Northwestern moved to 15-3 and 3-2 in the Big Ten with a 70-65 win over Wisconsin (9-9, 1-4) on Tuesday night. Here's how the team and each major contributor played:
Overall - A-
Don't get me wrong, beating Wisconsin was a solid win for the Wildcats. It's a game Northwestern should have won, especially if it played pretty well. The two big-picture things that stood out from this game were Bryant McIntosh (we'll get to him later) and Northwestern's defense. That matchup zone has become a perfect hybrid defense for a young, somewhat athletic team like Northwestern. Chris Collins wants to play man-to-man, but has found a happy medium playing in this zone with man concepts. The scheme forced Wisconsin into a lot of tough shots, especially from its big three of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ.
Yet, it wasn't all perfect from the Wildcats. The two biggest concerns: three-point shooting and late-game offense. Surprisingly, Northwestern was only able to hit 4 threes against the Badgers on 12 attempts. Also, when Northwestern started to pull away slightly as the clock ticked below 5 minutes left, the offense completely devolved into "hero ball." While the cape fit McIntosh for the most part, it's tough to see him being able to get to the rim against the upper echelon of the Big Ten as consistently as he did against the Badgers.
Bryant McIntosh - A
28 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 5 turnovers on 10 of 19 FG, 2 of 3 FG, 6 of 8 FT in 37 minutes
The only Northwestern player to score in double figures, McIntosh gave Wisconsin fits. The 28 points were great. The efficient shooting numbers were stellar. The repeated drives to the basket and finishes at the rim were tremendous. And, even with the 5 turnovers, McIntosh was able to find his teammates five times for made shots and numerous more times for attempts on which they were fouled.
The most impressive thing about this game was that Wisconsin knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it. The offense was so simple: a high, spread pick-and-roll with McIntosh and either Joey van Zegeren or Dererk Pardon. Every possession down the stretch ended in that action. McIntosh would use the screen, forcing Wisconsin to switch forward Ethan Happ on him. While the 6-foot-9 player has been really good, McIntosh pulled the ball out and attacked. With Hayes stuck on Falzon in the corner, once McIntosh got by Happ (which happened often) he was free to score at the rim without a big to protect it. McIntosh and Collins recognized this and repeatedly took advantage.
Tre Demps - B-
8 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers on 3 of 10 FG, 0 of 2 3FG, 2 of 4 FT in 39 minutes
Wisconsin aimed to take away Demps, sticking Zak Showalter on him for the entirety of the game and it worked. But instead of forcing the issue on offense, Demps stepped back and allowed the offense to flow, even if not through him. He seemed much more comfortable as the second or third option against Wisconsin, fully accepting his role due to McIntosh's emergence. His shooting numbers weren't great, but he didn't take as many poor shots as he has in recent games. Obviously, Demps is a funk right now, but over the past two games he's playing smarter and more relaxed, a very positive sign for Northwestern.
Aaron Falzon - B
9 points and 5 rebounds on 2 of 6 FG, 1 of 4 3FG, 4 of 4 FT in 28 minutes
Falzon's presence in this game had a lot to do with his performance against Minnesota. By that, I mean that his reputation based on outstanding shooting performances forces defenses to account for him even when he's not making shots. Falzon was just 1 of 4 from deep, but didn't get clean looks consistently. He played within himself, though, and still found a way to contribute 9 points.
Sanjay Lumpkin - A
9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover on 2 of 2 FG, 1 of 1 3FG, 4 of 6 FT in 27 minutes
Lumpkin often found himself matched up with Hayes on the defensive end and he forced the All-Big Ten player into tough, midrange shots consistently. While Hayes knocked down most of them, that's due more to his individual ability as a star player, rather than Lumpkin's defense. Offensively, Lumpkin was really solid. He attacked the rim and got to the free throw line and also hit a wide open three. It was a nice bounce-back game for the junior, as he had struggled coming into the contest.
Joey van Zegeren - A-
5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 block and 5 fouls on 2 of 3 5 FG, 1 of 2 FT in 23 minutes
Van Zegeren continued his strong play during Big Ten season. While Dererk Pardon has been getting the headlines, van Zegeren has, in my estimation, been better of late. He asserted his physical dominance on the game, altering shots at the rim and also being a presence on rolls to the hoop on offense. He did struggle with Happ's mobility around the rim, but otherwise shutdown the paint for players like Koenig and Hayes.
Dererk Pardon - B+
6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 fouls on 1 of 1 FG, 4 of 8 FT in 16 minutes
There was a stretch in the second half of the game when Pardon got to the line on seemingly every possession. But he just couldn't finish around the rim and hit free throws consistently. Pardon, again, was a presence under the rim, but was unable to finish through contact.
Scottie Lindsey - C-
0 points, 1 rebound and 1 turnover on 0 of 1 FG in 12 minutes
A quiet game from Lindsey. Northwestern will need him to contribute off the bench as a scorer as Big Ten play continues. I'd like to see Collins use Lindsey like he uses Falzon, running him off screens on the perimeter for open looks.
Gavin Skelly - B+
5 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal on 2 of 3 FG, 0 of 1 3FG in 11 minutes
After breaking his face (more accurately his nose) against Minnesota, the mask is here to stay for Skelly. In the first half, Skelly's energy changed the game, as it often does. And the mask fits his playing style well. Skelly thrives on putbacks and on fastbreaks. Collins also played him in the final minutes, showing that he is putting more trust in the sophomore forward, and Skelly took a huge charge.
Nathan Taphorn and Jordan Ash played 3 and 4 minutes, respectively.