It was a block party inside Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday, as Northwestern swatted twelve shots on its way to an 87-65 victory over IUPUI to reach double digit non-conference wins for the second straight season.
“I am really proud of our guys effort tonight,” said Northwestern coach Chris Collins. “Coming off of an emotional game Saturday, we came out ready to play and did not let [IUPUI] get into a rhythm.”
Collins also mentioned how he challenged his players to keep their foot on the gas pedal after playing tremendous first halves in past games, but not quite maintaining that aggression in the second halves. On Tuesday, however, all of the pieces to the puzzle fit, starting with the bench.
The Wildcats bench scored 46 points and combined for seven blocks and eight assists. Freshman guard Isiah Brown was excellent in 29 minutes, as he shot 50% from the field and finished with 15 points and 4 assists.
What stood out the most from the bench’s production was the stellar play of junior big man Gavin Skelly. Skelly had a double-double with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. He also had six blocks and brought a lot of energy on both sides of the court.
When asked about the difference in the culture of the program over the years, Skelly simply stated: “We used to play not to lose, now we play to win.”
Northwestern (10-2) held IUPUI to 36% shooting from the field and out-rebounded the Jaguars 47-37. In addition to the stellar defense, the Wildcats offense flowed nicely as they had six players score in double figures, led by senior co-captain Sanjay Lumpkin.
Lumpkin had his second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“Sanjay is a winner,” Collins said. “He has a warrior heart and a warrior spirit. He is our rock and our soul. Now he can be rewarded with everything that he has put into this program. He helped take us from where we started to where we are now.”
IUPUI (5-8) was led by Loyola transfer Matt O’Leary. The senior forward had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
Looking ahead, Northwestern will finish non-conference play Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against Houston Baptist.