Northwestern picked up a thrilling 67-64 win Saturday against a solid Dayton team. The Wildcats fell apart somewhat in the second half but still did just enough to get a very important win. Here’s how the players did individually.
Nathan Taphorn: A+
12 minutes, 11 points (4-5 FG, 3-4 3PT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 fouls
In the purest basketball sense of the word, this man is an assassin. Insert him into a Northwestern offense that is screening heavily and moving the ball well, and he is guaranteed to knock down his open looks with mechanical efficiency. When the senior sniper plays within himself and can lean on the likes Vic Law and Sanjay Lumpkin to help him out defensively, there are few better in the Big Ten at performing his limited role. On Saturday night he did just that, going perfect from behind the line outside of an end-of-the-shot-clock heave, stepping up on the offensive glass to keep two possessions alive, and even contributing defensively by drawing a charge and altering a couple shots around the rim.
Sanjay Lumpkin: A
36 minutes, 14 points (5-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, 3-4 FT), 14 rebounds, 2 assists, fouled out
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Lumpkin’s performance Saturday — especially in the first half — had shades of Draymond Green to it. Along with Law, he wreaked absolute havoc on the Flyers offense with his ability to effectively switch onto positions one through five, protect the rim, and finish possessions on the glass. Offensively, he was once again alert, active, and efficient, and kept the Wildcats’ first half offensive machine humming with his screen-setting, off-the-ball movement, and vision from the high post. It cannot be debated that the 5th-year senior was the vital cog on both ends of the floor during the first half that carried Northwestern over the finish line, and only his uncharacteristic mental lapses on the defensive end down the stretch run of the second half keep him from receiving the highest of marks.
Isiah Brown: B+
20 minutes, 8 points (2-8 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-4 FT), 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 blocks, 1 steal
Although his 25 percent shooting slip and modest stat line may not suggest it, this game could turn out to be a pivotal game for the trajectory of Brown’s freshman year at Northwestern. When the carelessness of veterans Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh were causing the Wildcat offense to unravel in the middle of the second half, it was the heretofore wild and unpredictable Brown that Chris Collins turned to to help steady the ship, and he did just that. The rookie, who had struggled immensely with turnovers in previous games, navigated the troublesome Dayton press with seasoned ball-handling and decision making, and served as a calming influence to help get his team over the line. He contributed defensively as well throughout the course of the night, showing the discipline to stay in front of quick guards without fouling and the guts to step in and draw a couple of important charges in the paint. His only couple of out of control moments can be attributed largely to end-of-shot-clock situations, and overall this game will do wonders to improve both Collins’ trust in Brown and Brown’s comfort level in his role.
Vic Law: B-
34 minutes, 6 points (2-8 FG, 0-3 3PT, 2-6 FT), 9 rebounds, 1 block
Bad news? Law had one of his worst offensive games of the year. He couldn’t finish around the rack or through contact, his jump shot wasn’t falling, he was once again woeful from the free throw line, and his shot selection was not the best either.
Good News? He still had as big an impact on the game as any player wearing a black or white uniform. He showed that he is an elite Big Ten defender, guarding 20-point-per-game wing scorer Charles Cook and forcing him a 0-5 shooting performance to go along with two turnovers in the first half. He did this all while switching onto smaller guards and keeping them from penetrating into the lane, as well as altering shots and protecting the rim with astonishing effectiveness. He also showcased his prowess on the glass, hauling in 9 boards despite spending most of the game matched up on perimeter players.
Barret Benson: B-
14 minutes, 0 points (0-1 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 2 fouls
This was likely Benson’s best game in his young Wildcat career. Despite not really featuring in the offense, he played extended minutes during the dominant first half with Gavin Skelly in early foul trouble, and showed an ability to keep up with the pace of the game, provide a defensive presence around the rim, and stay vertical when challenging shots during this extended run. He still needs to work on his screen-setting and his awareness on both ends of the floor, but it was a solid performance for the freshman and was a concrete sign that he is taking advantage of Dererk Pardon’s absence.
Bryant McIntosh: C
36 minutes, 13 points (5-12 FG, 1-5 3PT, 2-2 FT), 5 assists, 8 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal
B-Mac started and ended the game impressively, but was a shell of what this team expects him to be from the middle of the first half to the final two minutes of the game. His early jump shot and playmaking set the Wildcats in motion for their first half barrage, but his slew of turnovers born out of carelessness and indecisiveness when faced with Dayton’s second-half pressure were in equal measure the catalyst for his team’s collapse. In the game’s most important stretch, however, he pulled himself together and did what a team leader is expected to do, taking on the burden of having the ball in his hands, hitting a clutch jumper, and sealing the win with his free throws.
Scottie Lindsey: C
30 minutes, 11 points (3-7 FG, 2-4 3PT, 3-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals
McIntosh’s classmate and backcourt mate had a similar night in many respects. He started out on fire with a couple of NBA-range threes to give the Wildcats an early 11-0 lead, and helped them build on it with his length and activity defensively. However, the near-capitulation of the second half was largely sparked by his three giveaways on three consecutive possessions on the floor, which saw Collins pull Lindsey in favor of the freshman Brown for the game’s most important stretch. He came back in late and hit 1 of 2 shots at the line to help the Wildcats seal the win, but overall it was an uncharacteristic night for a player who has so far taken on new responsibility as a veteran leader for the team this season.
Gavin Skelly: C-
18 minutes, 4 points (0-2 FG, 0-1 3PT, 4-6 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, fouled out
Saturday night proved that, despite all the positives that Skelly brings to the table, he is not capable of being a starting center. He lacked presence on the glass, could not protect the rim without fouling, and could not bang with bigger bodies in the post despite Dayton’s lack of real size. This team needs Pardon back, badly.
Jordan Ash: N/A
1 minute, 0 points (0-0 FG), 0 assists, 0 rebounds
The Chicago native did not see action until the Wildcats’ final few defensive possessions and did not manage to make a dent in the box score, but his involvement in the final exchanges does show the level of trust that Collins has in the sophomore guard as a smart and scrappy perimeter defender going forward.