Northwestern looks to bounce back from a humbling week when it hosts Sacred Heart on Saturday. The Wildcats dropped two of their three games, including a disappointing 85-49 loss to Texas Tech in the championship game of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off, to tumble out of the Top 25, and now they hope to get back on track by beating Sacred Heart for the second time in less than two years.
“I thought their pressure affected us and they had us on our heels,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins admitted to reporters. “Their defense really set the tone for the game.” The Wildcats trounced the Pioneers 103-67 in their previous meeting on Dec. 21, 2015 and aim to improve to 7-0 against Northeastern Conference opponents since 2010-11. Northwestern has beaten NEC foes by an average margin of 22.6 points during that span and hopes to start a new non-conference home winning streak after its 23-game run was snapped by Creighton (92-88) on Nov. 15. Sacred Heart has won back-to-back games following an 84-60 victory over Division III foe Mitchell on Wednesday and hopes to win three straight non-conference contests for the first time since Dec. 2010 by pulling off the upset against the reeling Wildcats.
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ABOUT SACRED HEART (2-3): Senior forward Mario Matasovic, who started his collegiate career at Western Michigan, scored a team-high 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the win against Mitchell to record the first double-double of his career. Sean Hoehn added 16 points while freshman forward E.J. Anosike contributed 14 points and 16 rebounds to notch his first double-double against the Mariners. Kinnon LaRose tallied 12 points and six rebounds while Joseph Lopez had 11 points as five Pioneers finished in double figures.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (3-2): Scottie Lindsey scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half against Texas Tech en route to all-tournament team honors after averaging 20 points and four rebounds in two games. Senior guard Bryant McIntosh was limited to a season-low five points on 1-for-8 shooting from the floor and finished with five turnovers after averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 assists in his previous four games. Vic Law missed five of his six attempts from floor to finish with four points as the Wildcats shot 26.7 percent from field and committed 17 turnovers in their biggest margin of defeat under Collins.
1. McIntosh has made 17 straight free throws.
2. Lindsey has scored 20 points in back-to-back games.
3. Sacred Heart has dropped 14 of its last 16 non-conference road games since the start of the 2015-16.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 77, Sacred Heart 61