Northwestern rolls into quarterfinals of Big Ten tournament
WASHINGTON — As Northwestern scored basket after basket, guard Bryant McIntosh kept looking at the scoreboard and saw Rutgers was stuck on nine points.
“That was the one thing that stuck with me,” he said. “I didn’t really gather how much we were scoring on top of that.”
It was 31 consecutive points over a stretch of 10 ½ minutes as sixth-seeded Northwestern routed 14th-seeded Rutgers 83-61 Thursday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. Vic Law scored 10 of his 16 points during that 31-0 run that put the game out of reach early.
“We had to come out and throw the first punch,” said Law, who made five of his six shots but didn’t know it was a 31-0 run. “We had a lot of stuff going our way. A lot of stuff was rolling for us. But I think Rutgers might’ve been a little tired. When things were going well for us, they seemed to be missing open shots.”
Rutgers missed 14 shots in a row as Northwestern took over and made a major statement in moving on to the quarterfinals to face third-seeded and 25th-ranked Maryland. The NCAA Tournament-bound Wildcats (22-10) can only improve their seeding from here after taking care of business against the 14th-seeded Scarlet Knights (15-18).
Four players scored in double figures for Northwestern, which shot a season- and Big Ten Tournament-best 60 percent and proved something during that impressive run.
“It showed that we actually do have some firepower,” said McIntosh, who had 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting. “In the last couple months (people have) said that we really struggle to score, and that’s been true. To come out and do that, it gave everybody confidence but I also think it showed everyone that we are capable of scoring, as well.”
By the time of Sanjay Lumpkin’s dunk with 6:11 left in the first half, Northwestern led by 28 and had full control of the game. Nigel Johnson’s 3-pointer that ended the run drew a rousing cheer from Rutgers fans who were part of a sparse crowd in the final game of the night.
“Not the way I wanted to end it,” first-year coach Steve Pikiell said. “Certainly wasn’t the defensive team that we’ve been most of the year.”
Johnson led Rutgers with 21 points.
Rutgers: Even this loss can’t take the shine off incremental improvements under Pikiell. Rutgers had three Big Ten wins after one each in the previous two seasons under Eddie Jordan and won a game in the conference tournament for the first time, so things are looking up in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Northwestern: The future is now in Evanston, Illinois, as Northwestern looks to be in fine form with the first NCAA Tournament bid in school history coming up. But the Wildcats aren’t done at this tournament yet.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in the house to see son Charlie Hall play for alma mater Northwestern and drew cheers when she was shown on arena video boards. Hall entered the game in the final minutes and drew even bigger cheers when he grabbed two rebounds.
“Charlie is a guy that comes in every day, does his job,” McIntosh said. “When we get him in, we’d like to see if we can get him a shot.”
Louis-Dreyfus continued the celebrity cavalcade in D.C. after rapper and reality TV star Flavor Flav attended Thursday to see cousin Shep Garner help Penn State advance. With Flavor Flav gone, Penn State lost to Michigan State 78-51 on Thursday.