EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern’s losing streak is up to five.
In what appeared to be an imitation of its dreadful home loss to Penn State, Northwestern fell to Rutgers (12-12, 5-9 Big Ten) after another brick-filled shooting performance offensively. Fans of missed open shots and sloppy turnovers — what is becoming the Welsh-Ryan special this season — got what they came for during Wednesday night’s battle between two of the Big Ten’s bottom-dwellers.
The Wildcats (12-12, 3-10) connected on 36 percent of their shots from the field and went just 7-of-23 for three-point range. A late offensive surge wasn’t enough for Northwestern to overcome a nearly six-and-a-half minute stretch in which the Cats failed to convert from the floor.
Despite shooting poorly from the field themselves (41 percent overall and under 19 percent from beyond the arc) and turning the ball over 16 times, the Scarlet Knights came up with a few key stops down the stretch after leaving the door open for the Wildcats.
Vic Law, who took and missed the team’s final two attempts, finished just 6-of-16 from the field. Picking up three fouls in the first half, Law was forced to take an extended seat on the bench. He drilled two threes down the stretch to keep Northwestern close but missed the potential go-ahead and then tying baskets in the game’s final minute.
Points came at a premium in the first half, and that wasn’t necessarily a product of quality defense from either the Wildcats or the Scarlet Knights. Both teams had plenty of open looks, and while Pardon and Taylor were able to get their first few to fall, there was a whole lot of the ball clanking off the rim.
Both sides were able to stay in the game as a result of the other’s dismal shooting. Rutgers was just 10-of-29 from the field in the first period of play and converted just 10 percent of its three-point attempts. Northwestern wasn’t much better, shooting just below 35 percent from the floor and making 1-of-8 attempts from beyond-the-arc.
Ten first-half turnovers for the Scarlet Knights and six for the Wildcats contributed to a sloppy first 20 minutes of action that ended tied at 22.
Shooting got better to start the second half, with Aaron Falzon and A.J. Turner connecting on multiple threes to help bring a little life back to the Wildcat offense. Rutgers answered the Northwestern mini-surge, however, canning a few threes of its own and relying on Geo Baker (and his elite speed) to get to the rim and make plays.
A 42-40 game in favor of the Scarlet Knights with 10 minutes left to play, both teams reverted back to their first-half shooting and ball-handling woes when the game slowed down. The Wildcats went over six minutes without hitting a shot from the field, allowing Rutgers to open up their largest lead of the night. After coughing the ball up a few more times, Baker hit his second contested step-back three to put the Scarlet Knights up nine with a little over five minutes to go.
From there, it was just a matter of Rutgers staving off a Northwestern run, and that’s exactly what happened. Northwestern cut the deficit to one thanks to the aforementioned Law threes, and Rutgers turned the ball over with 18.2 seconds left on a five-second call under its own basket, but Law couldn’t finish a layup that would’ve given NU a one-point lead. Rutgers then hit two free throws, and Law’s three clanked off the backboard as the clock ran out.
The Cats will look to break their conference cold streak on the road against Nebraska this Saturday.