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Gavin Skelly sparks Northwestern to win over Western Michigan

Finding Gavin Skelly’s name in a box score is a little like a futile game of “Where’s Waldo?” He doesn’t contribute much in the way of points, blocks, assists and even rebounds, despite his 6-8, 219-pound frame.

Watch a game, though, and Skelly is all over the floor. The Northwestern freshman doesn’t just make plays, he makes the plays. The kind known as game changers.

Skelly came off the bench and changed the dynamic of the Wildcats’ 67-61 victory over Western Michigan on Saturday in Evanston. His play was noted by coach Chris Collins, though Skelly only had six points and didn’t grab a rebound.

“I need to bring energy to this team, and that’s what I was kind of recruited for,” Skelly said. “If I do it well, I feel like we’ll win games like this. Last game I didn’t feel like I brought enough energy, and it brought us down.”

As a developing player, Skelly realizes he can affect games in ways that aren’t glorified. As a prep star, he was able to score at will. So coming off the bench as a role player is somewhat of an adjustment.

But he is finding his way. In fact, he drew what he said was his first charge with 6:43 left in the first half.

He was so proud that he made sure Collins noted it to reporters after the game.

“It’s a really good thing to take a charge,” Skelly said. “I feel like it really gets everyone going.”

Forward Sanjay Lumpkin was in foul trouble throughout the game, and center Alex Olah struggled defensively against an athletic group of Broncos big men.

So Collins decided to feature a heavy dose of Skelly, who played 14 minutes.

Skelly might be the Wildcats player with the most energy. He runs up and down the floor and plays the game almost like a shift in hockey, all-out all the time.

In the absence of Olah, reserve Nathan Taphorn contributed on the block. He scored 10 points and made both of his three-point tries

“The two post subs — Taphorn and Skelly — I thought those guys were terrific today,” Collins said. “Sanjay was in foul trouble the whole game.

“It just wasn’t about Tap making some shots. It was about the toughness he played with. He got some rebounds in traffic. And I thought Skelly was tremendous.”

Tre Demps led all scorers with 17 points, rebounding from a 4-for-17 shooting performance Wednesday in the loss to Central Michigan.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen