EVANSTON — At least this one was fun to watch.
Northwestern (12-15, 3-13) fell 69-64 to Wisconsin (19-8, 11-5) at home, pushing the Wildcats’ losing streak to eight. On a night when Welsh-Ryan Arena was as loud as it’s been all season and Northwestern held the lead in the game’s final minutes, the Wildcats couldn’t get the necessary stops to earn a win over the No. 22 team in the country.
Vic Law and Dererk Pardon, whose faces were printed on t-shirts handed out to students at the game, scored 45 of Northwestern’s 64 points (24 and 21, respectively), but no other Wildcats scored in double-figures. Wisconsin had four players score in double-figures, which proved to be just enough to get out of Evanston with a road win.
Northwestern’s offense looked better than it has in a while, but the Wildcats still shot just 41 percent from the field and 6-of-21 from three. The Wildcats only turned the ball over three times, but, against a good defensive team, they needed more jumpers to fall to earn the win.
The first half, like the entire game, was a back-and-forth affair — neither team led by more than 4 points at any point in the first 20 minutes.
D’Mitrik Trice got things started for the Badgers with several early jumpers, and Anthony Gaines was aggressive in the opening minutes. In a matchup pitting two teams in KenPom’s top 25 in defensive adjusted efficiency, both teams struggled to put sustain cohesive stretches.
Law had seven points in the first half, all coming on three consecutive possessions. The most efficient offense came through Dererk Pardon, though. Pardon scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 11 points in the first half against Ethan Happ.
Northwestern did a good job containing Happ in the first half, limiting him to just five points on 2-of-6 shooting. After halftime, however, Happ started doing Ethan Happ things. He added 9 points in the second half and helped the Badgers extend their lead to a at a critical juncture in the second half.
After halftime, the teams continued to trade buckets and mini-runs. The Wisconsin lead swelled to as much as 7, but Law caught fire to bring Northwestern back. Law poured 17 points in the second half (including 3-of-3 threes), and he made Welsh-Ryan Arena roar when he helped Northwestern take multiple leads down the stretch.
Northwestern had chances, but it couldn’t get over the hump or make a decisive run late in the game. Every time Northwestern strung together a few scores, Wisconsin had an answer. Brad Davison, who led Wisconsin with 16 points, was able to get to the rim on key possessions when Northwestern couldn’t afford to give up points.
Aaron Falzon had a look to tie the game in the closing seconds, but his off-balance attempt missed, and Wisconsin hit two free throws to seal the win.