Northwestern (12-12, 3-10 B1G) started off strong against Rutgers (12-12, 5-9 B1G), going up 6-0 in the first three minutes, but that momentum quickly stalled as the Northwestern offense we know and (do not) love returned. The matchup between the Scarlet Knights and Wildcats kept the fans on their toes, but ultimately, offensive droughts from Northwestern allowed Rutgers’ their second conference win on the road.
At just seven minutes left in the half, Ryan Taylor and Dererk Pardon were the only two players who put points up for Northwestern. Collins continued to rotate players in, at times subbing in three or four players, including freshmen Miller Kopp and Ryan Greer, but no combination of players could give the ‘Cats a solid lead over Rutgers.
A flurry of missed shots dropped the Wildcats’ FG percentage to 20 and their three-point record to 1-for-6. And to make matters worse, with just five minutes left in the half, Northwestern totaled just three offensive rebounds. By the end of the half, the ‘Cats were 1-for-8 from outside the paint.
The first half ended with a 22-22 tie. Considering both teams average about 68 points per game, this half was relatively underwhelming from an offensive standpoint. Both teams tallied a fair number of turnovers (Rutgers: 10, Northwestern: 6), making it so neither team really dominated. Luckily, Northwestern was able to capitalize on this sloppiness, with over half of their points in the first half coming off Rutgers’ turnovers.
To start off the first half, the Wildcats appeared to flip a switch, with their first three baskets coming from three pointers. But, Rutgers stepped up offensively as well — led by Geo Baker and Montez Mathis each with 12 points — and soon enough held their largest lead of the game at 52-43.
In true Northwestern fashion, the Wildcats managed to keep fans on the edge of their seats throughout, well, the entire game. Regular contributor Dererk Pardon (6 points) was quiet for most of the game due to Rutgers’ pressure, and that tactic created outside shots that the ’Cats couldn’t hit. However, down the stretch the team started to build momentum. A three from A.J. Turner, matched by one from Vic Law less than a minute later, cut the Scarlet Knight’s lead to two.
With less than 50 seconds left, a missed free throw from Rutgers’ Myles Johnson allowed the Wildcats to recover the ball, and another three from Law put the Wildcats behind by just one point. Law had a chance to snatch the lead but was unable to sink another jumper. A foul from him secured Rutgers lead at the final score, 59-65.
This game puts Northwestern at five consecutive losses. The Wildcats look to crawl out of this rut as they take on Nebraska this Saturday on the road.