No. 20 Northwestern will try to avoid the drama of its season opener with a more complete performance when the Wildcats host Saint Peter’s on Monday night. Northwestern, which won a school-record 24 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its history last season, had to fight to the wire before outlasting pesky Loyola (Md.) for a 79-75 victory on Friday.
“I think right now we’re putting a little too much pressure on ourselves to be what everyone thinks we are,” Wildcats senior guard Bryant McIntosh told reporters. “It’s early in the season, we have a lot to learn, we have a big ceiling, we just have to go to work and go back to having fun.” Senior Scottie Lindsey led the way with 26 points and a career-high nine rebounds in the victory for Northwestern, which returns its top five scorers from last season’s squad. The Wildcats shot just 41 percent from the field and made 5-of-21 attempts from 3-point range against Loyola, but Lindsey drained four from behind the arc. Saint Peter’s loses four of its top five scorers from a team that won 23 games last season en route to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament title, and struggled to a 61-40 loss against La Salle in its opener Saturday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network Plus
ABOUT SAINT PETER’S (0-1): The Peacocks shot just 30.6 percent from the field, turned the ball over 17 times and did not have a double-figure scorer in the opener. Sophomore guard Cameron Jones led the way with nine points while senior guard Nick Griffin (8.8 points per game in 2016-17), who was a preseason third-team All-MAAC pick, and junior backcourt mate Davauhnte Turner finished with eight apiece Saturday. Senior guard Nnamdi Enechionyia, who started all 36 games a season ago, was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes against La Salle.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (1-0): Four players combined for 70 of the 79 points in the opener as McIntosh recorded 16 points and seven assists while junior center Dererk Pardon scored 16 and junior forward Vince Law 12 as both grabbed seven boards to go along with three blocks. The Wildcats are missing a little extra offense from 6-8 sophomore forward Aaron Falzon, who is nursing a hip injury and is considered day-to-day. Northwestern hopes to get more production from senior forward Gavin Skelly and sophomore guard Isiah Brown, who combined for seven points Friday.
1. The Wildcats registered 12 blocks in the opener, tied for second-most in a single game in school history.
2. Saint Peter’s was picked eighth out of 11 teams in the MAAC’s preseason poll.
3. Northwestern is playing at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, some 14 miles from campus, as their home court (Welsh-Ryan Arena) is renovated.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 84, Saint Peter’s 52