In a high-octane shootout at a lively Allstate Arena, Northwestern (2-1) was handed their first loss of the season at the hands of Creighton (3-0), 92-88. Defensive issues that have plagued the Wildcats since the beginning of the season finally came back to bite them, wasting a 30-point performance from Vic Law.
From the tip, Creighton stepped on the gas, looking one step ahead of the Wildcats. Freshman TyShon Alexander paced the Blue Jays, scoring 14 points to go along with three rebounds and a pair of assists.
“The story of the game was really in the first half,” said coach Chris Collins. “We had a number of [defensive] breakdowns and we didn’t communicate that well . . . They push it. They had us on our heels. You don’t see that style a lot.”
For Northwestern, the offense was never a problem. They came out with a barrage of 3-point attempts from Gavin Skelly (14 points, six rebounds), Bryant McIntosh (24 points, nine assists) and Scottie Lindsey (10 points, three rebounds). The Wildcats were playing catch-up the entire half, however, in no small part due to their poor free throw shooting. For the second time in three games, NU struggled from the line, going 12-19 compared to Creighton’s 14-16. At the half the Blue Jays led 51-43.
Coming out of the break, McIntosh and Vic Law (30 points, five rebounds) single-handedly got Northwestern back in the game. McIntosh started things off with an assist to Skelly and a jumper on the next possession. Then Law took over. With Dererk Pardon and Lindsey in foul trouble, Lawtook the reins of the offense and hit a 3-pointer and made a layup before converting a 4-point play that put Northwestern up 56-55, getting Allstate louder than it has been all year.
“They were terrific,” Collins said of McIntosh and Law. “I was proud of them. They made big shots, they made big plays, and that’s what you expect.”
Defensive lapses resulting in easy baskets enabled Creighton to quickly regain a lead that they would keep. The Blue Jays outscored NU 48-26 in the paint and had far more contributions from their bench, which outscored Northwestern’s by a shocking 33-4.
“Offense comes and goes. We need to be locked in as a unit defensively,” said Law. “As a defensive minded player I think we need to do a better job.”
Down the stretch, Allstate was as loud as a half-empty arena can be as Northwestern tried to fight back. After a free throw put Creighton up 88-82, Lindsey hit a big three and Law blocked a Davion Mintz shot on the other end. However, upon further review, possession was given to the Blue Jays and they capitalized, scoring to go up 90-85. A clutch Skelly three-pointer gave Northwestern life, but after escaping a full court press Creighton hit both free throws to seal the game.
“It was a really good basketball game. Fun to watch for the fans, but unfortunately didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” said McIntosh. “Now we’re trying to go to Connecticut and win a championship.”
The Hall of Fame Tipoff begins with a 2:30 game against La Salle on Saturday.