At long last, Northwestern won a close game.
The Wildcats pulled away late to take down Wake Forest by a score of 65-58 in a thrilling Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Bryant McIntosh led Northwestern with 23 points, 19 of which came in the second half, and Scottie Lindsey, Gavin Skelly and Sanjay Lumpkin all finished in double-digits as well.
John Collins paced the Demon Deacons with 12 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort.
McIntosh found his form and was simply too much for Wake Forest down the stretch. Showing off his full arsenal of moves, McIntosh was unbelievable in crunch time. He took over the game and refused to let Northwestern choke away another chance at an RPI top-100 victory.
The Wildcats were badly out-rebounded and missed far too many open looks, but ultimately did enough to come away with the win.
Lindsey was busy in the game’s opening minutes, in both good and bad ways. The junior opened the scoring for Northwestern with a three but also committed a pair of fouls in the first two minutes of the game and was promptly sent to the bench.
Wake Forest big man John Collins established himself early in this one. He went to work on Pardon down low multiple times in helping Wake Forest jump out to a 12-5 lead, looking like the much more polished and physical of the two starting post players.
Chris Collins sent in Skelly at the first media timeout, and he immediately energized the offense with a jumper and an assist. A 9-2 Wildcats run had knotted things at 14, but the Deacons responded with a 10-2 run of their own to retake a comfortable lead, setting the tone for a tightly-contested game of runs.
Surely enough, Northwestern came out of the under-eight timeout trailing 24-16 and rattled off a 10-0 run, punctuated by a Skelly three, to pull back in front. The teams traded buckets for the remainder of the first half, and Wake Forest entered the break with a narrow 31-30 lead.
Overall, it was a very sloppy first 20 minutes for both teams. The half featured 18 turnovers, 16 fouls and a lot of missed shots as neither team shot above 36 percent. Lindsey and Skelly led the Wildcats with eight and seven points, respectively, in the opening period.
John Collins led Wake Forest with eight points and four boards in the first half, but he was limited to just 12 minutes with a couple of fouls. He came out roaring in the second. Collins had four points and six(!) rebounds in the first five minutes after halftime, scoring easily on Pardon and hitting the offensive glass without much resistance. To make matters worse, Pardon picked up his fourth foul with almost 14 minutes remaining in the game.
Then, with Wake Forest once again threatening to pull away, Bryant McIntosh woke up. The Wildcats’ point guard, who had been struggling greatly in this young season, went on a personal 6-0 run to give Northwestern the lead. On three straight possessions, B-Mac got to the rim and converted a layup, and Welsh-Ryan Arena got progressively louder with each one until the place was absolutely rocking.
McIntosh didn’t stop there. Coming out of the under-eight timeout, he knocked down a three and set up Skelly for for a pair of free throws.
As the game wound down to its final minutes, the question once again became whether or not Northwestern could pull out a close win in crunch time. Chris Collins called timeout with 4:45 left and the game tied at 51.
The Wildcats’ head coach must’ve told McIntosh to keep going, because that’s exactly what he did. McIntosh scored Northwestern’s next 10 points—including a shot clock-beating corner three—as the Wildcats jumped out to a 61-55 lead and held on for dear life. Northwestern won, 65-58.
- Bryant McIntosh finally broke out of his shooting slump. After shooting 16.6 percent from the field against Notre Dame and 27.2 percent against Bryant, the junior point guard led Northwestern with 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting, his personal 6-0 run turned the game around early in the second half and he closed the game out for Northwestern on the offensive end with 10 consecutive points for Northwestern in the final minutes. He even got an MVP chant out of the crowd.
- Northwestern still lacks a true big man. Pardon, at 6-foot-8, was completely outmanned by the 6-foot-10 John Collins. Expect Northwestern’s frontcourt height deficiency to come into play even more once conference play starts.
- Northwestern finally proved it can win a close game. After the Wildcats failed to close out both Butler and Notre Dame, Northwestern finally won a game that they had to really fight for in the final minutes.