CHICAGO - It was not supposed to be that stressful.
After racing out to a huge lead in the first half, Northwestern was outscored by 20 in the second, but managed to pull out a close 67-64 win against the Dayton Flyers Saturday night at the United Center.
The game started off slowly, as it took almost a full two minutes for either team to get any points on the board. Scottie Lindsey broke the drought with a three pointer and suddenly the floodgates opened for the Wildcats. Northwestern sprinted out to a quick 11-0 lead, forcing Dayton to call timeout just 3:39 into the game.
Out of the timeout, Dayton finally got on the board with a conventional three-point play in transition from Kendall Pollard, and then hit two free throws to cut the Northwestern lead to 11-5. The Wildcats answered with a monstrous alley-oop finish from Vic Law and the game was finally in full swing. The teams traded three pointers and at the under-12 timeout, Northwestern led 18-8.
The shots continued to fall for the Wildcats out of the timeout. Nate Taphorn, Sanjay Lumpkin, Law, McIntosh and Lindsey all scored on the next few possessions. On the other end, Dayton shot 14 percent from the field through the first 14 minutes. At the under-8 it was a blowout in the making, with Northwestern up 31-12.
Dayton’s shooting was in subzero territory. At one point, the Flyers did not score for over 9 minutes in the first half. Northwestern’s offense continued to chug along as Taphorn hit a corner three and Lumpkin hit another layup. The lack of Flyers’ offense allowed Northwestern to go on an extended 15-0 run and triple Dayton’s score at 36-12 with 2:36 left in the half.
Things didn’t get much better for the Flyers, but they did manage to end the scoring drought on a pair of Sam Miller free throws and a layup from Xeyrius Williams. Northwestern got a putback from Taphorn to take a commanding 40-17 lead into the break.
After a disastrous first half, Dayton came out hot in the second. The Flyers hit their first three shots, including a corner three from Sam Miller. The Wildcats answered with five straight points from Lumpkin, but the Flyers continued to hit from deep. At the under-16 timeout, Dayton was 4 of 6 from the field and had cut the Northwestern lead to 45-27.
Over the next five minutes, both teams traded turnovers and fouls. Just 11 points were scored. While the game became more ragged, the Dayton fans in attendance became more and more incensed with what they saw as poor refereeing.
Out of the timeout, Northwestern got a jumper from Isiah Brown and another three from Taphorn. However, Williams answered with back-to-back three-pointers for Dayton which forced Chris Collins to call a timeout. With 8:11 left in the game Northwestern only led by 14, 55-41.
The Flyers continued their scoring run, as Miller was fouled on a three point attempt but hit just one of his three free throws. A Scoochie Smith layup and two Darrell Davis free throws cut the Northwestern lead to nine with over six minutes left in the game.
The Flyers used a 13-0 run in just three minutes to get right back in the game, forcing a flurry turnovers with the full-court press and extending their half-court defense with traps and on and off-ball pressure. The Wildcats were very slow to get in their offense and got absolutely nothing going toward the basket.
Northwestern finally ended its four minute scoring drought with a free throw from Law, but Dayton quickly answered with a layup on the other end. Two more free throws from Brown brought the lead back to 10, but Dayton answered with a three to cut it to seven. It was as close as the Flyers had been since just two minutes into the game. A couple minutes later Smith did his best Reggie Miller impression, stealing an errant pass and hitting a three to cut Northwestern’s lead to 4. After leading by as much as 24, Dayton had nearly come all the way back.
McIntosh answered with a jumper to put Northwestern up 61-55, but a Pollard layup brought it to 61-57 with only 42 seconds left. Under road-like conditions, Brown hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it a 5 point game. On the next Dayton possession, Gavin Skelly fouled out and Smith hit one free throw to keep it a four point game. The two teams traded free throws to get to 64-60, and then Lindsey hit 1-of-2 to put the lead at five with 10 seconds left. Lumpkin fouled out on the next Dayton possession and Dayton managed to cut the lead to three.
Northwestern managed to get the inbound pass in and McIntosh went to the line with a chance to basically end the game. He hit both free throws and despite the stressful last few minutes, the Wildcats escaped with a 67-64 win.
- The story of the first half was Dayton’s non-existent offense. The Flyers shoot 48 percent on the season, but only hit four shots in the entire first half. That averages out to an impressive 14 percent from the field.
- The Flyers completely turned it around in the second half, shooting 52 percent from the field and winning the half by 20 points. This sudden improvement in shooting is what allowed them to get so close late in the game.
- Northwestern’s second half rivaled Dayton’s first half in terms of awfulness. The Wildcats shot 27 percent from the field and had a 9 minute field goal drought of their own.
- Northwestern absolutely collapsed in the second half going from up 24, to only winning by 3 points. Dayton actually hitting shots helped, but Northwestern only hit one field goal in the last 10 minutes of the game.
- Despite the game being in Chicago, the crowd was incredibly pro-Dayton. The entire far side of the stands was entirely covered in red, and the fans made their presence known early and often. The crowd booed the refs for most of the game, and when Dayton was mounting its comeback late, the United Center got very loud. The game may have been closer to Evanston, but it was a de facto road game for the Wildcats.
- Sanjay Lumpkin was an absolute beast on the glass for Northwestern. The senior forward had 11 rebounds in the first half, and finished the game with 14. He also managed to put up 14 points to complete the double-double.
- Nate Taphorn once again went off for the Wildcats off the bench. Taphorn only had 11 points on the day, but was 3-for-4 from deep and provided some much needed energy for Northwestern off the bench.