Northwestern nips DePaul 62-60 as Scottie Lindsey, Max Strus go off

It was stranger than a purple Demon or a blue ’Cat. It was entertaining as all get-out. And it — Northwestern 62, DePaul 60 at the natty new Wintrust Arena — was needed. The more the college teams in and around Chicago play one another, the better. Don’t we all agree on that?

Many who witnessed Saturday’s tussle will simply remember it as the battle of Wildcats guard Scottie Lindsey vs. Blue Demons guard Max Strus. On an afternoon when no other player on either team scored in double figures, Lindsay made seven three-pointers — the last one from beyond 25 feet for a 62-57 lead with under a minute to play — and finished with 25 points. Strus was even better, pouring in 33, the most by a DePaul player in five seasons.

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“My team needed me to hit shots and close the game,” Lindsey said, “so that’s what I did.”

DePaul’s Max Strus goes up for a shot in front on Northwestern’s Scottie Lindsey (20) on Saturday. | Steve Woltmann/DePaul Athletics

Not without an extraordinary fight from Strus, who — unlike Lindsey, a returning all-Big Ten standout — clawed his way to DePaul with two stellar seasons in the Division II ranks.

Shortly after drilling a three that gave the Blue Demons (6-5) a 36-28 lead, their largest of the game, Strus dove for a loose ball on the baseline, slid on his chest and bashed his forehead into a press table. A three off a beautiful shot fake answered a run by the Wildcats (8-4) and brought DePaul to within one at 55-54. After Lindsey’s late, long three, Strus drew a foul on his own deep attempt and sank three free throws to give his team a chance. He didn’t touch the ball on DePaul’s final possession, which ended with an Eli Cain miss as the buzzer sounded.

“This one hurts,” Strus said. “I don’t really care about the points or anything like that. I just wanted to win.”

It was a rough day for pretty much everyone else, no one more so than Wildcats forward Vic Law, who left the game in the opening minute of the second half with what coach Chris Collins called a “head injury.” Law, who was on his feet after the game, also missed several minutes of the first half while experiencing stomach problems.

Meanwhile, teammate Bryant McIntosh put on his own sick shooting performance: 2-for-17 from the field. The teams combined for a unsightly 24 turnovers in the first half. The Wildcats were whistled for a whopping total of 25 fouls. And strangest of all: The Blue Demons’ horrendous 9-for-24 performance from the foul line.

“It doesn’t mean we’d have won the game if we hit 75 percent,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.

Correction: Of course it does.

Nevertheless, it’s good to see DePaul and Northwestern smack in the middle of a five-year series between the schools. DePaul played Illinois earlier this season for the first time in 60 years. How does that make any sense? Or take Loyola, which hasn’t gotten to play Northwestern in more than 20 years and has faced Illinois only once since the late 1980s. No, we ought to see these schools — UIC and Notre Dame, too, and throw in anyone else you want to — going head-to-head more often than that.

Consider Philadelphia’s Big 5 round-robin tradition. Villanova, Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph’s and Penn each play the other four every season, without fail. Winning the “championship” among them is of huge importance. The rivalries are as intense as any you’ll find — Villanova-St. Joe’s is known as the Holy War — and certainly have more juice than our local “rivalries.”

Saturday in the South Loop was a pretty good example of the sort of local flavor we ought to get to sample a lot more often.

“I think it’s a game that should be played,” Collins said. “It’s a great December game on a Saturday afternoon like this.”

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com