Men’s Basketball: Northwestern defeats Chicago State in historic blowout


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Aaron Falzon jumps for a block. The sophomore forward had 15 points in Monday’s blowout victory over Chicago State. 

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern had something to prove after its slow start to the season, and it proved as much as possible against lowly Chicago State in a 96-31 rout on Monday.

After an eight-day finals week break, the Wildcats (6-4) came out on fire and demolished the Cougars (2-11) to kick off a packed stretch of nonconference play. The 65 point win was the largest in program history.

“It was a good night to come back out and play,” coach Chris Collins said. “We’ve been working hard on our defense (and) trying to regain our defensive identity.”

NU scored the first 15 points of the game, opening up a double-digit advantage before the first media timeout. The team went into halftime with a 55-8 lead. The 47 point halftime margin is the largest in Division I this season, and the 8 points allowed are tied for the fewest in a half.

The halftime stats indicated the whopping margin. The Cats had more made 3-pointers than the Cougars had points, had 14 assists to compared to zero and four NU players outscored the entire Chicago State team.

Chicago State has been operating on a shoestring budget since its public funding was cut in 2015 due to the state’s inability to pass a budget and fund its public universities. Games like this, in which Chicago State receives money to play power conference opponents, are crucial for the athletic department’s operations.

Somehow, they were able to put a scare into NU last year, with the Cats escaping with a 68-64 win. The Cougars were able to stay in the 2016 matchup thanks to their 13 made 3-pointers, but this time the Cats used their superior length and athleticism to allow just one made 3-pointer and force a whopping 25 turnovers.

Chicago State’s leading scorer, Fred Sims Jr., came into Allstate Arena averaging 16.1 points per game, but was held scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting, largely thanks to the stifling defense of junior forward Vic Law, who led all scorers with 18 points.

“We just try to stay connected and talk as much as possible,” sophomore forward Aaron Falzon said. “Today we had it going defensively.”

NU’s offense, on the other hand, was on fire from behind the arc, shooting 40 percent from deep. Chicago State stayed in a zone defense for much of the first half, allowing the Cats to easily move the ball around the court and into the hands of open shooters.

The blowout also allowed the bench to get additional minutes, and freshman guard Anthony Gaines took advantage, scoring a career-high 11 points and showcasing his athleticism on explosive drives.

“We were able to spread them out in their zone which opened up a lot of drive opportunities for me,” Gaines said.

This game was the first of five in 12 days for the Cats, who host Valparaiso on Thursday.

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