Wilkinson: Northwestern’s offense without McIntosh is a disaster


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Dererk Pardon puts up a hook shot. The junior center and the Wildcats have looked out of sorts offensively without senior guard Bryant McIntosh.

Joseph Wilkinson, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Without senior guard Bryant McIntosh on the court, Northwestern’s offense is almost unbelievably bad.

The Wildcats (15-12, 6-8 Big Ten) are no one’s idea of an offensive powerhouse, even when McIntosh is healthy. They rank 12th in the Big Ten in points per game. Their leading scorer, senior guard Scottie Lindsey, shoots 38 percent from the floor. Their adjusted offensive efficiency ranks 101st in the country.

But without McIntosh, NU can’t seem to generate even a respectable offense. The main problem: none of the other players can consistently create their own shot, or open shots for their teammates, against quality defenses.

Lindsey is a capable secondary scorer, but when he is tasked with primary ball-handling duties, the Cats’ offense collapses.

Against Rutgers on Tuesday, McIntosh played only the first 3:23 of the second half due to an apparent first-half injury. Lindsey, conversely, was on the court for all 20 minutes in the period, and over those 20 minutes, NU shot just 27 percent from the field.

Lindsey actually turned in a solid performance, shooting 5-for-11 and scoring 15 of the team’s 23 second half points. The problem, however, is that Lindsey is not a playmaker. He averages only 1.5 assists per game for his career, and his teammates all struggled in the second half against the Scarlet Knights (13-15, 3-12), combining to shoot 13 percent in the latter period.

As a point guard, Lindsey is being asked to do too much. NU’s other options at that spot, junior Jordan Ash and sophomore Isiah Brown, don’t threaten defenses with their off-the-dribble shooting ability. Coach Chris Collins has shown he doesn’t trust either of them to run the offense for more than a few minutes at a time.

Plugging any of them into the McIntosh role in the Cats’ offense simply doesn’t work. If NU’s base offense wasn’t so McIntosh-centric, perhaps it would be possible to create the open looks that eluded the visitors against Rutgers, but the rote dribble handoffs, unimaginative pick-and-rolls, ambitious off-the-dribble 3-pointers and long midrange pull-ups don’t work.

The last time the Cats were missing their senior leader for an extended period of time came on Jan. 2 against Nebraska, when McIntosh missed the whole game. In that contest, NU shot 29 percent from the field, largely thanks to a parade of predictable postup plays for junior center Dererk Pardon, whose series of misses did not deter the Cats from feeding him constantly in the second half. Pardon finished shooting 6-for-18 from the field, with an even 3-for- 9 performance in each half.

Pardon was solid against Rutgers — shooting 6-for-7 from the field — but his quality outing couldn’t salvage a disastrous offensive performance.

Without McIntosh’s creativity, playmaking and ability to make shots late in the shot clock, NU appears functionally unable to shoot even 30 percent from the field. If that were the Cats’ mark on the season, it would be last in the country by six percentage points.

With McIntosh graduating at the end of the year, if Collins can’t figure out a solution before next season, NU could be in for a long year of terrible offensive performances and embarrassing losses.

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