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Men’s Basketball: Northwestern avenges ‘embarrassing’ effort against Penn State

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Men’s Basketball: Northwestern avenges ‘embarrassing’ effort against Penn State

Bryant McIntosh brings the ball up the court. The senior guard and the Wildcats reversed their earlier performance against Penn State on Saturday.

Bryant McIntosh brings the ball up the court. The senior guard and the Wildcats reversed their earlier performance against Penn State on Saturday.

Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

Bryant McIntosh brings the ball up the court. The senior guard and the Wildcats reversed their earlier performance against Penn State on Saturday.

Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

Bryant McIntosh brings the ball up the court. The senior guard and the Wildcats reversed their earlier performance against Penn State on Saturday.

Ben Pope, Managing Editor

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Men’s Basketball


ROSEMONT — Bryant McIntosh walked onto the Allstate Arena court Saturday for warmups and didn’t like what he saw — or felt.

“The most embarrassing thing was walking out today and having (Penn State) look at us,” the senior guard said. “In warmups, you look across the floor and judge how a team’s feeling, and you could tell they were very confident. We used that a little bit as motivation.”

The sting of a 78-63 loss just over two weeks ago in Happy Valley evidently still hadn’t left McIntosh — nor the rest of the team, coach Chris Collins said.

Northwestern (12-9, 3-5 Big Ten) was physically dominated across the board that Friday night, giving up a whopping 48 points in the paint, and humiliated to the extent that McIntosh was left questioning his teammates’ mindsets. The two starting big men for the Nittany Lions (13-8, 3-5), 6-foot-9 center Mike Watkins and 6-foot-8 forward Lamar Stevens, combined for 48 points and 22 rebounds.

“I didn’t think we played with nearly the kind of fight or effort that we needed the first go-round,” Collins said Saturday. “A lot of us were embarrassed by that performance, and I think everybody was eager to get a chance to see if we could be … tough enough to beat a physical team like this.”

And in Saturday’s 70-61 win, the Wildcats indeed were tough enough.

NU controlled the paint, fought for rebounds, bodied up Penn State’s oversized interior players and effectively flipped all the statistics in its favor across the board: 40-24 in points in the paint, 16-6 in offensive rebounds and 17-4 in second-chance points. Watkins and Stevens combined for just 21 points and 10 rebounds this time, in addition to five turnovers.

Collins credited his switch to a zone defense as part of the reason for the marked improvement, saying that he learned not to play the Nittany Lions man-to-man after the first game. Instead of matching junior center Dererk Pardon with Watkins again, the Cats defended the rim with a by-committee approach and found much more success — although it came at the cost of leaving guard Shep Garner, who tallied 22 total points, open throughout much of the first half.

It wasn’t just the schematic adjustment that made the difference, though. Junior forward Vic Law, who finished with a team-high 18 points, said the coaching staff also reminded the players of the indignity they felt two weeks ago in Saturday’s pregame speech.

“Before the game, some of our coaches questioned our energy and said that we needed to pick it before the game started,” Law said. “Because this was not a game that was going to be the same.”

Email: benjaminpope2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @benpope111

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