The ‘Cats did their best to make it exciting, but in the end, the story was the same. On Saturday night, with a lively ‘90s night theme at Welsh-Ryan arena, Northwestern men’s basketball (12-15, 3-13 B1G) kept up with No. 22 Wisconsin (19-8, 11-5 B1G) throughout, but couldn't close the deal in a 69-64 loss. Vic Law (24 pts, 6 ast) and Dererk Pardon (21 pts) combined for 45 points in the loss.
With 4:30 remaining in the second half, Pardon put down an emphatic dunk off an assist from A.J. Turner (6 pts, 3 ast) to give Northwestern a 59-58 lead and put the crowd at Welsh-Ryan on their feet.
However, the offense stagnated from there on out and a slew of mistakes started to bog down the Wildcats. At 60-60 with 3:15 left, Law missed a go-ahead free throw, and following a Khalil Iverson (11 pts, 5 reb) and-one, the Badgers kept a tight hold on the lead. Turnovers and poor clock management from coach Chris Collins doomed Northwestern, and the only thing that could have saved them was an off-balance three-point attempt from Aaron Falzon (0-5 3pt) that clanked off the rim to seal the game’s fate.
“Obviously I’m down about tonight’s game,” said Collins post-game. “I’m not down about how we played, I’m down about the result.”
The loss drops Northwestern to dead last in the Big Ten following Penn State’s 83-76 win over Illinois. It's the first time Northwestern has been in this position all year, and this development has left fans scratching their heads as to how a team with significant talent has not been able to put it together or improved over the course of the season.
In the first half, Anthony Gaines (6 pts, 5 reb) scored five of Northwestern’s first seven points as Wisconsin jumped out to a 9-7 lead. Then, Law took control of the offense, accounting for the Wildcats’ next seven points, including a deep trey to take the lead.
For the remainder of the half, Law went cold, but Pardon became the go-to option, scoring 11 points in the half. Defensively, Northwestern contained guard Brad Davison (16 pts, 6 rbs) and forward Ethan Happ (14 pts, 10 reb), made four steals, and had five blocks to keep the Badgers at bay. Still, the Wildcats led by just one, 32-31, at halftime.
In the second half, Wisconsin generally led while Northwestern stayed close on their heels. Law was again the focal point of the offense, making all three of the ‘Cats’ three-pointers in the half. Ultimately, however, Northwestern’s failure to hold Wisconsin under 50 percent from the field in the half prevented the mediocre offense from being able to build a lead. Though the Wildcats had just one turnover in the half and added eight more assists for a total of 17, their poor free throw shooting (71 percent) and the talent gap between the two sides kept them behind.
Northwestern’s season trudges on on Thursday at 8 p.m. vs. Minnesota (17-10, 7-9 B1G) in Evanston.