The Daily Northwestern

Men’s Basketball: Wildcats look for first conference road win at Minnesota

Anthony Gaines surveys the defense. The freshman guard has contributed more recently this season, scoring 6 points against Penn State.

Anthony Gaines surveys the defense. The freshman guard has contributed more recently this season, scoring 6 points against Penn State.

Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Anthony Gaines surveys the defense. The freshman guard has contributed more recently this season, scoring 6 points against Penn State.

Ella Brockway, Reporter

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Men’s Basketball

With exactly 10 regular season games remaining in his college career, senior guard Bryant McIntosh knows it is crunch time. Northwestern sits in 10th place in the Big Ten, and will play five of its next six games on the road.

While this 2017-18 season has not turned out exactly as expected, McIntosh said the Wildcats’ main goal hasn’t changed: They want, and now need, to win.

“That’s all this senior class has been about since we got here, building a winning culture and continuing it,” McIntosh said Saturday after the team’s 70-61 win over Penn State. “We didn’t do a good job to start the season, but I think we’re on the right track right now.”

NU (12-9, 3-5 Big Ten) will open the pivotal three-game road trip with a visit to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers (14-8, 3-6) on Tuesday night.

The Cats picked up an 83-60 win over Minnesota when the teams faced off on Jan. 10 at Allstate Arena.

NU had one of its strongest offensive performances of the year in the win, shooting better than 50 percent from the field for just the third time this season. Senior guard Scottie Lindsey scored a team-high 22 points, while McIntosh and junior center Dererk Pardon each finished with a double-double.

The offense was effective again in Saturday’s win, outscoring the Nittany Lions 40-24 in the paint and 17-4 on second-chance points. Junior guard Jordan Ash and freshman guard Anthony Gaines combined for 11 points off the bench, while junior forward Vic Law added a team-high 18 points.

The team’s zone defense looked sharp, especially in the second half against Penn State, and that defense will be a priority once again on Wednesday. The Cats held Minnesota’s leading scorers, guard Nate Mason and forward Jordan Murphy, to a combined 17 points in the previous meeting. Mason and Murphy average over 33 points per game combined.

The Golden Gophers’ offense was shorthanded without guard Amir Coffey in the first game. Coffey missed five games with a shoulder injury, but made his return in Minnesota’s most recent game, a 67-49 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.

Coffey, who averages 13.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, scored 11 points in 35 minutes against the Buckeyes.

Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told reporters Monday that Coffey and guard Dupree McBrayer did not practice that day for precautionary reasons.

“I thought that not having (Coffey) last time, really not having Jordan (Murphy) a whole lot because he was in foul trouble, it was really, really hard,” Pitino said. “Amir, more than anything, is a playmaker. He’s a smart player, he can attack and he’s a threat.”

NU will not be back on its temporary home court at Allstate Arena until a Feb. 6 matchup against Michigan, and Wednesday’s game serves as an opportunity for the Cats to claim their first conference road win of the year.

With just two wins in eight games away from Rosemont thus far — an early season 82-74 win over La Salle on November 18 and a 62-60 win at DePaul on Dec. 16 — the Cats will be looking to build their resume heading into an important stretch.

“Whether we’re not living up to expectations, whether we haven’t played as well, we can’t control any of that anymore,” coach Chris Collins said. “What we can control is the way we finish up the season and the way we finish up this year. We have ten games left, and crazier things have happened.”

Twitter: @ellabrockway