By Peter Elliott

Rosemont, Ill. — Chris Collins certainly had something to be thankful for on Friday night: a game in which he didn’t have to play his five starters until the final whistle.

Unlike some of their other early contests against low-level competition, the Northwestern Wildcats put away the Sacred Heart Pioneers with time to spare in a satisfactory 81-50 blowout win.

It was a much needed bounce back performance for the Wildcats, who were returning home in low spirits after suffering a humiliating 85-49 trouncing at the hands of Texas Tech in the championship game of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.

“The overall mood [in the locker room] was a lot of disappointment, embarrassment, and the sense that we had to get back to work,” said senior Scottie Lindsey.

“Throughout this whole week, we got back to work and re-dedicated ourselves, and I think today was a good step forward in building something better.

The Wildcats played effectively on offense throughout the course of this game, but it was their defensive clamp down in the second half that shut out their Northeast Conference opponents. The Pioneers were muted to just 19 points in the second half, while Northwestern put up 38 in the same period.

“I think when we got back from Connecticut, we did a lot of stuff together, we talked, we shared our opinions of where we were at,” said Collins on how his team re-focused.

“I think what happened to us was probably good, because it allowed us to refocus and get back to the drawing board.”

A big reason why the Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 20 at the beginning of the season was due to their group of stellar returning players, including Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law, Dererk Pardon, and Gavin Skelly, who all turned in strong performances.

Lindsey had another solid game, scoring a game-high 19 points, four assists, and six rebounds. Law added 15 points, two assists, and grabbed one rebound.

The lynchpin of the Northwestern offense, senior guard Bryant McIntosh struggled to score all game, claiming just nine points on 3-10 shooting. The team ribbed him when he finally made his first three pointer midway through the second half. Even though his shots weren’t falling, he led the ‘Cats in assists with six.

Big men Pardon and Skelly combined for 21 points and 10 rebounds in 45 minutes.

northwestern basketball

“I think this team has a lot of weapons, and when everyone is firing on all cylinders, I think we’re a pretty hard team to beat,” remarked Lindsey.

Redshirt Sophomore Aaron Falzon looked good, playing 16 minutes of action in just his third game this season coming back from a serious knee injury last year.

“He’s moving pretty well. Certainly getting him back is huge,” Collins declared.

“Just his presence on the floor, his ability to space the floor; you gotta guard him. I thought he gave us good minutes tonight, and I thought what Aaron showed was even though he shoots the ball really well, he can have a positive impact on the game without just being a three-point shooter.”

However, as Coach Collins knows, there is still a lot for his Wildcats to improve on. The ‘Cats certainly need to work on their rebounding, as they allowed the Pioneers to grab 29 boards.

The Wildcats next travel to Georgia Tech for the B1G/ACC Challenge.

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