By: Roger Wu
When the second half started Monday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, Bryant McIntosh snapped back into all-Big Ten form.
The junior made all eight of his second-half field goal attempts and scored nineteen of his 23 points after intermission as Northwestern defeated Wake Forest 65-58 in a hard-fought ACC/Big Ten Challenge game that featured 13 lead changes.
McIntosh made as many field goals in Monday’s second half as he had in his previous five halves combined. He converted three consecutive layups at one point and concluded another string of five straight points with an off-balance and-one to give the Wildcats a 58-53 lead with 2:33 to go.
“I came off the ball screen and saw a lane that I could drive, so I just drove and got it up off the glass high enough, and I got the call.” Said McIntosh, “I always have confidence in the shots I take. It’s nice to finally see [the ball] go in.”
The Demon Deacons pulled within 3 points with 1:33 to go, but McIntosh delivered again. He hit a three pointer from the corner as the shock clock expired to seal the deal for the Wildcats, and nobody was surprised.
“That’s what he does. We know he can seize that moment, and it is great to see him play like that,” said senior Sanjay Lumpkin, who contributed ten points and seven rebounds, including an exclamation point dunk that accounted for the final margin.
“He was magnificent,” Wildcat coach Chris Collins said of his point guard. “He was unbelievable in the second half [when] we needed that.”
“No surprise. He’s a good player. Everybody knows that,” Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning said.
Manning’s Demon Deacons started the game strong, as John Collins’s layup gave Wake Forest an early 12 -5 lead, but the Wildcats quickly responded. A McIntosh jumper capped off an 11-2 run for Northwestern as the Wildcats took their first lead of the game, 16-14.
Wake Forest scored the next ten points, as Collins hit a tough turn-around jumper to give the Demon Deacons a 24-16 lead, but Vic Law’s jumper ended a 4:33 scoring drought for Northwestern and Gavin Skelly’s three-pointer from the top of the key punctuated a 10-0 Northwestern run and gave the Wildcats a 26-24 lead with 5:17 to go in the first half.
“They hit us early with the run [and] they got a lot of points from the free throw line. [But] we knew that we were right there and we needed to put a great second half together.” Said Lumpkin.
The Demon Deacons held a 31-30 halftime lead and led by as many as four in the second half, but McIntosh and the Wildcats battled back and held on for their first single-digit victory of the season.
“It feels great [to win in a close game]. We made those plays tonight, and that’s something we will continue to keep doing,” Lumpkin said.
The Wildcats are now 4-0 at home and 5-2 on the season, with both losses coming by single digits at the hands of ranked teams. Their next game is Saturday against DePaul at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Northwestern shot 6 for 26 from downtown tonight, their worst performance this season. The Wildcats entered the game as the leading three-point shooting team in Big Ten, but Vic Law went 1 for 6, Scottie Lindsey went 2 for 8, and the team struggled as whole from long distance. Three-point shooting has been a sharp weapon for the Wildcats this season, and it will be interesting to see how the team responds to tonight’s shooting slump.
Sanjay Lumpkin, the senior captain for the Wildcats, was huge on defense tonight. He had 3 steals, including an important strip down the stretch, and a block. Throughout the second half, he was guarding 6-foot-10 John Collins, arguably the best player on the Wake Forest team, and held him to only 4 points.
“Sanjay was magnificent tonight, in his own way,” Collins said.
“We had some key stops down the stretch. It was a good team effort tonight,” Lumpkin said.
McIntosh played his best game this season for the Wildcats, going 8 for 8 from the field in the second half. He kept making big plays down the stretch, including three consecutive layups and two timely three-pointers. While Law and Lindsey struggled behind the three-point line, McIntosh showed up as the ultimate leader of this team and guided the Wildcats to a big win.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to play so well,” McIntosh said. “When I am not playing [at the level] I think I’m capable of, it’s frustrating. I am really hard on myself. [But] I’m glad that I finally performed.”