by Sam Brief
Bryant McIntosh caught the inbounds in front of the scorers table, spun, took two dribbles and let it fly from halfcourt. The ball took a painful ride around the rim and bounced out. Gavin Skelly put his hands in his head, stunned.
McIntosh’s last-second miss came on the heels of an 8-0 Indiana run to close out Saturday’s matinee, a 63-62 loss for Northwestern (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten) against the Hoosiers (16-13, 6-10).
The first half of this back-and-forth contest epitomized the maxim “basketball is a game of runs” — and amplified it to the max. Northwestern led 15-14 at the 10:12 mark of the first half, before an 11-0 run put the Wildcats on top, 26-14. After a few rusty games, Scottie Lindsey announced his return to form with nine first-half points—including a three and two breakaway dunks. Vic Law also threw this beauty of an alley-oop to Skelly:
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 26, 2017
14 minutes in, Northwestern’s suffocating defense had the Hoosiers shooting a meager 28 percent—while forcing seven turnovers.
That didn’t last long. Because then, near-disaster struck for Northwestern. The Hoosiers pieced together a 22-0 run over the final 5:01 of the first half, capped off by Devonte Green nailing a roughly 70-foot heave at the halftime buzzer:
Over the dominating run, Indiana held the Wildcats scoreless for 5:30. The Hoosiers also finished the first half by hitting seven of their final eight shots, sending Assembly Hall into a frenzy with Indiana up 36-26.
“Hi, I’m first 15:00 Northwestern. And I have DirecTV”
“And I’m last 5:00 Northwestern. And I have cable” pic.twitter.com/b7cBmrO9W2
— WNUR Sports (@WNURSports) February 26, 2017
As had come to be expected with this game, Northwestern ignited another run, scoring 11 consecutive points over a four-minute span up until the 12:57 mark. Over the first 10:30 of the second half, the Wildcats were on a 23-6 run. McIntosh led the charge with eight points in the nine-minute span, and seven team fouls from the Hoosiers helped slow the game down and bring momentum back to Northwestern’s side in the form of a 49-42 lead with 9:57 left.
Flash forward to the 4:27 mark, after a few minutes of slow, ugly and foul-ridden basketball resulted in a 56-50 Northwestern lead. One McIntosh floater and one Thomas Bryant and-one later, and the score was 58-53 in favor of Northwestern. On the ensuing Northwestern possession, McIntosh, an Indiana native, banked in a three at the top of the key to put Northwestern ahead, 61-53, with 3:11 left. At the 1:33 mark, McIntosh hit a free throw (his 22nd point) to make it a 62-55 ballgame.
Then, more of the same. Robert Johnson hit a layup for Indiana. Following that, ames Blackmon, who was injured when Northwestern beat Indiana in January, nailed a three from the left wing to cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 62-60 with 38.6 seconds left.
After an Indiana timeout, McIntosh missed a floater. Blackmon grabbed the rebound, and with 2.6 seconds left, Bryant slammed down a dunk—plus a foul. He sunk the free throw—one that went off the back rim, then off the backboard, off the front rim and in—to put Indiana ahead, 63-62. On the ensuing Northwestern inbound, McIntosh barely missed a halfcourt heave at the buzzer, and the Wildcats lost by one—their fifth loss over the last seven games.
“Out of my hand, I thought it was in,” McIntosh said. “This one is tough to swallow.”
Indiana closed the game on an 8-0 run over the final 1:33. McIntosh finished with 22 points, while Pardon and Lindsey chipped in 12 and 13, respectively. Blackmon and Bryant led Indiana with 13 and 11 points. Indiana out-rebounded the Wildcats, 42-33, but committed 16 turnovers to Northwestern’s six.
Going forward, Northwestern returns home to take on Michigan and Purdue down the stretch, with their tournament hopes still up for grabs.
“Until they tell us our season’s over, you keep fighting,” head coach Chris Collins said. “We have a great opportunity in front of us.”