Men’s Basketball: McIntosh in, Law out as Wildcats eye Big Ten Tournament run


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Bryant McIntosh handles the ball. The senior guard will try to keep his collegiate career alive this weekend at the Big Ten Tournament despite a nagging shoulder injury.

Ben Pope, Managing Editor

Men’s Basketball

Officially, Bryant McIntosh is questionable to play in this week’s Big Ten Tournament. Realistically, the senior guard is a bit more certain than that.

“I’m gonna play,” McIntosh said Tuesday. “Just knowing you don’t have a next year, you don’t have another game, there’s no tomorrow, (is motivation). If you lose, you’re done, so you’re just going to have to gut it out and see what you can do.”

It’s been a tumultuous season for both Northwestern (15-16, 6-12 Big Ten), seeded 10th in the tournament and barely escaping playing a first-round game Wednesday, and McIntosh.

The guard hurt his knee Dec. 30 against Brown and also missed the following game against Nebraska, then incurred an arm injury Feb. 13 against Rutgers and missed both the next two games and all but seven minutes of last Sunday’s regular-season finale against Iowa. The Cats went winless in the four games that McIntosh largely missed.

Although NU will benefit from its senior ball-handler’s return, it will remain without arguably its best defender, junior forward Vic Law. Coach Chris Collins, speaking prior to his team’s game against seventh-seeded Penn State (19-12, 9-9) on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden, ruled Law out for the week.

Law, who has missed four games this year including the last two overall, will join junior guard Jordan Ash, who is out for the season, as the notable Cats players stuck to the bench.

“Those are two veteran guys that know what we want on the floor and they bring fire on the court,” Collins said, “so they’re going to have to do their best to try to do it from the sidelines.”

NU split its two regular-season meetings with the Nittany Lions this season, losing 78-63 on Jan. 5 in Happy Valley before avenging itself and putting on one of its better performances of the year with a 70-61 comeback win on Jan. 20.

The Cats held Penn State’s Tony Carr, the Big Ten scoring leader this season, averaging 19.9 points per game, to just 20 points in the two contests combined.

“We’ve gotten an opportunity to play them twice, so they know us, we know them,” sophomore guard Isiah Brown said. “Obviously in a tournament game, we’ll have to make plays down the stretch and try to keep them off the glass, keep hands off jerseys and keep them off the line as much as we can.”

Both teams enter Thursday on losing skids, with NU having lost six straight dating to Feb. 10 — prompting Collins to admit that the team’s “confidence is low right now” — and Penn State dropping its last three to fall to .500 in conference play. The winner will advance to face second-seeded Ohio State (24-7, 15-3) in the quarterfinals Friday evening.

Collins said he has stressed adopting a refreshed mindset now that the regular season is done and irreversible. With the Cats’ overall season almost assuredly finished unless they make an unexpected run to win Sunday’s championship game, he said he wants his team to take a micro perspective.

“‘Let’s play our hearts out, let’s play tough, let’s play together and let’s see if we can to find a way to win a game,’” he said of his message. “You can’t go into these tournaments thinking you’re going to win the whole tournament. … If you win the first game, you see where the dust settles and you get a chance to play Friday.”

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