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Scottie Lindsey finds his shot, fuels second half comeback in Northwestern’s win over Illinois

The senior snapped an 0 for 13 slump in a big way after halftime.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

ROSEMONT, IL — Scottie Lindsey lined up and buried a corner three early in the second half to give Northwestern its first lead in nearly 20 minutes. For the second-leading scorer on the team, that shot meant much more than a one-point advantage.

That’s because on Tuesday evening in Atlanta, Lindsey had the worst game of his three-plus-year career. He failed to score a point for the first time since his sophomore season. He shot 0-of-8 from the field and turned the ball over twice. He watched from the bench as a miscommunication in the game’s waning seconds handed Northwestern its third loss of this young season. That’s where he sat for tip-off on Saturday night at the behest of Chris Collins.

“I knew my team needed me to bounce back from last game,” Lindsey said. “I’ve been playing basketball for most of my life and obsessing, watching film, so I knew I played a really bad game. That was just motivation for us to come out and play.”

Resilience is a character trait that Collins’ team needs to display in the coming weeks as it seeks to overcome an underwhelming start. Lindsey embodied resilience on Friday night, fueling the Wildcats with 10 second half points and adding 5 more in the overtime period. Akin to a golfer finding his swing on the back nine, Lindsey began the game mired in a 0-for-5 shooting slump, extending his field goal drought to his last 13 attempts. The senior hit 5-of-11 in the second half and paced both teams with a game-high 22 points.

“First, I was trying to get a rhythm,” Lindsey said. “I don’t think I really had it, I was trying to get in the flow of the game. In the second half I was able to find my shots early and it got me going.”

Lindsey, a native of Hillside, Ill. and a product of Fenwick High School, missed last year’s first loss to Illinois due to sickness. He played in the second loss, however, going 1-of-11 from the field with just two points. Dubbed a “must-win game” and “a program game” by Lindsey, Friday’s victory over Northwestern’s in-state rival was particularly sweet for the senior.

Chris Collins noted he was not benching Lindsey by not giving him the start but rather rewarding the five players that clawed their way back into the game against Georgia Tech.

“I was really proud of Scottie,” Collins said. “Everyone knows he had a tough night the other night in Atlanta. Proud the way he responded.”

“He still played 39 minutes. Like I told the team afterwards, it really boosts your bench scoring when you bring Lindsey off the bench.”

Friday evening’s game was far from pretty; the two teams combined for 38 turnovers and 51 fouls in 45 minutes of game action. Just 21 of the 45 field goals were assisted. Northwestern turned the ball over on its final four possessions of regulation. Illinois did its best to match the home team, turning it over on its final two possessions.

At the end of the season, the tension between process and results will be forgotten. What matters is that on Dec. 1, Northwestern was essentially faced with a must-win game. The players knew this. So did Collins. The team could not afford another loss, especially not to a team ranked No. 106 by KenPom that figures to dwell near the cellar of the conference. It got its win.

Northwestern can mitigate its uninspiring non-conference performance with a 2-0 start to Big Ten play. If Lindsey can carry his hot shooting over state lines, his team will have a real chance on Sunday at Purdue.

“We have experience, we’ve been here before,” Lindsey said after Friday’s overtime contest.

And if Lindsey’s shot isn’t falling on Sunday, the senior won’t panic. He’s been there before too.