Northwestern will play for a championship on Sunday after dispatching La Salle 82-74.
Senior Bryant McIntosh paced the Wildcats (3-1) with 21 points, while fellow senior Scottie Lindsey contributed 20 of his own. Junior Dererk Pardon also had 14 points and 7 rebounds for Northwestern in the first round of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
Redshirt sophomore Aaron Falzon made his season debut against the Explorers, making his first extended appearance for Northwestern since March 2016. He had 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting in 18 minutes of action off the bench.
The Explorers (3-1) never led during the contest, although they pushed the Wildcats in the second half, shooting 19 of 28 after the break. Senior B.J. Johnson, La Salle’s leading scorer on the season, had a team-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He was the Explorer’s only player to score in double figures.
Northwestern shot a scorching 62.1 percent shooting in the first half, including 6 of 10 from downtown. McIntosh came out aggressively, scoring 11 points and dishing four assists before the break. The Wildcats led 46-24 at halftime.
Northwestern held the Explorers scoreless for the final 3:11 of the first half, emulating the team’s stingy defense that helped them make the NCAA Tournament last season. However, the Explorers wouldn’t go quietly, initiating a 10-0 run early in the second half, trimming the Wildcats’ lead to 16. La Salle started the half a perfect 5 of 5 from the field, forcing head coach Chris Collins to call a quick timeout.
The Explorers were able to get the deficit to seven points with less than nine minutes left in the second half, but the damage done in the first half was too great for them to come all the way back. Northwestern’s offense continued to sing after the break, and the Wildcats finished shooting 12 of 21 from three-point range.
Northwestern will face a good Texas Tech team tomorrow with the chance to take home a trophy.