As the new year approaches, and the non-conference schedule comes to a close, three Big Ten teams were in action on Sunday closing one chapter of their season and beginning a new facet of the 2015-16 season. Northwestern was the only team to be seriously tested on the day, but benefited from a stellar night from sophomore point guard Bryant McIntosh.
Let's see how the action played out.
Game of the Night: Northwestern Wildcats 74 , Loyola (MD) 59
The Northwestern Wildcats stumbled out of the gates against the inferior 1-9 Greyhounds due in large part to the absence of senior big man Alex Olah, who will be sidelined 2-3 weeks due to a foot injury. With Olah in the lineup, the Wildcats have a propensity of dumping the ball inside to the big man to initiate the offense and generating three point shooting through opponents doubling down on the low block.
Loyola (MD) used a stifling perimeter defense to stymie the Wildcats and hold them scoreless at the under-16 media timeout. The Greyhounds also came out storming on the offensive end by notching 20 points to Northwestern's six with nine minutes remaining in the first half. Senior forward Joey Van Zegeren replaced Olah in the starting lineup, but struggled to present himself as a capable low post scorer. His defense became valuable, as the Wildcats transitioned to a 2-3 zone. Freshman center Derek Pardon saw his redshirt get burned with Olah's injury, and played admirably with Van Zegeren. Pardon finished with six points and four rebounds.
The Wildcats staggered through the first half and managed to trail only 33-22 at halftime. Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh guided the Wildcats to a superb second half performance. The Greensburg (IN) capitalized on strong dribble-drive attacks and facilitating to open shooters to help propel Northwestern to a 7-0 run and a separate 8-0 run to help build a double-digit lead with less than six minutes left. Freshman Aaron Falzon converted on two critical three-pointers to also help build a comfortable lead.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins' switch to a 2-3 zone and a more dedicated attempt to generate open perimeter shots really altered the game and spearheaded the Wildcats comeback. McIntosh entered Sunday's contest averaging 14.8 points per game per ESPN and completed the contest against the Greyhounds with a career-high 33 points on 11-for-15 from the field, and also notched eight assists and three rebounds. Sophomore guard Scottie Lindsey was the only Wildcat to accompany McIntosh in the double-digit scoring column with 14 points. Ball movement was outstanding for the Wildcats, as they totaled 17 assists on 28 made field goals.
The Wildcats move to 12-1 and will open their Big Ten slate on the road at Nebraska Wednesday, December 30 at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.
-Maryland Terrapins 87, Marshall 67
The Terrapins' last non-conference game started out as the Robert Carter Jr. show, as his low post scoring prowess and rebounding became a clear advantage against an overmatched Thundering Herd squad. Marshall may have been outmatched in the paint, but the shot-happy Thundering Herd hoisted a plethora of three-pointers and managed to keep the game relatively close with a halftime score of 46-36.
Maryland's use of star guard Melo Trimble as a scorer has paid dividends with graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon manning the facilitator role through large duration of games. The ex-Duke Blue Devil used plenty of penetrate and kick opportunities to set up shooters - Trimble benefited immensely with 13 points. The frontcourt for Maryland played tremendously. Freshman Diamond Stone appears to have adjusted with his role off the bench by pouring in 16 points, grabbing seven rebounds and notching two blocks and Carter finished with a game high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds, one steal and two assits.
Sulaimon not only facilitated, but managed to notch 14 points. Senior forward Jake Layman was contained for most of the game and finished with eight. Junior big man Damonte Dodd was the only starter to not score any points. Marshall entered Sunday's game averaging 30 three pointers attempted per game - Maryland held the Thundering to 6-for-31 from deep (19.4%). Maryland begins conference play by hosting the 9-4 Penn State Nittany Lions Wednesday, December 30 at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
-Ohio State Buckeyes 73, South Carolina State 57
Buckeye coach Thad Matta and his young roster entered Sunday 18-0 against MEAC opponents and managed to keep the streak alive and move to 19-0 thanks to a solid second half showing. Sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop continues to impress with his impressive array of skills by tallying a career-high 24 points to pair up with 10 rebounds. Center Trevor Thompson produced a solid outing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The turning point came in the second half with freshman guard AJ Harris spelling fellow freshman Jaquan Lyle. Harris did a tremendous job commandeering the Buckeye offense, as SCSU played a 2-3 zone for the majority of the second half. The Dunbar High School (OH) product was a steady presence and created opportunities for his teammates to the tune of six assists to only one turnover in 17 minutes. Harris tallied five points.
Ohio State's length has been a positive aspect to the always-developing Buckeyes, and yesterday was no different as the youngster posted nine blocks on the day. Freshman center Daniel Giddens tallied three, as Bates-Diop notched two. The Buckeyes completely controlled the paint, as they out rebounded the Bulldogs 50-32. Ohio State begins conference play with a tilt against Minnesota Wednesday, December 30 at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.