By: John Beers
Sometimes all it takes to end a losing streak is to play a team that is on an even bigger losing streak.
That’s exactly what Northwestern did Thursday night, getting back to their winning ways in emphatic fashion with a 82-58 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Wildcats were led by their backcourt of Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps, who combined for 43 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists while shooting 15-27 from the floor. For McIntosh, this is nothing new, as he has been the catalyst behind nearly every Northwestern win this season. However, for Demps, who finished with 23 points on 8-13 shooting, the game was perhaps his best of the season and gives him back-to-back standout performances in a season where the senior has struggled.
“It’s nice when we’re both clicking,” said McIntosh on the backcourt’s standout night. “It’s nice to finally have a night where we’re both clicking on all cylinders.”
“I have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff,” Demps said when asked about what has allowed him to turn around his play the last two games. “When you have that kind of support you don’t quit”
McIntosh came up big not just on the stat sheet, but in the record books, as an assist to Demps in the third quarter broke saw him break the Northwestern single season assist record.
“I knew [the record] was there, but I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself,” McIntosh said. “I’m just playing the game and taking what they give me”
Despite the standout performances by the dynamic duo in the backcourt, the game was anything but pretty. Northwestern seemed to have shaken their offense struggles from past games by opening up a 19-8 lead in the first six minutes of the first half, but then Northwestern went cold from the field, and Minnesota was able to claw their way back to within six.
Northwestern followed that with an 8-0 run before halftime, and the 14-point intermission deficit was the smallest the Golden Gophers would face for the remainder of the game.
McIntosh came out of the intermission looking to attack the basket, and the sophomore scored 12 of Northwestern’s first 17 points in the half, while going 4-4 from the field.
Demps followed up McIntosh’s scoring barrage with a hot stretch of his own, and a stretch of 7 straight points from the senior extended Northwestern’s lead to 27.
Minnesota struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Leading scorer Nate Mason shot 3-12 from the field, and the Gophers as a team shot just 33% on the game.
Overall, Northwestern just wanted to prove that the string of bad losses didn’t define the season, and they took a big step in doing so Thursday night
“We are not the team that lost to four straight ranked teams,” head coach Chris Collins said. “We’re the team that won 15 games… and tonight we wanted to come and get our 16th win”