Men’s Basketball: Minus McIntosh, Northwestern collapses against Rutgers


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

The squad looks for answers. Northwestern struggled to find any offensively in the loss to Rutgers.

Ben Pope, Managing Editor

Men’s Basketball

On a seemingly pedestrian Tuesday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center, Bryant McIntosh’s injury luck finally ran out — and the wheels promptly fell off his Northwestern team.

Despite holding a comfortable advantage for much of the game, the Wildcats blew a 6-point lead in the final minute of regulation and then fell apart in overtime in a 67-58 loss against bottom-feeding Rutgers.

McIntosh, meanwhile, inadvertently banged his right shoulder twice in the first half and the senior guard barely saw the court once after halftime. McIntosh had previously missed one game in January after a serious-looking knee injury Dec. 30 against Brown and had appeared to be playing through pain in numerous games since, most recently Saturday’s loss at Maryland.

Senior guard Scottie Lindsey led NU (15-12, 6-8) with 19 points and junior center Dererk Pardon added 12 after a strong first half. They were no match for Rutgers’ Corey Sanders, however, who erupted down the stretch to finish with 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting.

After a contested 3-pointer by freshman guard Anthony Gaines gave the Cats a 56-50 edge entering the final minute, Sanders hit three free throws — and then drained a triple with just over five seconds left — to tie the game. Senior forward Gavin Skelly had a promising chance to win it for the visitors at the buzzer, but his layup attempt was blocked.

“We had some runs early, they battled back,” coach Chris Collins told reporters in Piscataway afterwards. “We never lost the lead (in regulation), but they were hanging around the whole game.”

In overtime, Scarlet Knights (13-15, 3-12) forward Issa Thiam buried a 3-point shot with just over two minutes remaining to give the hosts their first lead. Sanders then sunk a stepback to expand that lead to five, and Rutgers ran away with the game. NU scored just 2 points in the five-minute period.

The Cats held a sizeable advantage throughout most of the opening frame and took a 33-24 lead into halftime. But with McIntosh sitting out most of the second half and all of overtime, their offense crumpled rapidly. Short of the occasional spectacular play by Lindsey, NU failed to generate anything resembling a competent offense and ultimately shot 38 percent from the field in the game.

Skelly contributed to that incompetence: He was 2-for-9 from the field. Lindsey contributed to that incompetence: He took 20 shots to get to his 19 points and committed four turnovers. Redshirt sophomore forward Aaron Falzon contributed to that incompetence: He was 3-for-3 in the first half and 0-for-5 after it. The entire team, more or less, demonstrated startlingly little execution down the stretch.

Thanks to Sanders and the Cats’ collapse, the Scarlet Knights earned their mere ninth conference win in four seasons since joining the Big Ten and their third conference win of 2017-18, moving themselves out of last place in the standings.

For NU, though, Tuesday’s result can be described as nothing short of a disaster. Rutgers entered Tuesday having lost seven straight games, including a 31-point defeat against lowly Illinois, and previously held a 1-9 all-time record against the Cats.

Although last year’s regular-season meeting between the two teams was also competitive, the loss is indisputably NU’s most embarrassing in years.

“I liked where we were: We were up six with (Lindsey) shooting a 1-and-1 to (potentially) go up eight with about a minute to go,” Collins said. “And we just couldn’t finish the deal.”

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