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RAPID REACTION: Northwestern overcomes ugly first half to beat Houston Baptist 72-63

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It was a tale of two halves, but the Wildcats got the win.

NCAA Basketball: ACC/Big Ten Challenge-Wake Forest vs Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

EVANSTON - Vic Law and Sanjay Lumpkin combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds, and the Wildcats concluded their non-conference schedule with a 72-63 victory over Houston Baptist. After a discouraging first 20 minutes, Northwestern locked in and outscored the Huskies 47-28 in the second half.

The first half was a complete mess for the Wildcats, who trailed by as many as 12 points. Northwestern got throttled in all facets of the game, especially on the boards. The Huskies dominated inside, outscoring the Wildcats by 10 in the paint. They also took advantage of extra possessions, scoring 10 second-chance points. Overall, Northwestern were out-rebounded by 11 in the first 20 minutes.

Offensively, the Wildcats struggled to get going, shooting 26.7 percent in the first half. Northwestern’s top-three scorers per game—Scottie Lindsey, Law and Bryant McIntosh—combined to shoot 4-of-23 from the field in the first half.

The team also failed to take advantage of Houston Baptist’s mistakes. The Wildcats scored just five points off of the Huskies’ 10 turnovers in the first half. Northwestern trailed 35-25 at halftime.

McIntosh came out of the break a changed player, scoring five quick points to help trim the Huskies’ lead in half. With 12:50 to go, the Wildcats regained the lead 45-44 when Lumpkin came up with an offensive board to lay the ball in.

After getting crushed on the glass in the first half, Northwestern did some damage of their own in the second, accumulating 12 offensive boards and scoring 20 second-chance points in the second half.

With 3:22 to play, Law drove to the basket and completed a three-point play to extend the Wildcats’ lead to double-digits. From that point on, Northwestern protected the lead and held on for its eighth-straight win.

The Wildcats begin conference play against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Tuesday, December 27. The game is at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

Takeaways

  • Northwestern’s inability to consistently close out defensive possessions with a rebound is a glaring issue that needs to be addressed as conference play begins. In the first half, the team’s lack of strength down low is what caused them to fall behind. Dererk Pardon’s return will help the cause, but this is a problem that has plagued the team for the whole year thus far.
  • Isiah Brown had another solid outing off the bench, scoring 12 points. Chris Collins has mentioned that Brown needs to let the game come to him, and despite one silly turnover, it seems like Brown is starting to do just that. His decision-making has improved as the season has gone on, a good sign for the future.
  • After shooting just six free throws in the first half, Northwestern got to the line 21 times in the second half alone. Due to the Wildcats’ ugly shooting numbers from the field, it was imperative for the team to attack the basket and draw fouls. The team deserves credit for changing its mentality after the half, as it was crucial to the comeback.