MADISON – The Badgers have flirted with defeat multiple times over the last few weeks but were always able to make enough plays in the end to win games. On Sunday, Wisconsin’s luck ran out, as Northwestern won at the Kohl Center, 66-59.
Bryant McIntosh played exceptionally well against the Badgers last year as a freshman, scoring 28 points with five assists in their 70-65 win. He would cause just as much pain as a sophomore on Sunday night as he dominated Wisconsin, again. McIntosh finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“He’s just a heck of a player,” Greg Gard said of McIntosh. “Best player on the floor hands down.”
McIntosh was without his sidekick Scottie Lindsey, who leads the Wildcats in scoring, but he put the entire Northwestern roster on his back as they ended Wisconsin’s 19 game winning streak at home.
Northwestern has the second-ranked scoring defense in the Big Ten only behind the Badgers, and they did a great job of shutting down the Badgers’ big three. Koenig finished with two points, and after scoring seven in the first half, Ethan Happ only finished with nine points total. Hayes led Wisconsin with 13 points.
Northwestern doubled Happ hard on post touches, and the Badgers had a tough time answering it.
“I’ve just got to get the ball out sooner rather than later,” Happ said.
“I thought our defense was the story of the game, and obviously Bryant’s play,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “I was really proud of our team defense, they put you in so many tough spots with their potency offensively with their shooting and passing.”
The game started out well for Wisconsin, as they built up a 19-12 lead on the back of Ethan Happ. Happ had a couple of pretty post moves and even a midrange jumper that sent the Kohl Center faithful into a frenzy. Charles Thomas hit a rare jumper as well, but Bronson Koenig went scoreless shooting 0/3 from the three-point line.
That seven-point lead would quickly be evaporated as Northwestern caught fire. Behind a pair of threes from both Vic Law and Nathan Taphorn, the Wildcats rattled off a 16-0 run to turn the seven-point deficit into a 31-22 lead at halftime. Northwestern only turned the ball over three times during the first half.
McIntosh, Northwestern’s do-it-all point guard, accounted for 11 points and two assists during the first 20 minutes. McIntosh made the Badgers pay from the perimeter, shooting 5/10 in the first half.
Wisconsin would come out firing in the second half, scoring the first six points on Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown threes. The quick outburst got the Kohl Center on their feet and revitalized the struggling Badgers.
After a Koenig spin into a jumper and a Nigel Hayes bucket off of a nice pass out of a double-team from Happ, the Badgers retook the lead, 32-31. Wisconsin scored the first ten points of the second half. Northwestern would answer, however, with an 8-0 run the other way to take a 39-32 lead resulting in a Greg Gard timeout.
McIntosh erased all the work the Badgers did to come back from the nine-point halftime deficit when he sank a midrange jumper in transition to put the Wildcats up by nine again with 9:31 left in the game.
The Badgers fought from behind from that point forward, never getting closer than four points. McIntosh put the dagger in Wisconsin with a nice take to the rim, putting Northwestern up eight with less than two minutes left.
D’Mitrik Trice played well for the Badgers down the stretch. Trice had eight points and six rebounds and played an instrumental role in keeping the Badgers in it, but ultimately, the Badgers weren’t able to stop McIntosh.
With 45 seconds left and the Badgers down five and in a press, Trice seemed to cleanly pick McIntosh’s pocket with a chance to cut the Wildcats lead, but an official blew his whistle driving the Kohl Center mad. McIntosh would make both of his free throws, effectively icing the game.
The loss gives Wisconsin (21-4 overall) a 10-2 Big Ten record, putting them just a game ahead of Maryland and Purdue in the loss column. The Badgers play Michigan next on Thursday.