With Northwestern struggling offensively in the first half, the Wildcats needed a leader to emerge. Both Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey were struggling finding their range, and despite the best efforts of Gavin Skelly and Sanjay Lumpkin, the Wildcats trailed heading into the locker room.
Bryant McIntosh, mired in a season-long shooting slump, was just 2 of 8 from the floor. The junior point guard looked sluggish and passive. Then, he attacked, playing his best half as a college player. The result: 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and one massive win for his team over a pesky Wake Forest Deamon Deacons squad.
From the outset of the game, McIntosh just wasn’t engaged. Northwestern’s first offensive possession made this clear:
When McIntosh doesn’t get the ball from Vic Law, he moves aimlessly around the court, setting a weak pick on Dererk Pardon’s man and drifting out to half court with fewer than 10 seconds on the shot clock. McIntosh then drives looking to pass and gets the ball poked away.
In that situation, with the shot clock winding down, he should’ve attacked the basket. This would’ve forced the defense to suck in, potentially opening up a good look from the perimeter. This sort of passiveness plagued McIntosh throughout the first half.
Watch as McIntosh is forced to take a difficult three late in the shot clock due to a lack of movement on offense:
Here, he holds the ball for 15 seconds, waiting for Scottie Lindsey to come off a screen. When this doesn’t create an open look, McIntosh drifts to the middle of the floor, before backing up towards half court. When he finally gets the ball back, he once again has fewer than 10 seconds to work with, resulting in a bad shot.
In this situation, McIntosh is at fault for a couple reasons. First, he should’ve seen that Lindsey was struggling to create space off the ball, ditched the play and improvised. Second, once he gave up the ball, he should’ve done anything other than what he did. Spacing out on the perimeter is just unacceptable, especially from a point guard.
Later in the half, McIntosh’s passiveness reared its ugly head once again:
Until the shot goes up, this play looks great. With two defenders struggling to keep up, McIntosh gets the ball with an open avenue to the rim. He starts to drive, only to pull up for a jump shot.
With the offense sputtering, McIntosh should’ve driven the ball and tried to draw a foul. He shot 2-of-8 in the first half, failing to get to the free throw line. Shooting a couple free throws might have gotten him in to a rhythm offensively; instead, he chose to settle.
It’s possible that his last two games, in which he shot 6-of-29, were in his head.
“I think I was a little passive in the first half,” McIntosh admitted after the game.
We think so too.
After coming back from a bloody lip, McIntosh was a very different player, aggressively attacking the basket but also getting there while under control. He was playing at a pace comfortable for him — quick, but never in a hurry nor out of control.
Here are several examples:
That attack mindset is on display on the play above. Instead of pulling up for a baseline jumper (as he did in the first half), McIntosh goes at Wake Forest freshman guard Brandon Childress. McIntosh gets to his spot on the block, and the 6-foot Childress is no match for the 6-foot-3 McIntosh, who finishes through contact.
On the very next possession, he’s on the attack in transition, losing Childress with a nasty crossover and then hanging in the air to finish. McIntosh recognizes the Demon Deacons’ poor transition and attacked, but he stays under control, too.
On this play, McIntosh uses change of speeds to get to the hole. He comes off Gavin Skelly’s screen not in full attack mode, but this is for a purpose. As soon as he creates some room and lulls Wake big man Greg McClinton (No. 11) to sleep for a split second, McIntosh accelerates by him for another finish at the rim.
It’s a play you’ll often see from NBA guards like Chris Paul. Once he has space, he analyzes the situation. In this case, McClinton expects McIntosh to circle back around or perhaps pass it out to the wing. Instead, the junior Wildcat blows by him the moment he becomes lackadaisical in his defensive stance.
Here’s that Skelly screen near mid-court again. This time, though, it’s Konstantinos Mitoglou helping, and he helps too hard. McIntosh splits a weak hedge with a crossover, easing past the slow-footed Greek. Then McIntosh has the tall task of trying to score on John Collins. Instead of going right at him, McIntosh again creates space with another crossover. Collins can’t follow him too far or else Sanjay Lumpkin, stationed under the basket, will have an easy layup. McIntosh’s ability to attack and create space created major issues for the Demon Deacons in the second half.
And then, for good measure, it was McIntosh — who else? — putting the cherry on top on one of the Wildcats’ best offensive possessions this season.
Cold streak broken.