It was a fourth consecutive close loss for Northwestern, punctuated by the emotions of Senior Night. Three members of Chris Collins’ first recruiting class played their final home game in a Wildcat uniform. Here are three takeaways from a sentimental night at Allstate Arena.
Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh wowed a home crowd one last time
Had Northwestern been able to pull out the win Thursday night, it would have been hard to imagine a better home finale for the senior class given the circumstances. Lindsey and McIntosh both put on vintage offensive performances, willing Northwestern’s offense to the precipice of victory.
When Wisconsin opened the game on fire from the field, Lindsey kept the Wildcats afloat with 15 first-half points. The senior showed off his prodigious scoring ability with a host of athletic finishes around the rim and pull-up jumpers going to his left.
Then, as the clock wound down, Lindsey scored seven of Northwestern’s final nine points to keep the Wildcats within striking distance. He tried to play the hero in the game’s final moments, missing a three with 20 seconds left and then turning the ball over to seal the outcome, but without his scoring earlier in the game, the score wouldn’t have been as close.
Barely able to lift his right arm about his shoulder, McIntosh wanted to take matters into his own hands.
“Adrenaline is an incredible thing, isn’t it,” McIntosh said after the game. “Everybody knows that I’ve missed the last two games and it’s not something I want to do, but I saw us struggling and it’s my senior night, I said I’m going to to give it a go and see if I can go out and help.”
And help he did.
Wincing in pain as he hoisted a first half jumper, the senior started the game slowly, missing three of his first four shots, but was able to get his teammates involved and finished the first half with nine points and four assists.
Never one to shy away from the paint, McIntosh dropped in an elbow jumper with 1:58 to go to cut the Badger lead to two. He finished with 18 points and six dimes, adding to his program-leading total. It wasn’t enough to drag the Wildcats to victory, and it wasn’t the Senior Night McIntosh envisioned, but he left the floor proud of his team.
“We just battled tonight and I thought it showed our character throughout the game with just how hard we played to stay in the game and try and find a way to win,” McIntosh said. “We came up short but I can be proud in the way my Senior Night ended, even in a loss, just with how hard we played.”
The bench couldn’t get anything going
Behind 14 points from Andy Van Vliet, Wisconsin’s bench outscored Northwestern’s bench 19-0. Part of the discrepancy can be explained by workload playing without Vic Law — Northwestern’s bench logged 31 minutes compared to 42 minutes from the Badgers, but the Wildcat role players struggled to create any offense. Aaron Falzon played 20 scoreless minutes, going 0 for 4 from three-point range including an ugly airball down the stretch. The redshirt sophomore has made one of his last thirteen three-point attempts. Isiah Brown missed his lone shot attempt.
Depth is thin for Northwestern, so any contributions off the bench are desperately needed. Thursday’s game belonged to McIntosh, Lindsey and Skelly, but if the Wildcats want to make a push in the Big Ten Tournament, they will need their role players to make an impact on the offensive end. It would help if Law, who has a nagging foot injury that flared up against Maryland, could return this season, which would allow Anthony Gaines to become a force off the bench again.
It’s not over yet
A five-game losing streak and a loss on Senior Night may have Wildcat fans hoping for the end of the season, but Northwestern still has something to play for.
Following the game, Lindsey and McIntosh both echoed the importance of the conference tournament coming up next week. The Wildcats have suffered four consecutive close losses and have to be hoping the cards will fall their way in one of their final few games.
For such a successful and competitive senior class, there’s a hunger for one more run.
Said McIntosh: “If we’re going to get beat, they’re gonna have to take our heart out.”