After defeating Houston Baptist 72-63 on Thursday, Northwestern now won its last 18 games played in the month of December.
However, it was not your traditional Wildcat basketball, as the team struggled to score in the first half, going 8-of-30 from the field. The Wildcats went into the locker room trailing 35-25.
“We are fortunate with the outcome. We had a lot against us,” said coach Chris Collins. “We had good looks, they just were not falling. But I am proud of our guys. We went into the half and did not panic. We dug down deep and figured out a way to win.”
Northwestern (11-2) came out of the locker room with a lot more energy than in the first half, and it showed. Senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin hit the opening basket of the half, a 3-pointer that propelled the Wildcats to a 20-9 run that gave them the lead with a little over 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
Then the Cats stopped settling for jumpers and started attacking the basket, drawing enough contact to put the Huskies in foul trouble midway through the second half.
Northwestern’s defense was phenomenal down the stretch as well, holding Houston Baptist to 0-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The Huskies finished 2-of-14 from deep. The Wildcats also forced 15 turnovers, which they converted into 14 points.
While the Wildcats only won the rebounding battle by one, they had 17 offensive rebounds. They capitalized on those opportunities by scoring 25 second chance points.
Despite shooting 36% from the field, the Wildcats held onto the lead in large part due to the performance of Scottie Lindsey. The junior guard led all scorers with 19 points.
Four Northwestern players scored in double figures, including freshmen phenom Isiah Brown with 12 points off the bench.
The Huskies (4-6) were led by Colter Lasher and Atif Russell who each scored 13 points.
Now the real test comes. The Wildcats finished the non-conference schedule 11-2, but Big Ten play is just days away.
“Like I told our guys, the new battle starts next Tuesday,” Collins said. “11-2 doesn’t mean anything. Your record is now 0-0 and everybody gets a fresh start.”
Northwestern will travel to Penn State to tip-off conference play on Tuesday.