The last time Rutgers won two conference tournament games was 19 years ago. After Thursday night, that streak is still intact. Rutgers played like they weren’t ready and got blown out of the Verizon Center, resulting in a 83-61 loss to Northwestern.
Northwestern’s Vic Law Jr. and Scottie Lindsey led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 16 points apiece in the win. Pardon and McIntosh each chipped in 13 points themselves, in what was a balanced scoring attack throughout the night.
Nigel Johnson followed up his game high 21 points last night with another strong offensive performance, scoring another 21 points on six-of-13 from the field and five-of-seven from three-point range. After a poor game against Illinois, he finished his debut season with Rutgers strong. Corey Sanders battled and finished with 14 points and three assists. Issa finished three-of-six from three-point range for nine points.
Northwestern started their scoring explosion, with a Gavin Skelly put-back, an electrifying alley-oop by Law Jr., a Sanjay Lumpkin three and a Pardon layup coming on four consecutive possessions to make the scoring run 31-0. Northwestern led 35-9 at this point after starting the game 14-of-21 from the floor and 5-of-8 from three.
“We dug a hole for ourselves in the first half,” Nigel Johnson said after the game. ” They were hitting shots. They didn’t miss in the first half and they stayed hot.”
Rutgers kept fighting in the second half and cut the Northwestern lead to 53-37 at the under-12 timeout. However, the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run, capped by a Bryant McIntosh three-pointer, forcing another Pikiell timeout with his team trailing by 23 points and just over 10 minutes remaining.
Northwestern is now a safe bet to earn their first NCAA Tournament in program history under fourth year head coach Chris Collins. Getting out of the early rounds in the Big Ten Tournament all but secured that.
A Season Of Progress
Rutgers shouldn’t consider the season a total lost. Rutgers finished the season with a 15-18 record, which ties the most wins for the program since the last winning campaign in 2006, when Gary Waters led the Scarlet Knights to 19 wins. They also more than doubled the seven wins of last year’s team. They played hard for most of the season in the Big Ten Conference. Very few expected them to be playing on Thursday night.
Rutgers is only losing two seniors, so most of the team will return next season. Coach Pikiell believes the program is heading in the right direction.
“I’m very confident we’re going to build this thing, the right way. It takes time. We got to make a lot of improvements.”
Up next for Northwestern is a third round matchup with Maryland on Friday Night.