Men’s Basketball: Northwestern routs Sacred Heart in bounce-back win


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Scottie Lindsey drives along the baseline. The senior guard netted 19 points Friday night.

Ben Pope, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

ROSEMONT — Five days after its biggest loss in a decade, Northwestern ran to the locker room at halftime of Friday’s game against Sacred Heart laughing and playfully shoving Bryant McIntosh following a drought-snapping bucket.

That feel-good mood lasted all night long for the Wildcats (4-2), who dominated the visiting Pioneers 81-50 to earn a much-needed bounce-back win.

“Tonight was a big night for us,” coach Chris Collins said. “It was less about who we were playing, but it was more about us getting back to playing the way that we have over the last couple years. I thought we made a big step in the right direction.”

Senior guard Scottie Lindsey scored 19 points and junior forward Vic Law added 15 on 5-of-9 shooting, while junior center Dererk Pardon and senior forward Gavin Skelly also hit double digits for NU. McIntosh, a senior guard, suffered from some unlucky shooting rolls but still finished with 9 points and six assists.

The Cats’ defense was the story of the game, however, forcing 23 turnovers by Sacred Heart (2-4) and conceding just 50 points — the fewest by an NU opponent since Dec. 11 of last season.

“They hurt us early a little bit, especially in transition,” Collins said, “(in the) second half, we really tried to lock in, keep them in front of us, try to limit penetration and contest all their shots.”

Seeking to rebound from an embarrassing 85-49 loss to Texas Tech on Sunday, Lindsey said the Cats spent the past week “rededicating ourselves back to the game.” The team showed the chip on its shoulder immediately Friday at Allstate Arena, forcing five turnovers and jumping out to a 13-3 lead within the game’s first five minutes.

Sacred Heart’s zone defense gave NU some trouble initially, but Lindsey and Skelly’s 3-pointers helped spread it out and open space for Pardon. That approach — in addition to McIntosh’s last-second jumper, ending an 0-for-4 start by the senior — allowed the Cats to carry a 43-31 lead into the break.

“Our guards do a good job of finding me when I’m lost in there behind the defense, so I just tried to stay lost and get stuff at the rim,” said Pardon, who finished 5-of-7 for 11 points. “Scottie drove in there a couple times, got me a couple dunks, and that builds my confidence up a lot, too.”

NU carried its momentum into the second half and played stifling defense while gradually extending the lead.

The Pioneers went a full eight minutes without scoring a single point during one segment and ultimately tallied just 18 points in the entire second half. Missed free throws — a jarring weakness of Sacred Heart all game long — kept the drought going far longer than it should have, but Lindsey credited an active effort to fix the past few weeks’ “awful” defense for the second-half lockdown.

Court appearances by walk-ons Tino Malnati and Charlie Hall in the closing minutes, meanwhile, kept the announced crowd of 5,216 engaged to the final whistle. And a near-steal by Malnati produced one of the loudest roars of the night from the Cats’ bench, which finally had something to cheer about for a full 40 minutes.

“Even though we (had) won a couple games, we weren’t ourselves, we didn’t have that spirit,” Collins said. “We had that tonight, which was exciting for me to see.”

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