Northwestern (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten) overcame a brutal start on both ends, dominating the second half en route to a 69-60 win over Rutgers (11-7, 0-5 Big Ten). Vic Law (23 points, 8 rebounds and Scottie Lindsey (14 points, 7 rebounds) led the way for the second straight game.
The Wildcats missed their first five shots, falling into a quick 7-0 hole. To make matters worse, Vic Law, whose 18-footer finally put the visitors on the board, picked up his second foul at the 15:40 mark. The Wildcats wouldn’t hit their second field goal until 12:28 left, when Gavin Skelly knocked down a three from the top of the key. At the under-12 timeout, the Wildcats were just 2 of 12 from the field (1 of 5 from three) and had given up five offensive rebounds. Scarlet Knights forward Deshawn Freeman had eight rebounds at that point; Northwestern as a team had nine.
Isiah Brown was the spark off the bench Northwestern needed on the offensive end. The streaky freshman picked up 11 first-half points, including a couple of nifty finishes and a three-pointer. His second drive, resulting in a scoop layup, cut the Rutgers lead to 20-17. But on the next possession, he threw the ball away, leading to an easy dunk for Freeman, and Rutgers then restored its lead to seven on an Ibrahima Diallo layup. The hosts took a 24-17 lead into the under-4 break. The Wildcats chipped away and at the end of the half trailed just 28-25.
Here are some fun first half stats:
- Northwestern starters shot 3 of 22 from the field.
- Law, Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh shot 3 of 19.
- Rutgers as a team shot 9 of 31.
- Brown was the only double-digit scorer on either team.
- Brown (4 of 7) and Rutgers forward Jonathan Laurent (1 of 1) were the only players to shoot over 50 percent from the field.
- The teams combined to shoot 18 of 65 from the field. That’s 27.7 percent.
- The teams combined to shoot 2 of 17 from three. That’s 11.8 percent.
But then the second half started, and the Wildcat offense finally did, too. The visitors took a 33-32 lead after hitting four of their first five shots, forcing a timeout from Steve Pikiell. After a Scottie Lindsey turnaround extended the lead to three, Deshawn Freeman picked McIntosh’s pocket and converted the traditional three-point play to tie the game up at 35.
The Wildcats then went on a 11-4 run to take a 46-39 lead. With 8:46 left, the Scarlet Knights took a big blow when Freeman went down in considerable pain, grabbing at his rib cage. He would return a few minutes later, but Rutgers was unable to mount a sizable response.
The hosts hung around, though, cutting it back to three, but Law was fouled on a three and knocked down all three free throws to bring the lead back up to six and enter double digits with 11 points. He then got a steal and run out layup to make it 51-43 before Collins called a timeout.
The hosts wouldn’t get any closer as Dererk Pardon got a couple buckets, Law stuck a couple jumpers and even after some sloppiness down the stretch, the visitors were able to ice it at the free throw line.
- After getting dominated on the boards in the first half, the Wildcats were able to turn the tide in that area and ended up winning the rebounding battle 48-41. Though far from his best game offensively, Dererk Pardon was a huge presence, especially in the second half. He finished with 8 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 8 blocks.
- That was really ugly. But give NU credit for dominating the final 20 minutes.
- Isiah Brown went cold in the second half, but the importance of his first half cannot be understated. While his teammates mostly stood around and clanged jumpers, Brown was focused, attacked the rim when he could and stayed, for the most part, in control.
- Rutgers is bad.