After a first half in which Northwestern shot 52 percent from the field and knocked down five threes, the Wildcats (12-4, 1-2 Big Ten) missed all but one of their 15 second-half long range attempts and lost 70-66 to a talented Minnesota team (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Both teams started out scorching hot, combining to go 13 of their first 15 shots. The only miss, by Minnesota, was a block by Scottie Lindsey. With Lindsey getting it going in the midrange and Vic Law knocking down two early triples, the Wildcats and the Gophers were knotted at 16 at the under-16 timeout. Law gave his team its first lead with a free throw to complete a conventional three-point play, giving him nine points in the first five and a half minutes.
Out of the media timeout, Collins introduced both Gavin Skelly and Jordan Ash off the bench. Ash had taken a back seat to Isiah Brown as the primary backup ball-handler, but the sophomore, known primarily for his defense, promptly knocked down a three on his first possession. The Wildcats also extended their At the under-12, Collins, up 22-20, inserted Brown into the game for the first time. But Brown turned the ball over and quickly gave way to Law. The visitors took a 24-22 lead the under-12 timeout, though while Northwestern went scoreless for 3:20.
The Wildcats reeled off six points when Minnesota fouled both Bryant McIntosh and Law shooting threes and both players converted at the line, but the field goal draught stretched on, reaching over eight minutes. With 4:08 left, Nathan Taphorn drained an open three to end an 0-of-6 stretch that also featured four turnovers. After McIntosh connected on a short jumper on the next possession, Minnesota called timeout down 33-31.
The two teams traded buckets down the stretch before a crafty scoop layup from McIntosh gave the hosts a 39-35 lead at the end of a thoroughly entertaining half that featured both teams shooting over 50 percent of the field.
Dererk Pardon started the second half strong, sandwiching an 18-footer and a post move lay-up around a Minnesota free throw to extend the lead to 43-36 at the under-16. He then added a right-handed hook to make it 45-40 a few minutes later.
Then came the bang. After a fantastic steal from Jordan Ash, Scottie Lindsey scooped up the loose ball and slammed home a thunderous dunk, bringing the Welsh-Ryan crowd and its overfilled student section to an uproar. Richard Pitino was forced to take a timeout with his team down 47-40.
But the Gophers wouldn’t go away, knocking down two three-pointers to cut the deficit to one and force a timeout from his coaching counterpart. The Gophers then scored on back-to-back fast breaks to give them a 50-47 lead after a 10-0 run. At the under-eight timeout, the visitors led 54-51.
Michael Hurt canned a three and Reggie Lynch, who bullied his way to 12 points and eight rebounds, got an easy finish on a broken play to answer a Lindsey jumper, making it 59-53. A layup from Gavin Skelly and a huge putback dunk from Pardon around a Jordan Murphy free throw made it 60-57 and Pitino called timeout again.
Despite multiple good looks, the Wildcats just could not csh in from deep to tie the game up. After Amir Coffey made an alert play to get a layup, his teem led 62-57. Northwestern desperately fouled to get back in the game and cut it to 66-64 with 13.2 left after McIntosh’s three found the bottom of the net. It was the first three of the half. But it proved to be too little too late as Mason continued to drill free throws and Gavin Skelly’s thunderous dunk with four seconds left was too little too late.
- The free throw line was very kind to the Wildcats, who converted 12 of 13 while Minnesota was just 14 of 22, including multiple misses on front ends of one-and-ones. But Mason made them when they counted most, knocking down all eight of his free throws in the final minutes.
- Northwestern has to find ways to manufacture points when the three isn’t falling. Yes, this team is constructed to knock down a lot of long-range shots, but that doesn’t mean it should be the only way the Wildcats can score. Too often, the team gets to late-clock situations and has to resort to a high screen one-on-one.
- Pardon really helped in his return, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds in 32 minutes. Collins used a bevy of lineups in the game, and it will be interesting to see what combinations he uses going forward.
- This one really hurts.