Scottie Lindsey, like he so often does, lined up and splashed a pull-up three from the right wing with 3:14 remaining to put Northwestern up 71-68. Order had been restored.
The senior paced the Wildcats with a game-high 26 points and also added a team-high nine rebounds.
The No. 19 team in the nation looked the part in the first half on Friday night, but struggled throughout the second, making the game a lot closer than the lofty double-digit Vegas spread predicted.
Northwestern used a 16-0 run in the first half and Lindsey’s timely shooting in the second to escape its season opener 79-75 over Loyola (Md.).
Neither Chicago’s first snowfall of the year or the sheet of ice sitting beneath the hardwood at Allstate Arena was enough to cool off Northwestern’s shooting stroke in the first. Lindsey poured in 14 first half points and Dererk Pardon, Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh each contributed six to give the Wildcats a 37-24 lead after 20 minutes.
With redshirt sophomore Aaron Falzon in street clothes due to a tweaked hip flexor, Collins went with active big man Gavin Skelly as the team’s fifth starter. Skelly picked up four fouls before the 16-minute timeout in the second half, but he rewarded Collins with a crucial steal and assist down the stretch to preserve the win.
Law was able to lock down preseason first-team All-Patriot League point guard Andre Walker, holding the talented senior to 3-of-10 from the field for just eight points. But it was Law’s offense, namely a thunderous tomahawk dunk late in the first, that brought the far-from-capacity crowd to its feet.
McIntosh, a preseason first-team All-Big Ten honoree himself, opened the scoring in the second half with consecutive floaters on Northwestern’s first two possessions. He would finish the game with 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four turnovers.
The pesky Greyhounds took a 66-65 lead with 4:15 remaining in the game, and both teams entered the bonus in less than nine minutes of whistle-happy second half action. Sophomore Andrew Kostecka’s 16 second half points led the charge for Loyola. It was the guard’s third three of the game that first cut Northwestern’s lead to two as a restless crowd looked on.
As Northwestern struggled to get stops down the stretch, Lindsey took over offensively. Boosted by consecutive threes, the senior went on a 7-0 run that put the Wildcats up 74-70.
Loyola’s heroic comeback efforts came up just short when they coughed the ball up facing a two-point deficit with 16 seconds remaining. McIntosh calmly buried his free-throws, and the crowd - which had gotten its money’s worth - let out a collective sigh of relief.
The Greyhounds out-rebounded Northwestern 32 to 29, and the visitors also had an 18 to 15 edge turnovers. The two teams combined for a whopping 55 fouls. But the biggest discrepancy was on the defensive end, however, where Northwestern dominated with 12 blocks. Pardon and Law each had three.
It wasn’t the easy non-conference win that we expected, but the Wildcats managed to beat Loyola (Md.) on Friday evening. At the end of the season, that’s what will matter.
Northwestern returns to Rosemont, Ill. on Monday, Nov. 13, to host Saint Peter’s.