Northwestern (3-1) blew out the No. 22 ranked Texas Longhorns (3-1) 77-58 in the opening round of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn on Monday night, successfully bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss at Butler last Wednesday.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 11-0 advantage and never looked back, leading for all but one minute of the game, including the entire second half in a thoroughly dominating performance against a favored opponent. They also made their mark on the defensive end, forcing the Longhorns into 14 turnovers and 37 percent shooting from the floor.
Shooting guard Scottie Lindsey had a great night for the Wildcats, scoring 16 points and pacing Northwestern to a huge second half lead that Shaka Smart’s Texas squad could not overcome. Bryant McIntosh was masterful from the point guard spot, adding a game-high 20 points that were complimented by great performances off the bench from Gavin Skelly and Nate Taphorn. Dererk Pardon was also immense down low, protecting the rim and dominating the glass against the Longhorns’ plethora of talented bigs, finishing with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Heading into the game, the narrative centered around whether Northwestern could break the press against Shaka Smart’s patented ‘Havoc’ defense. Out of the gates, however, it was the Wildcats who wreaked their own havoc on Texas’ offense. The Longhorns turned the ball over on five of their first six possessions of the game. Northwestern capitalized on this sloppiness at the other end, with Lindsey and Vic Law both getting to the rim twice to open up an 8-0 lead for the Wildcats after less than three first half minutes.
After a disgusted Smart called a timeout, Lindsey kept the momentum with Northwestern by hitting a walk-up three pointer out of the timeout to give him seven early points and stretch the lead to 11.
Texas guard Tevin Mack finally got his team on the board after 4 minutes had elapsed with a three. Unfortunately, it was the Longhorns’ second shot attempt of the game. From the beginning, the Longhorns looked completely inept from the half-court against Northwestern.
Meanwhile, two terrific feeds from Skelly and McIntosh set up easy finishes for Pardon and Barrett Benson respectively, as Northwestern re-established its double-digit lead playing with two bigs on the floor to match up with Texas’ size. The Wildcats led 15-5 near the 12-minute mark of the first half, and had held Texas to just one field goal in that time period, while shooting over 50% themselves.
But the Longhorns fought back using their familiar brand of defense. They forced four Wildcat turnovers, and capitalized on them by going on a 10-2 run to bring the game back to a 17-15 contest with 9:20 to play in the first. The run was sparked by electric point guard Kerwin Roach, who converted two and-one layups in the paint.
A McIntosh three-pointer put the Wildcats up five, only for successive threes from Mack, Roach, and Eric Davis help the Longhorns surge to their first lead of the game at 23-22 with six minutes to play in the half. But the Wildcats responded quickly after blowing the early lead. The counterpunch, led by Scottie Lindsey, put the Wildcats up 28-26.
Taphorn, who provided 11 valuable minutes off the bench in the first period as Law struggled with foul trouble, hit a huge three from the wing after a Skelly offensive rebound to stretch the Wildcat lead to five. The Wildcat defense then locked in down the stretch of the first half, forcing three turnovers and holding Texas scoreless for the final 3:50 of the half. Lindsey’s second three of the half on the final possession of the half sent his team to the locker room holding a commanding eight point advantage.
The Longhorns were awful in the first half with 10 turnovers, 36 percent shooting from the floor, and a 33 percent free-throw percentage. Northwestern was only marginally better and allowed seven first half turnovers of its own, but found its advantage on the glass with 6 offensive rebounds and a plus-7 margin on the glass. Foul trouble kept Vic Law off the court, but Taphorn and Skelly were extremely effective for the Wildcats in heavy minutes off the bench. Lindsey was their offensive driving force with 13 first half points on 5 of 11 shooting.
The second half started with McIntosh hitting a crafty layup in the lane to push his scoring total and the Northwestern lead to 10. However, the Wildcats were dealt a blow just a minute later when Law quickly picked up his third foul of the contest and was subbed out for Taphorn.
Not even the absence of Law could stop the Wildcats’ momentum though, and it was left to the seldom utilized offensive game of Sanjay Lumpkin to bust the game open. The redshirt-senior and team captain hit a corner three for his first points of the game. He then made a layup in transition before finding Lindsey on a drive-and-kick for another three that stretch the Northwestern lead to a staggering 17 points 16:46 to play. Stretching back to the first half when the score was 26-25 in favor of the Longhorns, this capped an astonishing 19-1 Northwestern run.
It was the biggest lead of the game for Chris Collins’ team, and there would be no choke job. The Longhorns’ vaunted freshman Jarrett Allen managed to hit his team’s first field goal of the half with a little over 14 minutes left to play to cut the Wildcat lead to 14, but the Wildcats quickly pushed the margin back up to 16 and did not look back. Despite foul trouble for both Law and Skelly, Northwestern was able to cruise to the finish line.
As the game started to slip away from the talented young Longhorns, tempers began to flare. During a skirmish for a loose ball, this emotion came to a boil with Texas Freshman James Banks throwing an awkward punch at the Wildcats’ Isiah Brown, which led to Banks’ ejection for a Flagrant 2. The resulting technical free throws from McIntosh stretched the lead to 54-36. The sequence that all but sealed the game for Northwestern.
A three pointer in the corner from Brown, who had struggled throughout the contest to that point, stretched the Northwestern lead to 19 with under nine minutes to play, and an emphatic block from Pardon on the other end underscored the Wildcats’ second half dominance. Texas never really threatened to make a miraculous comeback as the Wildcats mopped up the game without any trouble.
As the final seconds ticked down, a jubilant Collins waved his arms towards the pro-Northwestern crowd at the Barclays Center, imploring them to give a curtain call to his players for a special performance.
The win means Northwestern advances to final of the Legends Classic tomorrow night against Mike Brey’s Notre Dame squad, which beat Colorado earlier in the night.