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Northwestern pulls out low-scoring 60-52 affair at Wisconsin

The Northwestern bench didn’t score a field goal in the game, but the Wildcats won.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was technically a basketball game.

Northwestern (14-10, 5-6 B1G) traveled to Madison and beat the Wisconsin Badgers (10-14, 3-8 B1G) in a turnover-plagued game. Northwestern went up 18-1 to start the game and was able to hang onto its lead, even through an abysmal second half of basketball from both teams.

Dererk Pardon was perfect from the field, making all eight of his shots for 17 points and adding 3 blocks on the other end. Scottie Lindsey chipped in 14 points and Bryant McIntosh added 10 for the Wildcats, who got just 2 points from their bench.

The small and quiet crowd at the Kohl Center was subdued from the tip, probably because Wisconsin is 10-13 and a bad basketball team. Entire upper deck sections were empty, and seats throughout the lower bowl were left unoccupied. Then the game started. Gavin Skelly hit a contested three to open the game and the Wildcats started the game on a 7-0 run. Northwestern applied a lot of ball pressure and routinely doubled Ethan Happ in its matchup zone defense, and forced two turnovers to start the game. Soon that number doubled as Wisconsin committed four turnovers in first four minutes, while only attempting one field goal attempt in that time span. Meanwhile, Northwestern couldn’t miss, going up 18-1 after just 5:30 of play.

With the score at 18-1, the Badger faithful sarcastically cheered after a pedestrian defensive rebound. But Davison hit a three on the ensuing offensive possession and the Kohl Center exploded, and it was hard to tell whether this second round of applause was sarcastic or not. The Badgers used the momentum to go on a 10-0 run of their own. Both teams traded punches in the first half, but Northwestern managed to survive with a 37-26 lead at the break.

The start of the second half was not pretty. Northwestern turned the ball over to start the second half, although the “turnover” committed by Gavin Skelly looked more like a foul. Then a strange sequence ensued; a Scottie Lindsey kicked ball went about 70 feet in the air before landing in the tenth row. After the Badgers got the ball back Ethan Happ called a timeout while falling out of bounds. Then we got some good ol’ ugly Big Ten college basketball. Coming out of the prayer of a timeout, both teams turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions. There were audible grunts from the fans as well as press row. It was 35-26 with 2:47 in the first half. It was 37-28 until Gavin Skelly broke the drought with a free throw at the 16:33 mark of the second half.

Derek Pardon was basically the only guy who played well after halftime. The left handed hook shot was falling, and he was dominating Preseason All-Big Ten teamer Ethan Happ. Pardon held Happ to 4-of-11 shooting despite all of his looks coming in the paint. Aaron Falzon’s free throws with 5:41 left in the game were Northwestern’s first bench points.

Northwestern had one assist and eight turnovers in the second half, but still managed to eke out a 60-52 win. Wisconsin pulled to within six, but their earlier offensive ineptitude made it a non-issue. Long story short, the Wildcats will need to play much better if they want to get revenge against Michigan at Allstate Arena on Tuesday night. Pardon saved the night, but this was less than an inspiring effort overall.