

“Every moment I wished I was out there,” Lindsey said. “Even when we beat Wisconsin, I wished I was out there. But that didn’t make me not happy for the guys that they won that game. And that didn’t make me not want to be a great teammate and console the guys when they lost.”

Lindsey finally returned in a sloppy but crucial win over Rutgers on Feb. 18, playing 24 minutes and scoring 6 points. He spent the past few weeks “gutting it out,” in the word of coach Chris Collins, as he worked himself back into game shape.

Eventually, the Cats rediscovered their groove, with Lindsey helping to lead the charge. Even not at 100 percent, Lindsey provided extra offensive pop for the Cats in their win against Michigan to kick off the month of March and all but guarantee themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament. He scored 9 in the win.

“Having (Lindsey) back has been really nice,” junior guard Bryant McIntosh said before the Big Ten Tournament. “Having him on the defensive end has also been huge for us — his length and ability to guard one through four is also really helpful.”

When Lindsey is at his best, the Cats are at their best. A solid defender on the wing, he further solidifies one of the Big Ten’s best defenses. And for a team that struggles at times to manufacture points, the sweet-shooting, easy-scoring guard can rejuvenate their scoring attack. NU exploded offensively in Big Ten Tournament wins over Rutgers and Maryland, with Lindsey putting in an efficient 33 points on 54.2 percent shooting in the two victories.

From the beginning, NU’s special season hinged on Lindsey’s emergence. A year ago, he was a streaky role player for the Cats who hit jumpers in bunches off the bench but couldn’t seem to earn Collins’ trust.

Collins said he and Lindsey had a “tough meeting,” after the season in which he challenged the young guard.

“He said things, I said things. We tried to come together,” Collins said. “He was willing to embrace change and to try to become better. To try to become a better player, a better teammate, a better leader. And he did all those things.”

Lindsey said the meeting still sticks with him.

“It’s just something that I can look back on and just show to myself where I’ve come from,” Lindsey said, “and how hard I’ve worked, and how hard I have to work every day just to keep myself to where I am right now.”

Right now, Lindsey is headed to the NCAA Tournament, seemingly finally healthy and with a coaches’ All-Big Ten third team selection in his pocket.

He more than doubled his scoring output from 6.4 points per game as a sophomore to 14.2 this season. He stepped up and became the leader Collins wanted him to be. He braved the long month of February and delivered when the Cats have needed him late.

Entering the NCAAs, Lindsey is back in a groove. And NU is back on track, rolling to a destination the program has never reached before.

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